Fruitful visit with the Farming Minister

29 August 2023

Minister Mark Spencer with host farmer Alastair Brooks and MP Helen Whately

Photograph: Farming Minister Mark Spencer, host farmer Alastair Brooks and MP Helen Whately

Farmers put their questions to the Farming Minister and highlighted key issues during a visit to a fruit farm in Kent.

Mr Spencer visited Langdon Manor Farm, near Faversham which has been run by Alastair Brooks, a long-standing NFU member, with his wife Alex since the late 1990s.

The visit was organised by Helen Whately, Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and Helen Grant, Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald, in partnership with the NFU.

“Right now our growers are facing serious challenges including higher costs and a long-term workforce,” said Ms Whately.

“That’s why I was so pleased to give them this chance to talk to the minister. By putting our heads together we can tackle these issues, and keep British farming going strong.”

Making farmers' voices heard

Following a tour of the family farm, which grows strawberries and raspberries, members had the chance to put their questions to the Farming Minister during a question-and-answer session with more than 20 fruit and arable farmers from the local area.

Labour shortages, fairness in the supply chain, the environment and farm support payments were amongst the topics discussed with Mr Spencer.

Mr Brooks said that “it is very rare to get a government minister out on farm” and highlighted how “these visits are important to give farmers the opportunity to have their voices heard”.

These visits are important to give farmers the opportunity to have their voices heard.

NFU member and fruit farmer Alastair Brooks

“The minister is from a farming background himself and has a good knowledge of the challenges we are facing.”

Minister pledges support

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “I will do all I can to support [farmers], be it through maintaining the £2.4 billion annual budget, protecting farmers’ interests in future trade deals, or boosting domestic fruit and vegetable production.

“We’re continuing to work closely with the sector to not only deliver solutions to the challenges farmers face but to unlock new opportunities through investing in innovative technology and equipment, demonstrating to new generations the bright future a career in farming can offer.”

After the meeting, Ms Whately said: “I was delighted to welcome Mark Spencer to the Garden of England. Fruit and farming are a big part of our heritage, and we’re lucky to have some of the best producers in the country on our doorstep.

Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald Ms Grant added: “Our farmers really needed a chance to speak with government face to face about the very particular challenges they are tackling, and the relatively easy fixes that could be used for many of them.

“The fact that Minister Mark Spencer is a working farmer himself was a great help. He genuinely understands the issues and I hope he will return to Westminster and take action to help Kent’s vital fruit growing industry.”

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