One of the things that drove me in to politics was seeing the burden of paperwork and petty rules on our family farm in Cornwall.
That was 20 years ago but things have only got worse.
Now I have become Farming Minister, I have seen close up what causes these problems.
I cannot support continued membership of the EU knowing what I now know and having seen what I have seen.
EU legislation is all pervasive.
It attempts to regulate and codify almost every feature of our landscape and almost everything a farmer might want to do with their land. It is a system backed up by ruthless and draconian EU fines on both the Government through disallowance penalties and, in turn, on farmers through cross-compliance penalties.
EU auditors are on our backs all the time.
Every day when I discuss with officials in Defra how we might improve policy, make sensible changes, create space for innovation and cut some slack for farmers when things go wrong, I am told nothing can be done because of EU law.
Farming Ministers are condemned to hear the words ’disallowance risk’ every day of their working lives.
It is not right to blame civil servants for ’gold plating’ as the Remain campaign do.
I always rigorously challenge officials and demand to see the precise clauses in the exact EU regulation.
Sometimes we argue about it internally for months. Sometimes I even ask for outside lawyers to give me a second opinion.
My officials are not making it up.
This country is already fined around £100 million a year by EU auditors for being ’too lenient’ on farmers. How extraordinary.
We do not have to put up with this nonsense any longer. June 23 is your chance to send a message to Brussels that you are not prepared to be a doormat any more.
I want to be the first Farming Minister in more than 40 years who has the power to put things right and to deliver the change our farming industry so desperately needs.
If you want change too, then don’t throw away your chance to vote for it. Vote to leave.
The Leave campaign has told farmers red tape would be reduced if we leave the EU. This is a fantasy.
In fact it is likely farmers face a double whammy of rules from the EU and the UK.
If we leave the EU, the pressure for more stringent environment regulations and animal welfare regulations will not go away.
In fact, without needing pan-European agreement there is every chance future Governments could increase demands on farmers.
There is a real risk British farmers could be undercut by farmers with lower standards in the EU, especially as the Leave campaign has said it wants zero tariffs on imports.
Any farmer who exports to the EU would end up facing a double whammy of both UK and EU rules. If we look at sheep farming – two out of every five lambs are exported – most farmers would end up having to follow both sets of rules.
Where 93 percent of beef exports are to the EU and 75 per cent of grain exports – this extra burden of red tape would be significant.
Life would also be incredibly difficult for food processors, which together with farmers export £11 billion to the EU. This money directly supports jobs and livelihoods in the rural economy.
For example a company such as Wyke Farm cheese distributes its cheddar to all four French supermarkets with no extra paperwork or taxes.
Leaving the single market would mean they had to follow different UK and EU rules; two sets of regulations, rather than one for animal health, food safety and labelling. They would also face customs forms and tariffs.
Instead of pretending we can wish red tape away, I am pushing hard at the EU table to reduce unnecessary rules and getting support.
When I spoke on simplifying audit requirements last month, 17 countries came out in support, over half of those around the table.
We are also removing ’gold plating’ at UK level. I have enabled farmers to clear out and dredge ditches less than 1.5km long without an environment agency permit.
Our new Farm Inspection Taskforce will mean 20,000 fewer farm inspections a year.
If we are not at the EU table we will end up facing many of the rules with no say over them and will see Europe not keeping up with UK standards and being able to undercut us.