The article below was written by Damian and published in the Herald group of newspapers on the 8th October:
"Two-thirds of East Hampshire is farmed, with cattle, sheep and arable the largest sectors, as well as the fruit businesses and a small but rapidly growing set of vineyards.
Local farming generates hundreds of local jobs, millions of pounds, and of course high-quality food for our tables.
Locally, farming is fundamental to our economy. Nationally, agriculture and food are the UK’s largest manufacturing sectors, employing more than 4 million people and contributing £120 billion to the economy.
A recent meeting with members of the Selborne Environmental Partnership reminded me again of another significant role of farming: caring for our land. It is responsible for the upkeep of more than 70% of the UK landmass.
And almost three-quarters of farmland across Hampshire is cared for under environmental schemes, just as the one at Selborne – a group of 16 farmers who work together to support biodiversity, enhance the landscape and improve the quality of water, air and soil.
Leaving the EU means reassessing how we optimise environmental management, as well as of course questions around trade.
The Environment Bill and Agriculture Bill are landmark pieces of legislation. There are other opportunities, too, like the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which opened last month.
Shipments of UK beef have just departed for the USA – the first in over 20 years. There is much further opportunity for British produce in world markets.
There is a lot of public interest in questions of food standards, animal welfare and food security.
Back in March I called in Parliament for “a trade and standards commission for food quality for UK consumers and for a fair playing field for our farmers.”
I was very pleased therefore to hear of the formation of the new Agriculture and Trade Commission, representing retailers and farming unions, as well as consumer, hospitality and environmental bodies from across the UK. Its report will be an important piece of work.
The Commission, chaired by Tim Smith, a former Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, will advise on trade policy that will help secure opportunities abroad for UK farmers.
The Government has been very clear in its intent to give British producers the best opportunity to export their world class food and grow their businesses, and to uphold high food and animal welfare standards.
Future trade deals will shape the future of British farming and our food supply, and the Commission will play a crucial role in advising how our trade policy can create future growth and stimulate this important part of our economy - reflecting the needs of consumers, producers, farmed animals and the environment.
The public mood on this has seen more than a million people pledging their support for the NFU’s Back British Farming campaign, which also attracted high profile advocates such as Jamie Oliver, Joe Wicks and Anita Rani.
I know, from the large amount of correspondence I receive on protecting animal welfare and the environment, how important these issues are for local people, as is securing a sustainable, high-quality and affordable food supply across the UK."