Thursday, 9 June 2022

The Return of the Royal Cornwall Show

This week, after a two-year break, the Royal Cornwall Show returns. Sadly, for the last two years, it has been cancelled due to Covid, but it is positive to see it returning now as in previous years and I am very much looking forward to it.

I have many childhood memories of the Royal Cornwall show. When I was growing up my father was one of the many volunteer stewards who gave up his time each year to make the event possible, so it is great to be able to attend again in person. We’ve learnt a lot from Zoom, but I’m glad to be rid of it. Farming is real, it happens outdoors, and demonstration projects that you can see in action on the ground are so important. For many years we used to show our South Devon Cattle there and my brother will be there again this year with the family's prize-winning Lop-Eared Pigs, which is a rare breed native to Cornwall.
The sharp rise in gas prices internationally is affecting input costs for farmers.  Fertiliser and diesel prices have risen severalfold over the past year, and this is causing anxiety for some farmers.  However, since the 2016 referendum result, we have also seen the prices farmers receive for their products rise in most cases.  The price of beef, lamb and milk have all gone up considerably over the past few years and, as a result, farm incomes have been in a stronger position than they have for many years.  
We are developing our future agricultural policy now that we are free from the EU and in doing so, we want to support the choices that individual farm enterprises make.  This year we have announced a package of measures to help farmers reduce their reliance on expensively manufactured fertilisers by using more nitrogen-fixing legumes or other green cover crops that can reduce the amount of fertiliser a farmer needs to use on their land.  We have also increased the budget for new grants to support farmers who want to invest in their business, reduce their costs and improve their profitability.
 We have also recently introduced our new Genetic Technology Bill, which will enable the UK to take forward its lead in precision breeding techniques.  These new techniques enable plant breeders to accurately identify a trait in a particular variety of crops, such as natural resistance to a pest or disease and then transfer it to a different commercial variety of the same crop.  A rogue court judgement by the European Court of Justice in 2018 hampered the use of these technologies but we can now improve the law so that approaches to reduce the need for chemical pesticides can be progressed.
Of course, it has been a week of drama in Westminster with the Conservative Party having a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson as party leader.  Now that the vote is concluded and a decision made, it is important to press ahead dealing with the many issues our country faces as we emerge from the pandemic.  But I will be glad to get back to the Royal Cornwall Showground this week.

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