NFU President Minette Batters and tenant farmers Stuart and Leanne Fairfax talk to the PM about the challenges in farming and the importance of clarity on future agricultural policy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson today saw first-hand the world-leading standards British farmers adhere to when he visited tenant livestock farmers, Stuart and Leanne Fairfax, in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire.
The Fairfaxes, and their three teenage children, are tenant farmers who recently took on the farm high on White Peak. It is predominantly a sheep farm with Swaledale, Dalesbred and Gritstones breeds, and some cattle too. The farm has over 200 acres entered into a Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship agreement.
Stuart said: “It was quite surreal to have the Prime Minister visit us today but it was great for him to get on farm and see what we do. We’re right in the middle of lambing season, so it’s an incredibly busy time.
“We’re pleased that we could show him how farming and food production works hand-in-hand with our work for the environment, particularly as part of the iconic landscape in the Peak District. This relationship is something you’ll see on family farms like ours across the country.
As a part of the Stewardship agreement, Leanne and Stuart are looking to do capital works on the farm, including building new fences and some scrub clearance.
Stuart went on to explain:
It was also important to talk to him about the uncertainty many farmers are facing at the moment, particularly as we don’t know the full details of what will take over from the Basic Payment Scheme payments that many farmers rely on.
NFU President Minette Batters joined them on the visit. She said: “It is important that the Prime Minister got to see for himself just how British farmers are delivering for the nation and leading the way in our standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.
“Particularly here in the Peak District, he saw just how integral farmers are to maintaining and enhancing our iconic landscapes, whether that is maintaining dry stone walls or looking after hedgerows.
“The Fairfaxes are a fantastic example of a family farm who are working hard to produce the safe, traceable and nutritious food that the nation values so much. It was great to see the Prime Minister so engaged in farming’s integrated approach. He was particularly interested in Stuart as an upland farmer selling breeding stock to lowland farms."
Levelling up rural Britain
Minette explained the crucial role that farm businesses have in levelling up Britain: “We absolutely share the government’s ambition to export fantastic British produce in new trade deals, where we believe we can act as global leaders. It was great to discuss how we can build on the current Open Doors campaign and the potential for the government to match-fund the current £60 million farmer-led investment to drive exports, showcase global Britain and demonstrate that the UK is serious about food and farming exports.
“I did stress to the Prime Minister the importance of the government’s new agricultural policy supporting British food production and how investing in and levelling up rural Britain can deliver huge benefits for the rest of the nation, from jobs and wellbeing for the public, to exports and green growth.
Our president voiced concerns about the timescales involved within the farming industry.
I did raise my concerns about the current lack of information available to farmers about his government’s agricultural transition plan. Farming is a long-term business and farmers will be making decisions now for many years down the line.
“The ongoing uncertainty about how they will replace income under the Basic Payment Scheme is damaging business confidence, which remains negative. I urged the Prime Minister to provide more clarity on his future agricultural policy as soon as possible.”
The case has been made and the opportunities are there. We now wait to see how the government can support farmers such as Stuart and Leanne with their short- and long-term goals.