• Cabinet Minister Visit

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    25 August 2017

    Last week, as a family, we had a great time at the Chagford Show. This is now in its 117th successful year. I particularly love it because it is of a manageable size and the setting is especially picturesque. I was delighted to be joined by Michael Gove - Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - who I had persuaded to come along so that he could learn more about the local issues around the future of farming especially after Brexit. These are uncertain times and we need to press hard to ensure that, amongst the many priorities, we have a strong result for farming. Agriculture lies at the heart of our constituency. Without farming we would not have the jobs on the land, work in the processing businesses such as Taw Valley and Crediton Dairies, distribution businesses such as Gregory in North Tawton and of course the vital work that farmers do as the stewards of the land to support Devon’s £1 billion tourist industry. At the show Michael and I listened to farmers young and old. The Young Farmers had their own stall and there was much constructive discussion about farming needing to attract younger blood. Apprenticeship standards, access to finance and the current support regime whereby very large landowners get subsidy with smaller farmers getting less as a result are key issues. Farming support is one of the prime areas that government is carefully considering. This is provided now through the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy. The government has pledged to continue the same level of funding until at least 2022. The opportunity longer term is to better organise further support to ensure more appropriate environmental schemes (better balancing the needs of the environment with the practicalities of sustainable farming) but also to make sure the right support is provided to different types of farmers – one of my main concerns is that our Dartmoor hill farmers are fully supported – something that I pressed upon Michael. Farming is often a very tough business but seldom more so than for our hill farmers – who in turn keep Dartmoor alive, grazed and beautiful. After the show I took Michael to Chagford to view the new Stannary Gardens development which includes much needed affordable housing. This is the largest ever new development in Dartmoor National Park and a significant addition to the town. What makes it particularly special is the way in which this scheme has been developed with significant local community support right from the start. The design was generated through local discussions rather than the plan being decided in advance and then consulted upon. This ‘bottom up’ approach is powerful – we badly need affordable development within our villages and smaller communities where sensitivities are often at their greatest. I am grateful to Michael for spending time with us locally – he is keen to ensure that we get Brexit right for our rural communities and I will continue to work with him in all our interests.