Priti teams up with local farmers and the NFU to tour farms in her Witham Constituency
The MP for Witham, Priti Patel has visited a number of local farms in her constituency in conjunction with the National Farmers Union (NFU). On Thursday 18th May, the MP visited Wicks Manor Farm, in Tolleshunt Major, Whiteheads Farm, Witham and Hill House Farm in Feering. During her visits, she held wide-ranging discussions on a number of issues affecting agricultural businesses and rural communities, including energy prices and planning as well as trade and border controls.
Fergus Howie, whose family own Wicks Manor Farm, an arable and pig farm with an expanding meat processing facility supplying the UK and overseas market, gave Priti ,who is familiar with the farm, a tour of his establishment. He raised his concerns over biosecurity controls at the border for food and agricultural imports from the EU; including the risks posed by African Swine Fever. He also discussed with Priti net zero, solar power, labour shortages and rural crime.
Priti also visited Whiteheads Farm, where arable farmer, John Stacey showed her around the farm and asked her about issues relating to the plans from National Grid to construct more than a hundred miles of pylons and overhead electricity cables in the region, which would have a dramatic impact on his farm, as the route goes right through it. John also expressed concerns about the A12 widening scheme and proposals to prohibit agricultural vehicles from using the new section between junctions 21 and 25, after completion.
The final stop was at Hill House Farm, Feering, where Priti met poultry farmer Nigel Free, who gave her a tour and raised the issues of increased production costs, inflation in the agricultural sector being up by more than 30% and the high energy costs in the poultry sector, not being recognised in Government support packages. They also discussed the impact that avian influenza has had on the poultry sector.
Following her farming visits, Priti said: “Food produced in Essex and Britain is the best in the world. Our farmers in Essex and across the country work incredibly hard to provide the food our country needs and show that we have some of the highest standards in the world when it comes to food production and animal welfare.
“But our farmers also face considerable challenges and pressures, from rising energy and production costs to concerns over biosecurity and cheap, poor-quality imports. I know these are tough times for those who work in our agricultural businesses and I will be raising their concerns and issues with the Government.
“I cannot speak highly enough of our local farmers, their resilience and determination to work as hard as they do, often in the face of these significant pressures. I am grateful to Fergus, John and Nigel for their time and openness in discussing the issues they face.”
Rob Morrell, Group Secretary of the NFU’s Braintree, Halstead and Great Yeldham branch, who accompanied Priti on the tour said: “It was an excellent afternoon and we greatly welcomed the opportunity to give Priti our feedback on the key issues affecting farmers in this part of the world. Good communication between the people on the front line of British farming and Westminster is essential.”