DEFRA is about to unleash a New Year nightmare on the farming industry with its Environmental Land Management Scheme according to Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.
He claims the Government’s proposals for replacing EU farming policies are more likely to drive farmers off the land than keep them in production.
And he said any hope farmers might have had that life would become less bureaucratic once we had left the EU were about to be comprehensively dashed.
Mr Liddell-Grainger claimed that Defra’s plans are going to put back the drive to simplify life for farmers by 30 or 40 years.
And he said he had been filled with ‘dread and misgiving’ after having seen some of the detailed proposals.
“Were I still farming myself I should be stepping round to the agents this morning and making arrangements to execute an immediate and total departure.
“Rarely have I encountered such a monumental heap of pettifogging regulations, all so slanted as to make life as difficult as possible for farmers that I am driven to join the ranks of those who believe there lies deep within the dark heart of Defra some ambition to drive every last one off the land.
“If these regulations are imposed farmers won’t have any time to farm at all. They will be spending all their time out in the field with clipboards, tape measures and calculators making sure they comply with every last sub-section of every sub-paragraph in order to claim the miserly rewards that are being suggested – rewards which make Scrooge look positively philanthropic.”
Mr Liddell-Grainger said the framework could only have been drawn up by people with no knowledge whatsoever of the practicalities of farming.
He added: “The more I read the more horrified I become especially when we get down to talking of what happens on fractions as small as two or four per cent of a farm’s total area.
“Then there is the other side of the coin: the matter of who precisely is going to monitor all this. And clearly that will only be possible if we recruit a veritable army of inspectors.
“Given the horrific complexity of what is being proposed I would suggest a ratio of one inspector to one farmer is going to be about right. All this is going to do, it is now clear, is turn into a massive job creation scheme for civil servants.
“It appears to me that Defra has been comprehensively nobbled by the green lobby to the point that it has lost sight of the fundamental fact that farming is about producing food to feed the nation and that the less we can feed ourselves the more we shall have to rely on expensively importing from nations which may or may not agree to supply us – not a terribly secure position to be in.”