Farming is critical to our economy, providing thousands of jobs and is the cornerstone of our food production. I support farming in Scotland and across the UK and want it to be economically viable, environmentally sustainable and to lead the world with high standards in animal welfare and food quality.
I believe that a new agricultural policy should aim to establish a new deal with society – a consensus on what the modern-day farming industry can deliver for the economy, for rural communities, for consumers and for the environment. At the 2017 general election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support smaller traders, local economies, community benefits and sustainable practices.
As you know, the UK Government has consulted on proposals for future food, farming and environmental policy following Brexit. The consultation closed on 8 May and the UK Government will consider the responses before publishing the Agriculture Bill later this year.
Although agriculture is a devolved matter in Scotland, the UK Government is working with the devolved administrations to determine where common frameworks need to be established in some areas currently governed by EU law. It has also committed to consult widely with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations on the appropriate extent of the Agriculture Bill.
Following Brexit, I believe legislation around farming and agriculture, fisheries and rural development should come to Holyrood and that the consent of the Scottish Parliament must then be sought to create any common frameworks and regulations. This is vital to defend the devolution settlement.
It is also very important that Scottish farmers get a fair funding distribution once the UK has left the Common Agricultural Policy. The UK Government has committed to maintain current levels of funding for the sector in each part of the UK until the end of this Parliament. I can assure you I will hold it to account on this.
I will continue to stand up for Scottish farmers, the environment and the rural economy and to support a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries.