Farming is arguably the most important sector of the British economy, culturally if not in the strictest terms of monetary returns.
The Common Agricultural Policy was founded to manage and support agricultural firms, but keeping particularly in mind the preservation of family farms and other small and medium sized producers. It may sound like complicated CAP bureaucracy, but it was recently announced that the modulation rate under the Inter Pillar Transfers is to rise from 9 per cent to 15 per cent.
A number of farmers, as well as the National Farmers Union, have written to me to express their deep concern over this change. They have pointed out that, while it is true that the agricultural sector is doing well and is for the most part stable, this shift from 9 per cent to 15 per cent will mean a diminution in direct funding for farmers. This may be too risky a move to take in the current economic climate, even though the overall picture is improving.
The NFU, the Country Land and Business Association, and the Tenant Farmers Association are all in agreement that the current level of 9 per cent should be maintained, as is the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons. Taking on these concerns I have written to Owen Paterson MP, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, both to relay the concerns of farmers in my constituency as well as my own concerns over the possible ill effect of this proposal.
By the time you read this, I will have been to Buckingham Palace for my investiture by the Prince of Wales as a Knight Bachelor. Since this honour was announced in the Queen’s Birthday List, I have received many words of congratulation from all around the constituency. It is of course a privilege to be so recognised by the Sovereign for my thirty years in the House of Commons, but I feel it is also a recognition of the innumerable people who have helped me along the way, be they family, friends, volunteers, or others both here in Lincolnshire and in London.
Finally, the season of Christmas is most definitely upon us. I did one of the readings at a carol service in London a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to spending the day of Jesus’ birth at home in Lincolnshire with all my family. At Christmas and New Year’s, it is a fitting time to take stock of the many blessings we have and perhaps also to give thanks for them. In Parliament we’ve faced many trials this year, but we managed to see off a number of potential threats as well as secure some advances for hard-working families and individuals. There is still much more work to be done, but before we set out on those tasks, I’d like to take this opportunity of wishing you a very happy and joyful Christmas and best wishes for 2014.
Sir Edward Leigh
MP for Gainsborough