Farmers slam environmental “red tape”

According to the British farming union, growers are facing hundreds of millions of pounds in extra costs, due to an unprecedented increase in environmental regulation.

The National Farmer’s Union (NFU) said that horticulture, despite being one of the ‘greenest’ industries, is facing a rash of current and planned red tape, including the Climate Change Levy, Waste Regulations and Water Bill, which are “squeezing the life out of the industry”. Its new report UK Horticulture: A Time for Understanding says the extra legislation, coming on top of the strains of low prices, damaging exchange rates and the recent bad weather, threatens to cost jobs and make Britain uncompetitive with growers abroad.

The report says that production in the carrot sector last year is forecast to be 15% down, and imports of fruit and vegetables have increased by 50% and 68% respectively over the last 10 years. As well as charting the decline of the sector the report uses a series of qualitative studies to show the impact of the legislation on individual growers, including one grower who faces a £50,000 Climate Change Levy bill.

Among the demands made in the report are:

  • the removal of inappropriate and expensive legislation and a more integrated policy on environmental legislation;
  • a partnership between growers and the UK government to ensure the reasonable implementation of EU environmental regulation;
  • continuing government support for environmental schemes such as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (see related story);
  • the government should promote the responsibility of every member of society in reducing environmental impact, not just the role of industry.

“Horticulture has always been a vibrant success story, providing high quality fresh produce and supplying vital rural jobs, but the industry is threatened with literally being ‘exported’ abroad by the mass of legislation forced upon it, even though it already leads the field in being environmentally friendly,” said NFU Vice President Michael Paske. “The industry is committed to environmental protection. British growers want to work in partnership with Government, rather than in conflict, to help meet the country’s environmental objectives without bringing an industry to its knees.”

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