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We have always been clear on what we don’t want, but what do we want instead?

Unlike most things Brexit, what we want is actually quite simple when you think about it, says Adam Speed, communications manager at the Crop Protection Association.

What do we really want? It is a question I have often asked colleagues when we are talking about our industry and Brexit.

 

And believe me, we have had lots of conversations about Brexit.

 

We have always been clear on what we do not want. We do not want a system with an over emphasis on hazard rather than risk, a system where politics trumps science and a system that leaves farmers with fewer tools to protect their crops.

 

But what do we want instead? That is a bit trickier.

 

Flaws

 

The EU’s approach to regulation has many excellent features – it offers incredibly high standards of human health and environmental protection - but it has some massive flaws.

 

There is a widespread failure by authorities to meet legal deadlines, unpredictable results due to inconsistently implemented guidance, a hazard-based approach which is divergent with the standard, risk-based approach taken by the rest of the world and the unmanaged and abrupt loss of crop protection tools.

 

So, that rules out alignment with the EU approach.

 

Let’s be clear, this is an approach which has negatively impacted upon innovation and left Europe way behind the rest of the world on agricultural technology.

 

Managed divergence

 

Simply aligning the UK to these rules would only perpetuate these problems and without the UK’s expert participation in the EU process, it is only going to get worse.

 

Deal or no deal, there is still a way forward which ensures no diminution of environmental standards or protection for human health and enables us to retain everything good about the existing regulation, whilst dealing with the problems outlined above.

 

Use of the word ‘divergence’ in the context of Brexit can often set the hares running, however, what we are talking about here is ‘managed divergence’, whereby existing approaches will be maintained, and new developments monitored and implemented accordingly.

 

This approach would enable greater opportunities for global collaboration and therefore trade, the potential to attract R&D activity to the UK and the ability to make faster decisions.

 

Uncompetitive

 

This is good news for farmers as it would mean earlier access to the latest agri-tech and greater variety within the crop protection toolbox.

 

Whilst the current EU regime for pesticides could be workable if we ironed out the flaws, the politicisation of almost every recent decision on crop protection products suggests a trajectory that will ultimately lead to EU farmers losing access to most of the products currently at their disposal.

 

Ultimately, this will lead to EU becoming uncompetitive and perhaps unable to provide a steady and reliable supply of safe, affordable food.

 

The trends are already heading in that direction, with agricultural growth in the EU stagnating and total agricultural output declining according to Eurostat.

 

Surely, even the most ardent Remainer would accept the need for the UK to exit from that kind of future?

 

So, what do we want? A managed divergence approach that builds upon the parts of the regulation that actually work, whilst dealing with those that do not, continuing to offer high levels of environmental protection, whilst supporting UK farmers and ensuring the country stays well fed.

 

Unlike most things Brexit, it is actually quite simple when you think about it.

 

The Crop Protection Association can be found tweeting @CropProtect


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