YFC 2009: Cut regulation or face food shortages

The government must cut regulations and farm inspections if UK agriculture is going to produce enough food to meet demand, according to young farmers attending the YFC agm in Blackpool.

At a breakout session to discuss better regulation, delegates at the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC) forum told officials from DEFRA and the Environment Agency that burdensome regulation was stopping them from producing food and effectively managing the environment.

Urging the two departments to work together to cut form-filling and farm inspections, young farmers from across the country said they wanted help and advice from government agencies.

Bryce McKellar, YFC council chairman, said farmers would have a better relationship with DEFRA and the Environment Agency if legislation helped improve farming systems.

“Regulation should be led by science, not by public opinion,” he added.

Paul Meakin, Environment Agency agricultural business communications manager, agreed that farm visits should be made to offer advice and support to farmers, but urged young farmers not to hide from environmental problems.

“We can no longer take water, air and soil for granted. The things that will affect your career are already in place and we have to work on how to deal with them.

“Regulation shouldn’t be about telling you what to do – it should be about giving you a reason for doing things properly.”

Richard Gregg, DEFRA’s delivery transformation manager, agreed regulation needed to be cut and urged the next generation of farmers to tell DEFRA what it should be doing to help their businesses.

“DEFRA has £9.4bn to spend over three years,” he said. “We have relatively little money for picking up on the challenges of the industry.

“I’m running short of ideas so I want to know what you think we should do.”

He said would discuss streamlining form-filling, the amount of on-farm inspections and the need for improved rural broadband with DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn.

See our other coverage from the Young Farmers agm in Blackpool on our special report page.

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