Trade freedoms shouldn't be at expense of East Devon farmers

Farming in East Devon shouldn't be a casualty of trade freedoms - Simon Jupp

Farming in East Devon shouldn't be a casualty of trade freedoms - Simon Jupp - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Talking East Devon with MP Simon Jupp

MP Simon Jupp.

MP Simon Jupp. - Credit: Remy Osman

“I feel very fortunate to be a farmer in the Covid world. Luckily, working from home is something I have spent my life doing!”, said a farmer recently from his corner of East Devon.

There’s no doubt daily lives have been turned upside-down by the pandemic. Though assuming those who work in agriculture have carried on as normal would be completely misplaced.

I spoke with some local farmers on a regular call organised by the NFU recently. It’s well known the industry faces many challenges following the coronavirus pandemic, alongside looking ahead to adjusting to new systems of support schemes following our exit from the EU.

Whilst Britain is now free to independently strike new trade deals across the world, this shouldn’t come at the expense of high-quality and popular produce from East Devon that quite rightly deserves our support.

That’s why last summer I supported Neil Parish MP’s amendment regarding food standards in the Agriculture Bill. I’m pleased the government listened and acted to take the UK’s high standards off the table of any trade deal. 

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Politics aside, I believe consumer choice is more important overall than anything the government can ever achieve through a mix of policies, subsidies or regulations.

Most of us do our weekly shop at a big supermarket and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. Next time you are perusing the aisles it’s worth looking at the labels. Some of the best of British food and produce is also the cheapest: seasonal, local, and hasn’t travelled across half the planet to get on the shelves.  

But if you can, pay a visit to your local greengrocer, corner shop, farmers’ market, fishmonger or butcher who need our support now more than ever.  We can’t afford to lose these from our towns and villages, and neither can our local farmers.

The South West is rightly proud of its produce and we shout about it far and wide. We produce twice as much as Wales. We also produce more than the Scotland, though you wouldn’t think it listening to some politicians.

One stat which also stands out is two-thirds of all dairy products exported from the UK to the US are from the South West, even though we’re home to just one-third of England’s cattle.

As the farmer reminded me, the farming industry is shielded from the obvious day-to-day restrictions of lockdown, yet they’re facing no less serious big policy changes over the coming months and years.

Now that I am able, I’ll be visiting as many East Devon farms as possible to continue to represent them in Parliament and with Ministers.  

Our farmers are custodians of the countryside. We should be proud of what they do in this country, our county and across the South West.

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