Gove promises support for hill farmers post Brexit

Defra secretary Michael Gove has promised hill farmers they will get the support they need to stay in business after Brexit.

MPs from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee questioned Mr Gove and Defra farm minister George Eustice about their plans for future farming policy in an evidence session at Westminster on Wednesday (31 October).

Neil Parish, chair of the Efra committee, asked Mr Gove if he recognised the “really big link” that sheep and cattle that graze the hillsides and pasturelands help to “create the great environment we have”.

See also: Read the latest news and features on Brexit and farming

“If we don’t have enough of them, we won’t be able to keep that landscape like it is,” said Mr Parish.

Mr Gove said he “absolutely” agreed with Mr Parish and added: “I have a deep appreciation of the fundamental importance of making sure that working farmers, not least in the uplands, are provided with the support that they need… not just to generate the food that we enjoy, but also to ensure that the public goods they produce as well are adequately rewarded.”

Mr Parish then asked Mr Gove whether he fully understood the link hill farming plays in ensuring these iconic landscapes.

“Oh, I absolutely appreciate the link,” said Mr Gove. “It is the case that 70% of this country is farmed and some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes and also some of our most important habitats, depend on the active work of farmers, whose principle aim is to secure a fair price in the market for the food they produce.”

Farm minister Mr Eustice told MPs that pasture-based livestock systems to actively support grazing livestock, which have a positive impact on animal welfare, the farmed environment and on public health, are the types of Brexit schemes under consideration by Defra.