‘UK must change policy or risk farming’s future’

The president of the British Society of Animal Science will warn over Brexit threats to farming. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
The president of the British Society of Animal Science will warn over Brexit threats to farming. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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The UK government should use the Brexit break from European agricultural policy as an opportunity to change its approach to farming because if it does not do so, it could put the future of UK food production at risk.

That is the advice that will be given out later today by Professor Liam Sinclair, the president of the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS), in his opening address to the society’s conference in Chester.

It is essential that government develops well thought-out, focused policies

Professor Liam Sinclair

Sinclair will say government needs to engage with all sectors of the industry to develop policies which are firmly focused on science, innovation and adding value to UK food production.

• READ MORE: Fergus Ewing attacks post-Brexit agricultural policy

He will claim that, without a fresh approach to food and farm policies, not only will food security in this country be challenged, but the country’s rural landscapes and communities could be forced to change beyond recognition.

He will say he wants to see the farming sector properly supported after the existing common agricultural policy (CAP) comes to an end.

Putting in a strong pitch for support for the scientific community, he will add: “If there isn’t a substantial amount of applied research and knowledge transfer to allow the livestock industry to improve its efficiency and profitability then food security will be seriously challenged.”

Failure to invest in science and in support for producers could, he will warn, result in being left with fewer farm animals, an altered landscape, and shattered rural economies.

“Coming out of the EU means the end of the CAP and single farm payments,” he will say, “and if we want to extend our global competitiveness and maintain our current standards of production, food quality and animal welfare, it is essential that government develops well thought-out, focused policies that are based on sound evidence and supported by targeted incentives.”

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He will claim that now is the time to join up the thinking across government and the industry as a whole – while admitting it will be difficult to achieve this aim, it will be vital that it happens.

To kick start the discussion, the BSAS has used its own membership of farmers, advisers and animal scientists to produce a policy white paper. This sets out a number of key areas on which government must focus to ensure the long-term sustainability of UK livestock production and research.

The targets include having a workforce that is well trained and has appropriate skills while BSAS would also like assurance that scientists should continue to have access to European research funding.

The BSAS’s views on future farm policy will be the basis of a series of meetings through 2017 and beyond and it called on its membership throughout the UK to contribute actively to the debate to ensure their concerns are heard.

• READ MORE: Dairy farmers urged to apply for £4,000 EU support

“We need to make sure that government is fully aware of the importance of the livestock industry to the UK economy when negotiating with the EU, setting up new trade deals or preparing domestic policy,” according to BSAS chief executive Bruce Beveridge.

“If they don’t then there is a major risk to the UK’s balance of trade, and potentially food security, tourism and employment.

“We want a world leading, competitive and profitable food and farming sector that is supported and led by the latest research and development. We believe we can achieve that outside the EU, but we must make sure we have all the tools we need to do it.”

Douglas McAdam steps down as SL&E chief

In an unexpected move, Douglas McAdam, the man who has headed up the Scottish landowners’ organisation for the past ten years, has stepped down.

As chief executive and director of Scottish Land & Estates (SL&E) and its predecessor organisation, the Scottish Rural Property & Business Association, McAdam led many of tussles the landowners have had over the past decade.

Speaking prior to his departure, he said he believed there was now a better relationship between landowners and government and SL&E was now seen as a “progressive, evidence-led organisation and one whose input was now actively sought in helping shape rural policy, legislation and regulation”.

SL&E chairman David Johnstone paid tribute to McAdam’s contribution to the organisation. “He has been instrumental in ensuring that our organisation modernised and effectively represents land-based businesses. Doug is a passionate advocate for the interests of rural Scotland and we wish him the very best for the future.”

Johnstone added there would be an announcement in the near future regarding the structure of the leadership and management teams at SL&E.

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