Thursday, 31 March 2016

New Visions for Agriculture

The debate regarding the pro and cons of the EU is now well underway and last week I spoke at the Launch of Farmers for Britain where I outlined my vision for a new UK agriculture policy post Brexit.

The CAP accounts for almost 40 percent of the EU budget, and its influence is all pervasive. Some 80 percent of legislation affecting DEFRA comes directly from the EU and it is stifling.  EU rules frequently make trying to do the simplest of things complicated and often impossible. After decades of trying to achieve reform, I think it is time to face up to the truth.  That the very concept of a pan-European legal system that tries to regulate everything related to agriculture is fundamentally flawed, and it is time to change the way we do things.

I think there should be four key themes to a future UK agriculture policy. Firstly, we must invest more in science and technology if we want our farms to make the next step forward. This includes adopting new genetic breeding techniques along with a new UK regulatory regime based on science, rather than the politics of the EU. 

Secondly, farming has always been a risky business because of the weather and price volatility.  Farmers want to earn their profit from the market but they need a helping hand when things go wrong. I want us to explore the potential for government backed insurance schemes like they have in Canada to help mitigate risk.

Thirdly, we must replace the existing system of "cross compliance" rules and the chaos caused by an annual application process with something simpler and more rounded.  

Finally, to promote improved wildlife habitats and higher animal welfare standards, we would put in place a scheme similar to the environmental stewardship scheme we have now but we would make it simpler and broaden the remit of schemes to include measures that improve animal welfare.  

If we vote to leave there would be no such thing as EU law.  Ministers and their civil servants would be free to pilot new ways of doing things and we could actually deliver the change British farming craves.