Greens accuse Defra Secretary of environmental irresponsibility and absence of post-Brexit farming plan

4 January 2017

Greens have accused the Defra Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, of environmental irresponsibility following her call to abandon an important ‘greening’ measure post Brexit. Ms Leadsom has said that the ‘three crop rule’, agreed unanimously by Agricultural ministers in 2013 as part of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), should be scrapped [1]. The rule applies to farms of over 30 hectares where farmers must grow at least 3 crops and was agreed in order to help conserve the environment and contribute to addressing greenhouse emissions [2].

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West and a member of the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee, said:

“Our worst fears about a post-Brexit farming landscape are being realised. Rather than using the opportunities offered by Brexit to encourage a move towards a diverse and ecologically sustainable farming system this government seem determined to dive headlong into encouraging damaging monocultures.

“The attack on the three crop rule shows Leadsom is set on shredding measures aimed at safeguarding our soils, protecting habitats and utilizing farmland for capturing and storing carbon. There is also a strong whiff of hypocrisy here since the greening measures that Leadsom is now vowing to rip up were agreed unanimously by all EU Agricultural ministers, including her own government’s [3].

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment committee, said:

"Andrea Leadsom has again attempted to vilify EU safeguards by labelling them as 'red tape' and, most concerningly, promising to scrap the vital protections. The 'red tape' the Environment Minister is threatening to cut is currently protecting our rural environment, our biodiversity, our soil, and the welfare of farm animals.

“In truth, and as recognised by MPs sitting on the Environmental Audit Committee today, leaving the European Union also puts at risk the body of EU law which accounts for almost 80% of UK wildlife and animal welfare protections."

The criticisms from the Greens come as the Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee warns British farming faces significant risks after Brexit. Farmers could face tariffs of up to 50% on exports to the EU if Britain leaves the single market, warns the Committee. In a new report, the Committee echoes Green concerns about the threats to the agricultural sector post-Brexit and the need for a future farming model that promotes biodiversity, prevents flooding and stores carbon [4].

Green Party speaker on agriculture, Oliver Dowding, who is an organic farmer, said:

“Leadsom is floundering in a vacuous void just at a time when farmers need reassurance. Her government has no plan for agriculture post-Brexit. For instance, there is deep uncertainty on whether we will remain in the single market, or whether farmers will face tariffs on their exports.

“But we need a farming system that looks beyond selling and exporting. We need a long-term policy based on protecting our soils, promoting the health and wellbeing of consumers and encouraging biodiversity.”

Notes

[1] http://www.fwi.co.uk/news/ofc-2017-leadsom-pledge-scrap-three-crop-rule.htm

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/direct-support/greening_en

[3] https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/agriculture-myths-cropping-the-facts-on-the-three-crop-rule/

[4] http://news.sky.com/story/brexit-could-put-countryside-farming-and-wildlife-at-risk-10717420






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