Local MP Tim Farron has called for more respect and support to be given to UK farmers in the House of Commons debate on recruitment in agriculture last week. He discussed the government's slashing of support to both experienced farmers and young people trying to join the industry: "If we enjoy the benefits of eating food, if we enjoy the environment, if we think tackling climate change is important, and if we think water management and flood prevention or tourism and hospitality are important, then we should be very grateful to our farmers and those who work in agriculture.
"We should be determined to protect that industry, not do it harm."
Tim discussed that whilst there is a 'golden goodbye' to farmers retiring under the government's new environmental land management scheme, all that greets young people entering the industry is hardship: "The recent closure of Newton Rigg College, an agricultural college outside Penrith for the UK's second-largest farming county, was outrageous and unnecessary.
"The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland directly fund agricultural education there. Why could we not do that in the UK, given that we now have that freedom?
"Why did DEFRA not choose to invest in saving our college in Cumbria, so that we can reach farming families while also recruiting people from other communities to be the farmers of the future? That seems a terrible wasted opportunity, and I call upon the Government to put it right, even at this late stage."
Tim also spoke about the effects of the changes to basic payments on his farming constituents: "I have got about 1,000 farms in my constituency. Every single one of them has lost 20% of its basic payments this year.
"Of those 1,000 farms, a grand total of 13 will be getting something through the new sustainable farming incentive.
"What does it mean for recruiting people into farming when they realise that farm incomes are evaporating, and new sources of income are not available any time soon?"
Speaking afterwards, Tim said: "I am hugely concerned that whilst we have an opportunity here to improve our agricultural policies and solidify British farming as both an innovative industry and force to be reckoned with, that we are falling at the first hurdle. I would argue that the farming policy the Government are now enacting, is not just strategically stupid but morally abhorrent."
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