Mary with local farmers at Littlewhite Farm
Mary with local farmers at Littlewhite Farm

On 18th February, Mary visited Littlewhite Farm in Brancepeth with Kate Sowden and Simon Hall from the National Farmers Union, where they were hosted by the farm’s owners David and Vicky Jackson.

The visit came during Heart Unions week, a week in which the Trades Union Congress advocated for joining a union, and Labour politicians reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the position of trade unions in the workplace if elected. Mary also stood in solidarity with striking UCU members this week, another display of the unwavering commitment to standing up for workers no matter who the bad bosses are.

Mary discussed many issues with NFU representatives and the owners of Littlewhite Farm. One of which was the ELM scheme (Environmental Land Management) replacing the Basic Payment Scheme in 2024. ELM will split funding three ways, which means that landowners, rather than farmers, will receive a big chunk of cash. This then means that funding will be less than EU funding with costs spiralling the other way. It is clear that a compromise needs to be made.

Mary also spoke about trade balance with the EU and the need for a national food strategy for farming. EU funding supported a cheap food policy by giving funding at source to increase supply & manage prices. The argument is that if we want to keep pursuing a cheap food policy in the UK, this funding needs to be put in at source. This will have a kick on to the cost of living crisis if it continues as food prices will have to keep rising.

After this, they discussed the apparent contradiction of the Government support a significant amount of rewilding, but also that we cannot produce enough food in this country to feed ourselves. The National Breadbasket (our supply) runs out in August. This means if we only ate what we produced, from August we would starve. This clearly needs addressed.

Also being discussed was the need for more fruit and vegetables to be grown in this country. As more and more people move to cut meat out of diets, it is important the food that replaces that is not cancelling out

Mary also spoke with the NFU and owners of Littlewhite Farm about rural crime and poaching. NFU locally have a great relationship with Durham Police, but this is a significant issue, with some poaching being linked to organised crime. There is currently an issue with deer being hunted by dogs which is apparently linked to organised crime gangs.

Mary looks forward to working closely with the NFU and local farmers going forward and is committed to ensuring that workers and local farmers have the best environment in which to work and to trade.

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