Defra Secretary is environmentally irresponsible and lacks post-Brexit farming plan, says MEP

Molly Scott Cato MEP has 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. The rule applies to farms of over 30 hectares where farmers must grow at least three crops and was agreed in order to help conserve the environment and contribute to addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

Molly, 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.

Molly has also accused the government of leaving farmers in the dark over future plans for farming post-Brexit. She said:

“Farmers want to know, what’s the plan? For instance, what are farmers supposed to be planting in the spring when they don’t know what will happen with relative price and exchange rates? Also, with uncertainty over whether the government will focus on staying within the single market, farmers don’t know if they will face tariffs on their exports. The government is creating an impossible environment in which to make decisions about future investments.”

The Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has warned that 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.