New to the job Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, was given a damp introduction to the world of farming in the eastern counties when he called in at the Royal Norfolk Show today.
But the message he gave to the local industry was more upbeat than the weather, promising to be in “listening mode” when it came to farmers concerns about their future.
He told them that he would make it his job to protect and support them and make sure that the environment is at the heart of policy making.
Mr Gove was on the showground for less than two hours but in that time he chatted to farmers, met local food producers in the food hall and was shown some of the latest technological innovations in agriculture.
Mr Gove, a key figure in last year’s “Leave” campaign said Brexit represented a “huge opportunity for British agriculture”, opening up new markets overseas and freeing farmers from the bureaucracy of the EU.
He said: “Farmers recognise that as we leave the EU there are opportunities because of the high quality produce that the UK is famous for, and Norfolk in particular is noted for, there is an opportunity to sell more abroad but we also need to make sure that as we do sell abroad that we do not compromise our high environmental and animal welfare standards.”
“We can compete best on quality. The critical thing about British farm produce is that in a world where provenance matters more, where people want to know the journey from farm to fork in intimate detail,
He admitted he is new to the world of farming but said that he has friends in the business so he is aware of the issues.
Mr Gove said that after his talks at the show it was clear that the main concerns revolved around subsidies and support and labour.
He said:“One of the things I am determined to do as we fashion a new migration policy, is to ensure the needs of agriculture and the rural economy are at the heart of it.
He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to maintain current subsidy payments at their current level until at least 2022, and whatever happened beyond that, he was determined to ensure farmers could compete in international markets.