Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, and Head of Political, James Legge, met the Farming Minister, George Eustice MP, on Wednesday (18 October) to discuss the basis for a new agricultural policy and the impact of Brexit on the rural economy.

The meeting was an opportunity to raise the importance of farming to the rural economy and communities, particularly in upland areas. The Minister said he was committed to supporting hill farming after Brexit and stated his intention to see a “gradual shift” towards a new system of income support which would not leave upland farmers worse off.

Tim and James also stressed the importance of supporting the broader rural economy during the Brexit process, including shooting and the game market, and urged the Minister to encourage his colleagues in Government to pursue tariff-free trade with the EU in firearms, gamebirds, and game meat which is a vital trade for the shooting industry. The Minister acknowledged the importance of this trade and said that the Government wanted to see a new trade agreement with the EU that supported all businesses in the rural supply chain, including shooting.

The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the enforcement and prosecution of animal welfare offences. Tim and James welcomed the Government’s proposals to increase maximum sentences for animal welfare offences from six months to five years, but said that this made it even more important to end private prosecutions of these offences. They encouraged the Minister to look at ways of implementing all of the recommendations of the EFRA Committee’s report into animal welfare last year, which included a recommendation that the RSPCA “should withdraw from acting as a prosecutor of first resort”.