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IMAGE CREDIT: Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle

Local MP, Huw Merriman, has called for the Government to put food production at the heart of its new farming and agricultural framework

The new legislation is regarded as the biggest agricultural change introduced by the UK since 1947. Its introduction is required once the UK leaves the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy.

The framework will establish a new system based on paying public money for farming as a ‘public good’ and seeks to encourage a different approach to farming and land management.

Addressing the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, the MP for Bexhill and Battle said “Whilst I encourage more financial assistance for the environmental good and improved welfare standards, I am concerned that there is no reference to the importance of producing food. The amount of food the UK produces for ourselves has gone down from 100% to 60% in the last 50 years. We should be encouraging farmers to produce even more food to ensure we have food security in an uncertain world.”

Turning to his own constituency farms, and to new incentives to pay farmers to exit the market, the MP said “Farms in my part of East Sussex tend to be small and comprise pastureland. If we are not supporting our sheep and cattle farmers then they may be lost. This is particularly so if we are to start paying farmers to sell up. This is laudable if we encourage new buyers from the next farming generation but in our part of the UK, land is likely to be gobbled up by financiers from London looking for a piece of tranquility. They are less likely to need to farm it and there will now be less incentive to do so for food. I do not consider this state of affairs to be a ‘public good’ and I would urge more protections for farms in the High Weald as well as the East Sussex coast.”

The legislation passed its initial stages in Parliament on Wednesday and is likely to be amended before it becomes law. The MP is urging local farmers to get in touch with him to give him further views and ideas.