Neil Parish MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, has criticised the Government’s Command Paper on agricultural policy after Brexit, saying that it is ‘woefully lacking on anything to do with proper food production’. The Committee is scrutinising the paper, the main emphasis of which is on environmental measures, public goods, rather than food production. Mr Parish raised his concerns at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week, eliciting from Mrs May an acknowledgement of the importance of food production by hard working farmers, describing it as a public good.
Natural England has received applications for licences for badger culls in nine new regions in Avon, Berkshire, Derbyshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire as part of the Government’s 25 year plan to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. People living within the areas had until Monday this week to lodge objections due to any impact the cull might have on their livelihoods and daily activities. If successful, culls in the new areas will run alongside the existing culls later this year.
The Agriculture Bill to be brought before Parliament later this year will contain mandatory measures to reverse the degradation of soils and improve organic matter content and fertility. Rebecca Pow MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Defra Ministers, said that the details are yet to be worked out but that the targets would be difficult but possible.
The number of cattle slaughtered last year as a result of positive tests for bovine tuberculosis rose to 43,564. Defra suggests that the increase is largely due to changes in the testing regime, specifically greater use of the interferon-gamma blood test in high risk areas. This test is more sensitive than the standard skin test and discloses more reactors per breakdown. However, animal rights groups claim that the increase in slaughter proves that the badger cull has not reduced infection.