Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP, visited an NFU member’s sheep farm near Keswick, Cumbria on 22 August. He was joined by Sue Hayman MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. They heard how farmers are worried about the possible devastating effect of a no-deal Brexit.
Following a tour of Rake Foot Farm, Mr Corbyn and Ms Hayman had a meeting with the host Will Cockbain and NFU county adviser for Cumbria, Adam Briggs. A number of local journalists were also in attendance.
Items discussed around the kitchen table included:
- No-deal Brexit threat: the implications for the sheep sector primarily and agriculture as a whole. The NFU highlighted the impact that loss of export market could have and also the implications of a liberal trade policy could have on domestic production.
- Climate change and livestock farming: the NFU reiterated the frustration that global figures are being used to discredit the environmental performance of UK production systems. The Labour Leader indicated that he was on board with this and mentioned that he was in favour of extensive production rather than, in his words ‘battery farming systems’.
- New ELMS scheme: the NFU discussed the implications this has for upland livestock farmers and farmers in general. Mr Corbyn was interested to know if the current environmental schemes had delivered much environmental benefit and also how and who were monitoring their progress. The NFU pushed the message that farming can deliver both food and public goods, balance was key and it’s about making sure you put the right thing in the right place. He seemed on board with this and cited an example from Mexico where just pushing the environmental envelope has led to unintended negative consequences. He agreed that to make things work you need farmers and land managers on board.
- ELMS impact on rural communities: The Labour Leader wanted to know what the impact of the new ELMS scheme may have on farming families and the wider rural community. The NFU highlighted that less livestock potentially meant less people, less children for schools, less jobs and no shop or pub in the village. He brought up the issue of second homes in the countryside as something he is looking to tackle and cited some work in Cornwall which he felt was a step in the right direction.
In short video posted on Mr Corbyn’s Twitter account after the visit, the Labour Leader said: “We talked about dangers of a no-deal Brexit, they (sheep farmers) will lose a huge export market and rural communities will be devastated as a result of it. So I’m determined that we will stop a no-deal Brexit and we have a trade relationship with Europe in the future.”
:: The NFU continues to work with representatives across all political parties in order to arrange farm visits for MPs.