Whilst the majority of my constituents live in High Wycombe there are substantial rural areas in the Wycombe constituency. Most of the countryside is in the Green Belt or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and about 20 per cent of my constituents live in country villages. I was pleased to be able to meet farmer Nick Mansfield recently to discuss some of the challenges facing local farmers, talking about animal welfare, environmental stewardship and TB. Nick took me to land he farms near Henley; it was great to see how local farmers are balancing producing high quality agricultural products with care of the environment for future generations.
It is of the first importance to protect our rural heritage and countryside. Our farmers are best placed to steward the land, and it is important to protect their livelihoods so they can maintain the traditional landscape and have high animal welfare standards. Good care of livestock is equally as important as the protection of wildlife, and animal welfare is a delicate balance between the two.
One of the biggest issues facing our farmers is TB, which is carried by animals locally. TB is endemic in local badger and deer populations, making it difficult to keep cattle clear of the disease. Livestock is tested every six months and often has to be culled to control the disease. The Department for Food and Rural Affairs needs to listen to farmers and shift the onus for keeping TB under control away from fencing land to focus on preventing TB spreading in wildlife, particularly through a vaccination program. I look forward to raising these issues with the Department for Food and Rural Affairs.