I am confident that a stronger industry and a brighter more prosperous future awaits British farming as we leave the EU. As a global trading nation with so much to offer the world, we are looking to build new partnerships and strike the best free trade deals for Britain.
In 2017, exports of British food and drink topped £20 billion for the first time – a tremendous endorsement of our world-class products and the importance placed on British high standards. A sector that exports more will be able to rely on a more productive and more highly-skilled workforce, using the latest technology and date. One of my first acts as Environment Secretary was to help launch 10 new industry approved apprenticeship programmes, and we are looking at how we can achieve our ambitious goal of trebling apprenticeships by 2020. I am pleased that businesses are stepping up to the challenge, with Sainsbury’s, McCain, and Moy Poy just a few of the organisations offering apprenticeships in agriculture, farming and food technology.
British farmers don’t only produce world-class food but, as part of that process, they care for and shape some of our most iconic landscapes. Yet, whilst 70 per cent of our land is farmed, just a small percentage of EU funding is directed towards the support of these vital environmental services. So, alongside a fair return from the market, farmers must feel incentivised and rewarded for caring for the environment. I want to incentivise as many farmers as possible to undertake environmental improvements on their land, encouraging them to farm productively whilst delivering greater outcomes for soil, water and wildlife.
British food is renowned and respected for its high standards of animal welfare, food safety, and food traceability. It’s one of the most compelling reasons for consumers to buy British. Our farmers will be able to thrive by being more outward-looking, and targeting non-EU markets, as the Government continues to support productivity and innovation.