Farmers must act now on Defra’s ‘Green Brexit’ consultation, says Norfolk NFU chairman Tony Bambridge

PUBLISHED: 10:00 06 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:16 06 May 2018

Norfolk NFU chairman Tony Bambridge, managing director of B&C Farming at Marsham. Picture: Brian Finnerty / NFU

Norfolk NFU chairman Tony Bambridge, managing director of B&C Farming at Marsham. Picture: Brian Finnerty / NFU

Brian Finnerty / NFU

Now is the time to act on Defra’s Green Brexit consultation to ensure a profitable future for Norfolk agriculture says TONY BAMBRIDGE, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

The government command paper called “Health and Harmony, the future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit” is Defra secretary Michael Gove’s vision that everyone involved in farming and the environment is talking about.

And it is the biggest consultation on what happens in rural Britain for 45 years.

During that time we, as farmers, have been governed by the CAP (the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy). Much criticism has been laid at its door, but it has provided a farming and food system in Europe for the 500 million-plus people in the union who are not hungry in any way and has the highest standards of environmental protection in the world.

Consumers are protected as well, as it has concentrated on producing safe wholesome food. It was a rural socio-economic policy that allowed the liberation of urban dwellers, confident in the fact that their rural cousins were secure in providing them with the food they needed to fuel their lives.

Now we are to embark on finding our own British policy to manage food supply from domestic agriculture and, in Michael Gove’s green Brexit, do more to protect and enhance our environment.

It is a far-reaching consultation that looks at how research should be funded, and in what areas, and how knowledge and skills are utilised.

Questions to address include how do supply chains work and can more resilience be achieved in the industry? What are the barriers to investment on farm, how should new entrants be encouraged and should farm tenancy legislation be changed? And, of course, the issues most dear to Michael Gove’s heart – how can we do more to protect the environment, what needs to happen to get more farmers signing up to pledge resource to the environment and what can be done to further improve our animal welfare?

This is a root and branch review of all the main structures and framework we currently work to, and have done for a generation. It is an ambitious plan to have such a wholesale review, especially when the impact of future trade deals are so unknown that we have little or no concept of the trading environment we will be exposed to.

The consultation closes on 8 May and if you have not already responded and your livelihood is in food and farming, now is the time to act.

• To respond to the consultation, go to the Defra website before the deadline of May 8.

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