As anyone who lives in South Northamptonshire will know, we are blessed with some of the most lovely countryside you’ll find anywhere in the UK. It’s an exceptional honour to represent our area as your local Member of Parliament, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit some of our fantastic local farmers last Friday in my dual role as constituency MP and Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
As Environment Secretary, I get to meet some incredibly talented and hard-working people who work tirelessly not just to produce some of the world’s best food and drink that we all enjoy, but who also conserve and protect the land for the future generations who’ll come after us. This is as true locally in South Northants as it is across the country.
I had the pleasure of being shown first-hand by the Goodwins how they are using cover cropping and direct drilling to improve the soil quality of their land through mixed farming without ploughing, bringing combined economic and environmental benefits through more nutrient-rich soil, less erosion and higher yields. I then had the chance to hear more from farmers local to the area over a morning coffee.
Next stop was to visit the Tims family who raise livestock on beautiful land in the heart of South Northamptonshire. Seeing the care that the family put into rearing their Aberdeen Angus herd was fantastic and a true testament to their love for the countryside and farming. We had time for a chat over lunch about some of the opportunities post-Brexit for the farming sector, and that the same levels of financial support provided under the Basic Payment Scheme will be available through to 2020. For anyone wanting to read more about my commitment to supporting British farmers in the short and the long term, I encourage you to read my speech to the Oxford Farming Conference 2017 last week.
It was then on for a farm walk to see the dairy operation at the Gardiners’ family farm and to hear how improvements in technology are helping to boost productivity. Over afternoon tea we spoke about some of the work that Defra is doing to support dairy farmers, including tax averaging and some of the schemes available through grants.
The day then rounded off with a meeting of the Towcester Young Farmers in the evening where I met local farmers under 30 (although with a few honourable older members too!) and spoke to them about my hopes for the future of food and farming in the UK and my priorities as Environment Secretary.
A thoroughly enjoyable day in one of the most beautiful areas of the country! My thanks to West Northants NFU for organising today and to Towcester YFC for a lovely evening!