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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:31 am on 11th February 2020.

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Christopher Price:

It is important to recognise just how much farming is going to change. It is not just a matter of changing the subsidy rules; it is a much bigger structural change. Farmers will be producing much more to the market, which means that we will have a different type of farmer. We are already starting to see those people—people who do not necessarily come from a farming background, who have made a bit of money doing something more commercial, who are coming to farming with business and marketing skills, and who are making a go of things in a very different way. You will know some of them—Lynbreck Croft, the Good Life Meat Company, Hilltop Farm.

People are already doing it and they have quite a big presence. They think in a different way. It is not just about who can take the biggest beast to the market every week or month. It is about sweating all your assets, so you will be selling the meat, but you will be selling meat with a good provenance, to high welfare standards and with a low environmental impact. If you are savvy, you will be finding markets for the skins, the wool, the horns. It may not be much money per item, but together it starts to create more produce with more of a brand.

If you start thinking in terms of your public goods as well—many farms are starting to—and working out what has a benefit, what you can do to improve your soil or your water quality, what plants you can grow that have biodiversity or climate benefits, and start ticking off those, you can get there. It does not need to be particularly complex. In many ways, although I hear what Tom says about the importance of advice, the way that most farmers learn is from other farmers. It is about encouraging farmers to go and see what their neighbour is doing, and not thinking of their neighbour as being their competitor, but as someone who can be a source of guidance.

So, I do not think we need be worried about complexity. Conceptually, what is being promised is more straight- forward. Of course there will be compliance requirements, but many of us think that a lot of the previous compliance requirements were more to do with EU standardisation across 28 member states rather than being particularly necessary to ensure the efficient use of public money. So, I think we can be optimistic about what is happening.