Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:25 pm on 11th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:25 pm, 11th February 2020

Q I return to Mr Egan’s point about the control and enforcement regime. If you are close to the schemes, you will be aware that the introduction in the latest EU scheme of a common commencement date—so that everybody had to start at the same time, which caused all the predictable administrative problems for everyone—combined with the introduction of the IACS enforcement regime drove the terrible, draconian regime that you describe.

One thing we have described for the future scheme is that you would instead leave all that behind, and individual farms would have a trusted, accredited adviser on agri-environment schemes. That could be a trusted, accredited agronomist, or someone who works for the Wildlife Trust or the RSPB, and they would be trained to help put the schemes together. They would visit the farm, walk the farm with their boots on and then sit around the kitchen table and help an individual farmer construct a scheme.

We are obviously testing and piloting and trialling that now. If that system could be made to work—an altogether more human system, as you said, because a trusted adviser would do the initial agreement and would maybe visit the farm three or four times a year, not to inspect but to be a point of advice—how many farms can a single agri-environment adviser with that type of remit realistically do?