Environment Secretary pledges commitment to food and farming industry

The food and farming industry is at the core of the government’s long-term economic plan, according to environment secretary Liz Truss, as the future British farming was debated at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Speaking on a panel of political heavyweights at the event, Truss declared she would not let the farming industry be “ignored” again.

Truss said: “Farming is a high-tech powerhouse at the heart of our long-term economic plan, vital to our country’s future security.

“We have the entrepreneurs and go-ahead farmers to ensure this, taking pride in our heritage to forge a future based on innovation, technology and the quality of our great British food.

“Over recent months we have seen fresh evidence of why we are right to be both ambitious and optimistic for the industry this year and in the future.”

On bovine TB (bTB), Truss said the government would “not walk away” and would do whatever it takes to eradicate the disease by 2038. Truss highlighted the badger culls, which have been rolled out in Somerset and Gloucestershire, as positive steps forward in tackling the disease.

Shadow Environment Secretary Huw Irranca Davies was more cautious on Labour’s policy on badger culls, saying: “Are there alternative ways to eradicate bTB in cattle and in the wildlife reservoir - we think so, but more work needs to be done.”

However, Davies was more vocal on attempts to reform the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which he described as “disappointing”. Davies went on to criticise the Tories for their stance on Europe as detrimental to CAP reform.

“UK leadership on CAP reform has been lost. This has been a textbook lesson on how to lose friends and influence. We now need to rebuild alliances across the EU with farmers and like-minded countries to deliver real progress on CAP reform. This will not be helped by another two years of threats, with a referendum hanging over us. We believe we should be at the heart of the EU, not shouting from the sidelines.”

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