Conference season is over, and it is back to business as usual in Parliament. The big focus has been on the Agriculture Bill, which we debated this week. With nearly two thirds of the Chichester constituency being made up of farm land this is a very important piece of legislation for us. Following the decision to leave the EU this is the first time in nearly 50 years that we will be able to customise the law to suit the needs of British farmers. It will also provide opportunities to support our farmers and growers who produce some of the UK’s best fresh food - from the humble potato, to the sweetest strawberries.
Over recent weeks I have visited many of our farmers and growers to hear their thoughts. On a visit to Manor Farm, near Midhurst, we discussed current laws such as the three-crop-rule that determine the crops a farmer must grow, which is considered to be restrictive. Many farmers are looking forward to working with the Government to modify rules to ensure we have a productive and successful farming industry.
The Bill lays out the framework to help our farmers to continue to produce food and increase their productivity. Lots of farmers and growers are already very productive using sophisticated growing and rearing methods. We currently grow under glass and polytunnels to extend the growing season and use LED lights and temperature control to grow throughout the winter months. Farmers also use electronic tags to monitor livestock temperature changes; warning of illness before it spreads or becomes serious.
Farmers today do a lot more than you think, currently one third of farm business income comes from diversification. I met a fourth-generation farmer to the east of Chichester who now runs a highly diversified farm including; renting office space, a PV solar farm and a bio-recycling operation that processes all of the waste that we put in our green bins, which is around 100,000 tonnes a year. His business mixes traditional with 21st century technology, you can even see a flock of sheep grazing beneath the field of solar panels. It is important we get the right system in place to support our farmers whilst incentivising sustainable, productive farming practices.