Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, has spoken in the House of Commons during the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions. You can watch him speak here.
In a question to Rebecca Pow MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Richard raised the issue of catchment-sensitive farming. The scheme looks to protect bodies of water from pollution that occurs as a result of agriculture. The program offers grants to farmers to help them develop environmentally friendly and sustainable farming methods and waste management methods to limit contamination of water, as well as offering farmers free advice, free training and regular farm inspections. Catchment sensitive farming officers help to run the program and a farm can be assigned an officer.
To benefit from the program, a farmer must be in a high priority area. North West Durham is not a high priority area, meaning that farmers are missing out on crucial grants, advice and training as it is not available to them. Richard has recently held a virtual meeting with local farmers from North West Durham who raised their concerns about not having access to a hugely beneficial scheme, especially as the sector moves from the Single Farm Payment (SFP) to the Environmental Protection Scheme (EPS). Richard urged the Minister to include North West Durham in any review that takes place to look at the high priority areas to ensure that his farmers are not left out of a key scheme and have access to funding which benefits both the farms and the environment.
The Minister also referenced Richard's recent conversations with ministers about issues faced in the farming and agriculture sectors in North West Durham and mentioned Richard's requests for a ministerial visit to discuss these issues with the farming community in North West Durham, which they hope to fulfil.
Commenting, Richard said:
"It simply isn’t right that farmers in North West Durham do not have access to the same grants, advice, training and management that other farmers across the country have. The scheme is good – not only does it help farmers improve their farming methods and agricultural returns, but it also really benefits the environment by limiting contamination of water and ensuring that farming is being done in a sustainable way. We need a review of the scheme as we move from the SFP to EPS and ask our farming community to farm in an increasingly sustainable way. I am going to continue to work with all farmers across North West Durham – I have had regular meetings with members of the farming community both before and since becoming an MP and I will continue to work hard in this area and make sure that all the farmers in North West Durham are being represented to government.’
To hear more about the work that Richard is doing for North West Durham, you can sign up here or input your details in the form on this page.