Norfolk MP to raise farm reservoir tax help with Chancellor
Norfolk farmers' leader Ken Proctor said more regulation was strangling rural and agricultural businesses.
'We're being put out of businesses by regulations,' he told Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman, at the latest Norfolk Farming Conference at the John Innes Conference Centre.
On the family's Grange Farm, Shipdham, he had two official visits in one week - one from Norfolk County Council's trading standards and another to check his Vat returns.
Mr Proctor, who is chairman of Norfolk Farmers' Union and runs the Airfield pedigree herd of Holsteins, said that when nearby houses flooded the Environment Agency had to do an environmental assessment before a ditch could be cleared. 'As a farmer I sent a digger up. People are very important. People need dry houses because it is their home,' said Mr Proctor, who had been very surprised when as a 'over-weight farmer' in prime condition, he had been given flowers and chocolates in thanks.
'It is food and people versus the environment. We have got to have a better balance here. I want to see food and countryside at the top of the agenda and peoples' houses and their homes,' he added.
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Mr Freeman said that the flooding, notably in the West Country, was akin to factories being under water. 'These floods had been a real wake-up call. We need to remember what really matters – it is people and citizens who expect a degree of protection.
'Some of the legacy of this flood will be a shift, I predict, in the Environment Agency's criteria. They will have to consider themselves as protecting the environment for the people rather more than the environment purely for its own sake.'
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Mr Freeman said that launch of the Agri-Tech strategy was a recognition that government now viewed the industry as a 'progressive modern high productivity farming.' It had now made a historic commitment to raising the productivity of British farming, viewing it as a key productive industry.
Further, he told delegates that farms in Norfolk could become effectively power stations. They could play a role as a 'unit in the energy economy' and 'we should be creating a market which supports innovation.'
North Norfolk chartered accountant David Missen, who is a partner at the Fakenham office of Larking Gowen, was applauded when he asked why government has refused to help farmers construct reservoirs.
Mr Freeman promised to raise this issue of capital allowances with chancellor George Osborne.
He added that the way that the country's water was managed was likely to change.
Clarke Willis, chief executive of Anglia Farmers, announced that the Edge apprenticeship scheme had found placements for 200 new entrants in the first year. There were 55 youngsters looking for placement and 30 employers offering opportunities, he said.