National Farmers’ Union

Debate between Baroness Mallalieu and Lord Benyon
Wednesday 2nd March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The common agricultural policy and the basic payment scheme were, and to an extent still are, not small-farmer friendly. We want to make sure that the environmental land management scheme is much more focused on supporting smaller farms. I have visited farmers on the edge of Dartmoor who rent 100 or 200 acres and have grazing rights on Dartmoor. I realise the difficulty they have in gaining a living from their activities. We want to make sure that they have a living, and that the whole support network that we are providing and the addition of green finance will help them as much as it will help other farmers.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that what has happened in Europe in the last week should be a warning for us, because the environmental schemes that we have just passed through this House in two Bills are inevitably going to lead to a reduction in the amount of land actually used for farming for food? What is happening indicates that we cannot rely simply on being able to buy cheaper food from other countries. Will he commit to maintaining the amount of land still used for farming and to encouraging food as the primary enterprise of farmers?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a very good point and it was well made in Minette Batters’s speech at the conference. I entirely agree with her that we do not want to create some sort of idyllic garden in the countryside and export our carbon and other footprints to other countries with worse livestock and environmental standards. We want to continue to see farmers producing food of the highest possible quality, and that is what underpins our reforms.

Agri-environment Schemes: Permissive Access

Debate between Baroness Mallalieu and Lord Benyon
Thursday 27th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I echo the noble Baroness’s tribute to Lord Greaves. Alongside the crisis of species decline, a crisis of lack of engagement with nature by large proportions of the public is of equal concern to me and to this Government. I do not believe they are mutually exclusive; I think we can find an increased permissive paths system which does not compromise the desperate desire to find improved habitats for vertebrates, insects and wider species. So I can only assure her that we are looking at this as part of the tests and trials process.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interests as set out in the register and am very cheered by the Minister’s response to the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. Many rural roads were not designed for the volume and types of traffic that they now carry and are becoming increasingly dangerous, especially for walkers, cyclists and riders. So what plans do the Government have to increase and finance access for off-road recreation and to provide facilities to increase the areas that the number of people who we now encourage to visit the countryside need to use to access those footpaths and bridleways?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Under what we hope will be an increasing network of permissive footpaths that can be used by not just walkers but cyclists and horse riders—with greater access, as I said, for disabled people— it is hoped that we can design them with farmers and land managers. We will be taking people who are currently walking on roads into a safer place for them and rewarding the farmer for providing that facility. There is an opportunity. I am aware of the problems that have been caused, particularly in recent months, with increased access, where road users are not safe, and we want to make sure that farmers and land managers are helping us solve that problem.

Environmental Land Management Schemes

Debate between Baroness Mallalieu and Lord Benyon
Monday 24th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I am grateful for the kind comments of welcome. I am living proof that you can boil cabbage twice: it is very nice to be back at the department. We are introducing three schemes that reward the delivery of environmental benefits: the sustainable farming incentive, the local nature recovery scheme and the landscape recovery scheme. The noble Lord is entirely right to talk about the importance of soils. They are fundamental to the first two schemes. As far as carbon credits are concerned, this is a huge opportunity for the farming community, particularly in getting some private sector investment to supplement farm incomes. I hope that we can have a clear system that will operate very soon for farmers to access.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I, too, welcome the noble Lord, Lord Benyon. I do not know about his cabbage, but he certainly knows his oats, and he is particularly welcome for that reason. I remind the House of my farming interests. A recurring theme in the feedback from the ELMS trials so far is the need for free advice about eligibility, especially for smaller farms. Will the Government make that a priority and also ensure that the requirements of the scheme are written in plain English rather than in environmental jargon, which has contributed to low take-up in some of the earlier schemes?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise that our changes will be challenging for some farmers. I know that Exmoor farmers, in particular, are close to the noble Baroness’s heart. The scheme that we have introduced will provide funding so that farmers can access support provided by organisations with relevant experience which are already known and trusted in the farming community. The scheme will focus on assisting farmers to make the right decisions for themselves, their families and their business through effective discussion and planning. I hope that we can keep that in clear English.