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Weekly Overview: UK Government to Increase Investment in Agriculture

11 January 2016, at 12:00am

ANALYSIS - Last week ThePigSite featured coverage from the Oxford Farming Congress, held 5-7 January.

Speaking at the conference, agriculture secretary, Liz Truss, said that the UK government plans to increase investment in agriculture by 12 per cent over the next five years to £2.7 billion.

“We will invest in technology, digital systems, growing our exports, world leading science, protection against animal health and plant disease and flood defences,” Mrs Truss said.

Mrs Truss also said that the British government will be publishing a new programme for Food and Farming for the Environment covering the next 25 years, which will include decentralising decision making in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and cutting red tape for farmers.

Also speaking at the conference, former environment secretary Owen Paterson and European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, debated the advantages to UK farmers from leaving the European Union.

Mr Paterson said the UK could grow its rural economy, improve the environment and protect the country from plant and animal diseases if it was outside the EU.

He also commented that the UK can leave the political arrangements of the EU and still have access to the European market.

“They have a £70 billion surplus with us, five million Europeans depend on sales to the UK; they have an enormous strategic and selfish interest in being able to export to us,” Mr Paterson told the conference.

However, the Mr Hogan said that access to the internal market from outside the EU would come at a price.

“Would the British Exchequer be prepared to pay a price that fully guaranteed your access for agricultural products?” he asked.

“Would it expect farmers to pay part of the access-fee through higher taxes?”

In other news, South Africa has finally agreed to resume pork and other meat imports from the US.

Only a limited number of US poultry and meat products have been exported to South Africa in recent years, due to sanitary requirements by the South African authorities. The US argued that these health requirements were not backed up by science.

After missing a deadline for import agreement on 31 December, South Africa was running the risk of losing its benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows it to export to the US with reduced tariffs. However, South Africa has now avoided this, and US officials were positive about the conclusion of negotiations.

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