On Wednesday I met the NFU and farmers in the region. We discussed everything from how we can help dairy farmers with exports and getting the public to buy British not imported lamb, and concerns about the RPA, increased efforts to combat red tape and a lot more. I came away considerably more informed, and promising to take their concerns to the Secretary of State and DEFRA.
Three things dominated the discussion:
- Bovine TB caused by badgers: I am strongly in favour of DEFRAs action which copies the approach in Ireland and New Zealand - without a stop to the spread of bovine TB there will be no cattle industry in this country in 10 years. The evidence is overwhelming. All the farmers were strongly behind the action being taken.
- Strong efforts locally and nationally to combat cheap foreign imports and support for the British Lamb business. Every constituent must think before they buy.
- Better efforts to combat the massive red tape, some of it European, some of it UK gold plating, some of it simply British. Efforts are being made but it is clear more needs to be done.
Finally I would make two comments:
1. The consumer is king - we are in charge of what we buy - and if we don't buy British and support our local farmers we, and more importantly, they will struggle. Use it or lose it.
2. Appointing a vegan as Labour’s farming spokesman was always going to ruffle feathers. But even Kerry McCarthy’s critics must have been surprised by her pronouncement that meat should be treated like tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it… Last night, her ideas were attacked as ‘bordering on the cranky’ by the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance. To be fair that is a charitable interpretation of her. The fuller story and reaction is here:
I will be looking forward to welcoming the NFU reps to Westminster where I hope to introduce them to some of the other North East MPs