Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson joined NFU president Minette Batters, MP Richard Graham and Iceland managing director Richard Walker for a virtual fringe event at the Conservative Party conference entitled Net-zero, farming and trade: feeding the nation and protecting the planet.
The event was organised by the Conservative Environment Network — of which Dr Hudson is a member — and centred around the role agriculture can play in delivering on the UK’s commitment to carbon net-zero by 2050.
Dr Hudson expressed his support for farmers and landowners across his constituency, highlighting how they can help deliver on the Government’s net-zero targets.
Speaking after the event, Dr Hudson said: “I was delighted to be invited to speak at this event and be able to make the case for how Cumbria can be a champion for reducing carbon emissions and set an example for the wider UK.
“The introduction of Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes will play a key role in helping to make farming more sustainable.”
Under the ELM schemes, farmers will be paid for work that promotes animal health and welfare and enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting and river management to mitigate flooding, or creating or restoring habitats for wildlife.
The panel also discussed the need for local food security and sustainability, which would benefit farmers selling their produce locally and help reduce carbon emissions by shortening transportation distances.
In addition, the panel covered the theme of upholding animal welfare and food production standards in international trade deals.
Dr Hudson said: “One of the key take home messages from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for local food security.
The British public are acutely aware of the importance of food supply as many saw shortages in their local shops and supermarkets.
“It is therefore a crucial time to encourage people to buy local to reinforce local food supply chains and support farmers across Cumbria.
“This discussion also highlighted the role we can play by showing the world that we value high animal health and welfare and these values should inform our trade negotiations with international partners.”
Dr Hudson also stressed the importance of agricultural education.
After the event he said: “If agriculture is going to play a significant role in reducing the UK’s carbon output over the next 30 years and beyond then it is vital that high quality agricultural education is maintained to support the next generation of farmers.
“Newton Rigg College in my constituency is one such institution offering courses in agriculture, animal management, forestry, horticulture and agricultural engineering.
“The college also serves as a producer of top-level graduates, many of whom will go on to work in the agricultural sector.”