As far as I can tell the last time the House of Commons discussed agriculture, without having to do so in the context of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) of the European Union, would have been some time circa 1970.
This is set to change. Over the next two years the House of Commons, along with the farming community, the food industry and consumers, will need to debate and decide how, on leaving the EU, we will order food production and farming in the UK. What we decide will have a profound impact on the look of our rural landscape, where our food comes from and how many UK jobs result. Food and drink, including farming, is worth a £108 billion to our economy, so we better not mess it up, the stakes are high.
To work out what our new domestic agriculture policy should look like we have some major questions to answer.
Should we plant more trees? Our forests do an amazing but hidden job; they absorb C02 the gas responsible for climate change. At a European level somewhere between 10 and 20% of the EU’s carbon emissions are sequestrated by our forests and the timber products they produce. With the battle against climate change far from won there is a lot to be said for planting more trees on marginal agricultural land. Given the likely long term reduction or removal of subsidies to farmers the amount of marginal land will increase, so the opportunity to plant more trees and create new forests will soon arrive.