Mr Barclay made his inaugural farm visit as Defra Secretary to Vice President David Exwood’s farm. This provided a great opportunity to expand on the discussions he had with Minette and focus on some of the ongoing challenges with the agricultural transition plan.
While on farm Mr Barclay was keen to explore ways to boost productivity and innovation within the sector. Although welcome, David stressed that for innovation to happen, first farmers need to be profitable and have confidence to invest in their businesses.
David made it clear that because of the fiscal constraints farmers are currently facing, they must be better supported through the transition to ELMs.
This includes delivering the SFI 2024 options quickly, addressing the gap in funding from the phase out of BPS, and offering more for upland and horticulture businesses.
David added: “There’s always lots to cover during these visits, and it’s important we keep the dialogue open if we are to overcome the many challenges British farm businesses face.”
Sector needs stability
“There’s always lots to cover during these visits, and it’s important we keep the dialogue open if we are to overcome the many challenges British farm businesses face.”
NFU Vice President David Exwood
Rounding off the Officeholder meetings was Deputy President Tom Bradshaw, who hosted the Secretary of State on his farm on Monday. This was another successful visit and provided the opportunity to cover further pressing issues in the sector. A key focus was the ongoing threat of bovine TB to family farms, as well as various infrastructure issues such as planning and the need to deliver on promised solar grants.
“Mr Barclay has been very receptive – he’s now met with all three NFU officeholders. But as the sixth Defra Secretary of State in as many years, it’s important the department now focuses on stabilising the sector and providing much needed certainty for farmers and growers. That’s what the NFU has pressed upon him since his appointment,” Tom said.
The NFU is always very pleased to arrange farm visits for Ministers. The Officeholder team were keen to highlight the importance of stabilising the department and the sector so farmers and growers can have the certainty they so desperately need.
It's not just government visits the NFU has been organising. Last week Shadow Defra Secretary of State Steve Reed MP also had his first farm visit since his appointment in September.
“As the sixth Defra Secretary of State in as many years, it’s important the department now focuses on stabilising the sector and providing much needed certainty for farmers and growers.”
NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw
Mr Reed spent the morning on Vice President David Exwood’s farm alongside Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner MP where they discussed the importance of delivering high levels of sustainable food production alongside a thriving natural environment.
Hosting both the government and the Shadow Defra secretary within days of each other highlights clear opportunities to build relationships and have practical conversations about what farming needs to thrive.