IN a meeting with local farmers in Allendale this week, Labour North-East MEP Paul Brannen advised farmers to look at the potential of forestry in this changing time for agriculture.

Mr Brannen, who sits on the Agricultural and Rural Development Committee of the European Parliament, said that his time on the committee had allowed him to see how rural and environmental issues could “butt up against one another,”,but also how they could work hand in hand.

“When young people who care about climate change ask what they can do, tell them to become a farmer where they can use that role to help to protecting the environment,” he said. “It might be a time of uncertainty, but it is also a time of opportunity to do things differently.”

Mr Brannen put forward forestry as being one solution to providing natural captial for farmers.

“In the future we will see a giant shift towards wood as a material because everything we currently make from fossil fuels, we can make from wood, which can also replace building materials such as concrete.

“We simply don’t grow enough woodland in the UK. We’re one of the lowest in Europe, but with the prices of wood being the highest they have been for some time, there is a great natural capital available for farmers to run alongside their livestock.”

Whilst he was in full support for farming becoming more environmentally friendly, Mr Brannen said food production must “absolutely” not be overshadowed.

With food prices being some of the lowest in the country’s history, the price which consumers were happy to pay, meant that farmers were not getting the fair profit, he said.

“When I walk into a supermarket, I’m able to see which products are fair trade for farmers overseas by looking for the sticker, and I can feel secure as a consumer that that’s the case,” said Mr Brannen.

“Whilst it’s brilliant that charities have managed to secure that for those farmers, what are we doing in Britain to ensure our own farmers are receiving a fair price for their food production?”

Mr Brannen said that he would continue to work with the NFU to achieve a fair trade deal for farmers.