Farmers from across Norfolk joined Members of Parliament in Westminster this week to discuss the future of farming post Brexit, extraction licences and rural crime. The meeting organised by Keith Simpson MP and held in Portcullis House was also attended by Liz Truss MP, George Freeman MP, Sir Henry Bellingham MP and Richard Bacon MP. Discussion focused on water abstraction licences, particularly in the Broads area, rural crime, fly tipping, future food production and productivity. As a former Secretary of State for DEFRA, Liz is keen to see British farming grow and prosper, highlighting that the UK’s food and drink production is the largest manufacturing sector, bigger than the automotive and aerospace sectors combined.
Liz commented afterwards ‘It was extremely helpful to have the discussion with Norfolk farmers particularly focusing on the challenges that they face with water abstraction, future funding models and more robust systems in place to tackle rural crime, hare coursing and fly tipping. I have asked to meet Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey to address these concerns. I am great champion of our British food and drink, with fantastic producers in Norfolk hosting considerable employment opportunities. Looking ahead to the future I am keen to ensure that UK food and drink production, being the largest manufacturing sector in the country, worth £113 billion to our economy, has the appropriate support in place and I will continue to work with farmers on this.’
Wereham farmer Ed Lankfer, who attended the meeting in Westminster, said afterwards ‘It was good to meet the MPs and discuss the issues faced. As a farmer, we operate in remote locations with a lot of valuable equipment. I am keen to see more protection against rural crime, theft, illegal hare coursing and fly tipping.’
Last month the government announced new measures to tackle fly tipping, with extra powers to tackle the serious problem of waste crime to be granted. Environment Minister Therese Coffey said in January 2019 that new powers will be introduced for the Environment Agency (EA) to lock the gates or block access to problem waste sites to prevent thousands of tonnes of waste illegally building up. The government has also launched a new consultation to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector. Proposals include raising the bar required to hold EA waste permits, and putting a stop to criminals hiding their illegal activities by requiring them to register low-risk waste operations which are currently exempt from the need to hold a permit. It also suggests providing local authorities with the option of fining those whose waste ends up fly-tipped or illegally dumped rather than having to pursue them through the courts. The new powers for the EA to tackle problem waste sites will be introduced by spring 2018, subject to parliamentary approval. This follows a public consultation in which an overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents were in favour of allowing regulators to take physical steps, such as locking the gates to an illegal waste site, to prevent operators from accepting more illegally dumped waste and enabling the EA to require all the waste to be removed.
Photo MPs and farmers in Portcullis House, Westminster. Photo credit L. Davies.