Defra ministers were out on public platforms this week, but little new light was shed on the shape of post-Brexit agriculture.
Both Defra secretary of State Michael Gove and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan spoke at the World Dairy Summit in Belfast this week, but refused to engage in a debate over Brexit.
Mr Gove told delegates that the UK Government is committed to supporting the dairy industry, and said its Brexit negotiating priorities are to “ensure that supply lines are solid, no barriers to trade are erected and labour can be accessed where it is needed”.
The minister acknowledged that UK farms are reliant on foreign labour from both the EU and non-EU sources. He used the event to announce a new £40m grant fund for technology and equipment, available to farmers and food processors.
Mr Hogan conceded that free movement of people is a difficult issue for the UK and for the EU, but for different reasons, and is an issue that will require negotiation. He said that EU agricultural exports continue to grow, even though the sector is still adjusting to the post-quota environment, and stressed the need for an ongoing commitment to sustainability ‘from farm to fork’.
Dr Judith Bryans, president of Summit organiser the International Dairy Federation, said that 20 dairy producing countries are now signed up to a global initiative called the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam which makes a commitment to meeting the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.