GOVERNMENT’S SUSTAINABLE FARMING AND FOOD STRATEGY

“Good intentions but not enough to bring agriculture back into the black.”

 

The Government’s Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food makes some worthwhile commitments and provides verbal support for the industry, but fails to address the key challenge – restoring the profitability of farming, CLA President Sir Edward Greenwell said today.

 

Sir Edward said:

 

“Two days ago, the CLA set out the “10 Commitments” that the Government must make in order to secure a sustainable future for the British farming and food industry.  While the Strategy goes some way towards meeting some of our concerns, it lacks  recognition that Government must take the lead in kick-starting recovery, with financial support where required, rather than putting the onus on an already much-weakened industry.”

 

The “10 Commitments” asked for by the CLA and what the Strategy delivers:

 

1.      CAP: Fighting Britain’s corner in the forthcoming CAP reform negotiations, to ensure that our farmers get the same level of support as those in other member states.

No detailed commitments on CAP, except to repeat the intention to fund-switch and, implicitly, to cut support.

 

2.      Safety nets: Recognising that farming is increasingly exposed to economic, climatic, animal and plant disease risk and that measures must be put in place, in partnership with the industry, to stabilise markets and incomes.

No commitment to safety nets, nor recognition that they are needed.

 

3.      Competition: Giving a clear signal that the competition authorities will not intervene to stifle the development of collaborative ventures, for example in milk marketing.

No clear statement about allowing effective collaborative ventures in the marketplace.

 

4.      Biofuels:  Agreeing to cut the duty on biofuels by 30 pence per litre, the amount needed to secure the commercial growth and use of bioenergy crops.

No reference to biofuels; however, the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Statement contains a proposal for a 20 pence duty cut, which is welcome but not enough.

 

5.      Supply Chain Code: Making the code legally enforceable on retailers and enabling trade associations to give evidence without exposing the identity of individual suppliers.

No commitment to enforcement – proposes only trade association involvement in assessing the performance of the code, and continuous review of it.

 

6.      Imports: Pressing for EU legislation to label imports clearly by their country of origin when final processing takes place in the UK.  Also, introducing tighter measures to keep out illegal food imports – especially meat – eg by random spot-checks at ports of entry.

No commitment beyond what is already being done – particularly worrying in the case of illegal imports, where current action is clearly inadequate.

 

7.      Local and regional food: Pushing the boundaries of EU legislation to lend maximum support to English local and regional food intiatives, as is already done in Scotland and Wales.

Commitment to more money for FFB to assist projects (but no mention of how much) and FFB to ‘explore’ greater use of protected EU food names.

 

8.      Red tape: Saying no to EU moves for further regulations and reducing the burden of existing regulation, eg by cutting the number and variety of farm inspections.

Regulation to be based on a whole farm approach and with a reduced number of inspections; beyond that, a general wish to use regulation only when it is best to do so.  All governments say this, and proceed to increase regulation just as before.

 

9.      Animal disease control: Recognising that farmers cannot be expected to foot the bill for the Government’s disease control measures and must be paid fair compensation if their animals are taken by the state for slaughter.

No recognition of the Government’s fundamental responsibility; continued discussion of transferring the costs of animal insurance to farmers.

 

10.  Rural Development Schemes: Securing easier access for farming and small businesses to EU-funded rural development schemes, such as the Rural Enterprise Scheme.”

Nothing on making the Rural Enterprise Scheme easier to access.

 

Sir Edward continued:

 

“This is disappointing and an opportunity largely missed.  The Government’s acknowledgement that farming matters to the rural and national economy is welcome.  However, the industry cannot survive on words.  If British farming is to lift itself out of crisis and flourish and grow, the Government must create a fertile policy climate and must give it the support – financial and otherwise – that it needs.  We will continue to press for the needs of the industry to be met.”