Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:12 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Helen Browning:

I agree that there is no real clear provision in the Bill for support for R&D. I ask in particular for more support for farmers to do their own research. The work we have done with things like Innovative Farmers has been incredibly successful and very cost-effective in getting both knowledge transfer and trials done more professionally by farmers themselves.

Quite rightly, we talk a lot about fruit and veg, but agroforestry, which might also take us to biomass, nuts and timber production—there was a question in an earlier session about forestry—could be a hugely helpful way of squaring a number of circles. I would like some provision for that.

On the point about skills and advice, it is important to have good advice to assist farmers through the transition they will have to make, but it needs to be de-linked from companies that are trying to sell products to those farmers. Too much advice that farmers take is from companies that have products to sell. We need an independent advisory service available to farmers, so that they are assisted through the big changes they will have to make. We think that farmers have all the skills they need, whether for horticulture or for the delivery of public goods, but a lot of farmers—I am one of them—will have a lot to learn, and we will need some help with that. We need good, independent support.