Environment Secretary backs campaign for small farming & rural businesses to vote remain

The Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, has given her support to a campaign promoting the importance of small farming and other rural businesses voting to remain in the European Union at the Referendum on June 23rd.

As part of its focus on farming the EU Small Business campaign is promoting the fact that 370,000 small rural businesses in the UK farming sector

“Our position in the EU gives farmers and rural small businesses access to the world’s largest single market of 500 million people,” Elizabeth Truss says. “The negotiating power from being part of it means we benefit from trade deals with over 50 markets across the world. Renegotiating these outside the EU would take years with no guarantee of a better deal.”

Jim Alston of the 600 acre Manor Farm in Calthorpe, just south of Cromer, Norfolk, works in conjunction with two other farms of a similar size as a
farming group to share their staff and machinery.

“Although the main products of our agriculture are traded on the world market and have a world price, much of our produce does go to Europe,” explains Jim.
“It’s handy and on our doorstep, which means transport is cheaper and there are no other tariffs involved, so for the people who sell the corn on our behalf,
for example, it makes trading a lot simpler. For many of our products, crops like malt and barley, the big market place is Europe, so we need that common
market, that equal playing field.”

Jim, though, also has a separate small business called Dofygate, which has developed a solar powered, electric remote-controlled access gate for farms as
well as residential properties. The gate has been developed on his farm with help from the Technology Strategy Board.

“We believe the European Market is going to be very important for Dofygate next year and beyond. The fact that we can go onto that market at a time of our own choosing and to sell products into the other 27 countries involved is an enormous benefit for a small company,” he adds. “We’re not involved in a
bureaucracy because that has largely been taken care of by the Single Market and the company has benefited from European-based funding to help with marketing as well as the development of what is a new and innovative product.”

Jim says that being a part of the EU means agriculture is part of a common marketplace in the sense that all are abiding by the same cross-compliance
rules. This includes a subsidy that is based around European regulation and the need to match environmental rules is common throughout the European community. He fears that, were the UK to leave, both of those things would become separate from Europe and it would be more likely that UK farming would become uncompetitive compared with its European neighbours.

“I have experienced my whole working life being part of a European Union that’s worked together. I have always been very frustrated that the UK has always seen itself as an outsider within Europe. We should be more positive, get in there and really become a leading part of Europe. We need Europe and Europe needs us.”

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