Last Friday, Huw Merriman, MP for the Bexhill and Battle constituency and Sally-Ann Hart, MP for Hastings and Rye, co-hosted a roundtable for 40 local farmers and land agents with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Forestry Commission at Staplecross Village Hall.
Sandy Kapila, the Head of External Affairs at the RPA and Dragana Nikolic, Engagement lead for Defra, shared updates on the new scheme for farmers – the Sustainable Farming Incentive which will replace the Direct Payment Scheme for farmers and included an update from Defra on how government agricultural policy will support food production and environmental protection. Matthew Woodcock from the Forestry Commission spoke about grants and support for farmers for woodland management, creation and deer management.
The lack of a local abattoir also came up in discussions. The last remaining abattoir in East Sussex closed earlier this year and has had big impact on livestock farmers in the area who now have to travel longer distances for these facilities. The MPs committed to working with local farmers, the NFU and Defra to support a local solution.
Farmers and land agents were also told about two free schemes to support farms: a free (paid for by the Government) vet assessment for their livestock and free reviews of farms to discuss future business strategy.
After the meeting Huw Merriman MP said:
“It was really helpful for local farmers and land agents to have the opportunity to speak directly to senior officials from the Rural Payments Agency, Defra and the Forestry Commission. Moving to a new payments scheme for farming and environmental protection post Brexit presents great opportunities for UK farming but it also brings challenges and concerns. It was good that so many people from the local farming community were able to ask questions and share their experiences with officials and each other.”
Sally-Ann Hart MP said:
“The recent meeting was very well attended and I am grateful to Sandy, Dragana and Matthew for their time and for the updates that they gave regarding the work of the Rural Payments Agency and on the Farming and Countryside Programme. The issue of the lack of local abattoirs is often raised with me by local farmers and this was an excellent opportunity for their concerns to be discussed.”
Sandy Kapila said:
‘I’m really grateful to Sally-Ann and Huw for hosting the roundtable. It was a great opportunity to provide an update on the progress we are making to help farmers and listen to the feedback from them about what is working and what we can do differently.’
Links to the free support for farmers can be found at these links:
Free business advice https://www.gov.uk/.../get-free-business-advice-for-your...
Free vet checks: https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/.../the-annual-health.../