Water is among Norfolk farmers' key demands to treasury minister Liz Truss
PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:45 28 June 2019
The need for better water infrastructure was among the investment priorities which farmers discussed with treasury minister Elizabeth Truss during her visit to the Royal Norfolk Show.
The South West Norfolk MP and chief secretary to the treasury met with farmers to hear their concerns over the impact of the national budget on the rural community.
Speaking after the meeting hosted by the National Farmer's Union (NFU), Ms Truss said: "First of all, people want to see a plan for farming for Brexit.
"Secondly, we need ways of supporting new-entry farmers into the industry. The issue of water was raised a lot, on fibre, on electricity, and a big focus of mine is improving infrastructure in rural areas so we can support really excellent businesses."
Brexit was a recurring theme at the meeting, as farmers repeated their fears about a no-deal departure from the EU.
"One of the things the farmers were talking about is that people are holding back on investment," said Ms Truss. "One of the reasons they're holding back on investment is we haven't resolved the European issue."
Norfolk NFU chairman Nick Deane highlighted the importance of efficient water transport, saying we're "wasting money" by pumping excess flood water into the ocean in other parts of the country, while many Norfolk farmers are at risk of drought or losing their abstraction licences for irrigation.
"Thousands, probably millions, of pounds are going to be spent pumping that water out to sea," he said.
"Why aren't we pumping it in the right direction instead of just chucking it out to sea? An infrastructure within the UK that could put water in the right place to the benefit of the environment, to the benefit of industry, to the benefit of the water consumer; it must be something that should be looked at because with climate change they're all going to put pressure on this critical strategic resource."
Mr Deane also discussed Brexit, saying no-deal would be "disastrous" short-term, but noted that Ms Truss seemed "aware of that."
"She can't give any firm commitments, but we do know that she's here to listen to us," he added.