Examination of Witnesses

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

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Jim Egan:

It would depend very much on type, size, place, aspect and everything. I do not think you can put a number on the people that you could hold as clients. I actually do not know how many clients my agronomy colleagues have, because I am new to that business. However, where I work, I would be perfectly comfortable managing 40 or 50 clients and working through with them.

The main premise is not to overlook that that process of walking the farm with a trusted adviser already happens for countryside stewardship. Most farmers will take advice and will rely on somebody working with them. The opportunity that comes from splitting out and putting everything into ELMS—including all the basic payment elements, so that it is one big agricultural and environmental processing scheme—actually means that you can widen that advice and make it broader. The trick will be that those advisers will have to have knowledge of the farming business and will have to talk to others within the business. Even on a small dairy farming unit, they will have to talk to the vet, the feed merchant and the farmer. It is a facilitation skill as much as anything else, and it will require an understanding of how those farming sectors work.

This is definitely the right way to go. We will need professional advice to do that. A farmer doesn’t grow an arable crop without an agronomist. You don’t grow beef cattle without a vet or a feed merchant. So why should you not have what I would call environmental facilitators?