Burges Salmon calls for careful cuts by defra

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01 November 2010

Amid a continuing lack of clarity on where Defra will make the £725m of savings agreed by Secretary of State Caroline Spelman, national law firm Burges Salmon has called on the Government to tread carefully where farming is concerned.

“UK agriculture has a real role to play in both our economic recovery and in delivering environmental targets, so it is vital cost saving measures do not threaten industry competitiveness. Farmers need to feel confident, for example, that grants and other incentives to invest in wind and solar energy, anaerobic digestion, waste processing and other technologies will not fall victim to ill-thought out savings measures,” said William Neville, partner at Burges Salmon and head of the Food and Farming team.

If the coalition Government is to tackle the multi-billion pound deficit while achieving what Caroline Spelman described as its ‘greenest ever’ status, a new policy framework is needed to enable an efficient UK agricultural sector, he argued. 

“Failure to impose the same standards on imported products as those produced domestically has caused real competitive disadvantage and created a reliance on subsidies rather than the market place. As we move towards CAP reform in 2013, and the likelihood of sector redistribution to rural development and environmental schemes, it is vital UK agriculture is able to operate efficiently in the marketplace.”

“Given the increasing talk of food security it makes sense to prioritise spending to productive, sustainable farming.  Ensuring we invest in long term agriculture will see not just tangible economic benefits but the ability to deliver the environment as subsidies are reduced.

“A more efficient agricultural sector is also the key to a greener, lower carbon economy. Large scale livestock units, for example, particularly when sited within arable areas, have both a reduced carbon footprint and the potential for sustainable, integrated cropping and waste management schemes,” said Mr Neville.

He also cast doubt on the drive to cut costs by reducing red tape in farming.

“Farm minister Jim Paice has been quoted this week as saying cutting red tape is central to meeting the 29% budget cut set out in the October spending review. I’m afraid I have little confidence that the taskforce report will deliver that, any more than Lord Rooker’s review did previously.

“Knowing quickly where the burden of the cuts will fall is important as decisions need to be made; nothing affects confidence more than not knowing the detail. While the scale of cuts came as a surprise, agriculture and the rest of the food chain is more than capable of rising to the challenge and adaptation. 

“We must look to the long term; sustainable domestic food production has never been more important. Our agricultural specialism and breadth of knowledge means Burges Salmon is able to offer expert guidance and advice across the food chain as the industry plays its part in economic recovery,” said Mr Neville.

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