‘Brexit’ brings opportunities for food and farming industry, says MP

MP for mid Norfolk, George Freeman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MP for mid Norfolk, George Freeman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The sensitive balance between commercial agriculture and the conservation of the countryside has always been a subject of debate.

But as Brexit brings an opportunity to re-shape Britain's farming policies, the question of how to achieve profitable production while remaining environmentally compliant has come sharply into focus.

It will be a key theme at this coming week's Norfolk Farming Conference.

George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP, was appointed chairman of the prime minister's policy board last year.

He said East Anglia's agri-tech and science communities could lead the way in improving farming's efficiency and environmental credentials after Brexit.

But he warned farmers may need to get used to the idea that their future subsidies will need to be earned, rather than simply paid per acre as the bulk of them are under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

'Farming is changing very fast, and it is rapidly becoming clear to everyone that we are moving away from 20th-century chemical-dependent farming, to 21st-century low impact precision farming, with low cultivation,' he said.

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'This is the new model of agriculture, and it brings the agricultural and the environmental agendas together. This is driven by, and requires, some incredible technology: New breeding technologies so we can have drought-resistant seeds and crops that don't get diseases so we don't have to spray them, self-guided harvesters so we don't have to cultivate inefficiently, and new ways of storing crops. The UK, and Norwich in particular, is a world centre for agri-tech so we have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in this area.

'In the last few years the EU has become increasingly hostile to agricultural science. By leaving the European single market we come away from the jurisdiction of this regulatory framework, meaning the UK, and the Norwich Research Park, can be global leaders.

'This is the most important moment of change and opportunity for UK food and farming since the Second World War, and it is a chance for us to design an integrated food, farming and agricultural research strategy and policy.'

What do you think? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk