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From the editor: More red tape is last thing farming industry needs

As small glimpses of future farm policy thinking are snatched from the mouths of politicians, there are some reasons to be hopeful.



George Eustice’s suggestion this week that Defra is thinking along the lines of a wide ranging, easy to enter environmental policy will no doubt cheer those currently struggling with the Countryside Stewardship scheme.

 

Other nuggets, such as loan schemes to help investment on-farm; support establishing producer organisations; or boosting tenancy options will also be welcomed by many farmers looking for a common sense set of regulations which allows them to get on with running their businesses.

 

It all points to an end to direct payments, of course, and that withdrawal of support may force some farmers make the decision to exit the industry once and for all.

 

The devil, however, will be in the detail, and there will be a lot of that to emerge in the coming months and years. What will not encourage farmers though is the divergent approach to policy which is coming out of Defra.

 

While Mr Eustice’s proposals will be seen as sensible and even handed, he still alludes to making UK farming an ’international brand’ based on high animal welfare standards.

 

A worthy aspiration, yes, but if it is one which is tied up in extra regulation and bureaucracy then it will not be welcomed a by a lot of farmers.

 

With many farmers seeing Brexit as a chance to ditch red tape, Defra Secretary Michael Gove’s plans for a ’green watchdog’ will also heighten fears that there is another quango and more rules and regulations heading the industry’s way, not less as they had hoped.

 

As new CLA president Tim Breitmayer rightly says, Mr Gove has laid bare his environmental zeal in the past week, and many will be watching closely to see just what his department has in store for farmers in the brave new world of post-Brexit agriculture.


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