Sajjad was recently invited to speak at the Annual Dinner of Cumbria National Farmers Union. The event, held at the Westmorland Hotel, was well attended with over 100 farmers travelling from across Cumbria, who were joined by NFU officers from as far as Cheshire.
Saj joined Kevin Beaty who farms near Penrith and was No 3 candidate on the Conservative list for last year’s European election and is NFU Deputy Chairman for Cumbria. NFU North West Regional Director, Robert Sheasby, was also present.
Saj congratulated Richard Geldart on the successful completion of his first year as Cumbria County Chairman and wish him well for the forthcoming year.
Sajjad admitted to being somewhat daunted by such as larger gathering of agriculture experts and in his speech paid a warm tribute to Kevin Beaty’s work and strong representation of the farming community saying “If we had had a higher turnout in last year’s European election Kevin Beaty would have now been your MEP. He would have been an ideal member of our Conservative team in Europe and how much better off would farmers have been him to represent them? “
He commented that farmers are not only food producers and custodians of the countryside but they are also small businesses and in this respect he shares many common denominators.
“Having qualified as the solicitor I went on to set up a number of successful small businesses and solicitors practices before standing for election to the European Parliament.
Much of my work in the European Parliament, particularly as Conservative Legal Affairs spokesperson, has concentrated on the drafting of new or revised legislation to cut unnecessary EU red tape. Something that is close to our hearts! So I do have a full understanding on the challenges you face to make ends meet in these difficult times.”
Saj went on to outline his work cutting red tape that has benefitted small businesses and to the need for reform saying “The Europe that was structured over 60 years ago has evolved and developed. Now no longer fit for purpose, these institutions must change to respond to the needs of a modern Europe.”
“Under David Cameron’s leadership this work is already underway. Both before the last European election and since June of last year with the new Parliament, Conservatives are pushing forward the agenda that the people of Europe, not just the UK, are clearly crying out for.”
Saj covered key issues to the farming community including the delivery and implementation of the revised CAP by Westminster.
“CAP reform has always been a long drawn out process and our farmers have been on the losing end of CAP as against French famers for example, for very many years. The Conservative position is that we believe this was a missed opportunity to set up a fairer and less wasteful system that is more market-oriented and less interventionist, but this situation won’t be helped if our own government who to be brutal have a far better understanding of the countryside and faming than any Labour government could have, don’t utilise the new system to best effect.”
I am sure that many of you would agree that leaving the EU would be catastrophic for farmers. Leaving the EU would leave UK farmers disadvantaged against farmers still accessing the CAP in 27 other member states and would expose the UK to trading on its own in the global marketplace, where it would face tariffs on everything you send for export.
Saj went on to cover other issues of concern including the currently negotiated American Trade talks (TTIP), and new environmental schemes being rolled out, particularly in respect of how they will be delivered by Natural England. Once the Uplands Entry level agreement ends there may be no environmental scheme replacement for hedges, walls. ditches etc, available to farmers in uplands and an increase in Hill Farm payments means lowland farms, in Cumbria but more particularly in Cheshire will receive less.
Saj went on to talk about the vital issue of milk and dairy which is affecting many Cumbria famers.
“Our family dairy farmers need a mechanism to help them cope with the current crisis and the changing market that they are now a part of. As quotas are removed next year so countries like Ireland will produce more milk. Over the longer term the market should rise and stabilise but over the next couple of year we need to support those smaller dairy farmers who last year made a profit but this year will lose money with little or no reserves to fall back on.
“Larger units who have made higher profits are much better placed to survive but our framers need to be able to earn a living wage to support their families.
“First Milk’s recent announcement on restructuring and cuts is a blow to many hard pressed farmers in Cumbria.
“We need to establish a better dairy supply chain and look at the mechanics of how we can remove the volatility of the current market giving long term stability. I know that various options are being looked at and indeed Kevin Beaty is involved in this so I will support whatever your recommendations are.”
Saj ended reminding farmers of the general election in May saying they are already well represented at Westminster by Rory Stewart in Penrith on the Borders and John Stevenson in Carlisle. Both are doing sterling work and we need more like them to join them.
“If you do want a vote on our future in Europe, only David Cameron and the Conservatives have pledged to give you this. No other party has put this offer on the table and UKIP can’t deliver it either now or after the election.”