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Weekly Overview: Challenging Issues Addressed at Oxford Conference

12 January 2015

GLOBAL - Among the controversial issues were aired at the Oxford Farming Conference last week were climate change, EU farm subsidies, regulations and GM crops. Elsewhere, a market analyst foresees good prospects for the North American pig meat sector this year and foot and mouth disease has jumped across China with a new outbreak in pigs in Anhui province.

The annual Oxford Farming Conference took place in that fine British university city last week, from where Editor-in-Chief, Chris Harris, reported for ThePigSite.

The UK has called for a rethink on the 'three crop rule', which is part of the greening arrangement within the recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The move is part of the British government’s bid to reduce the burden of red tape and regulation on the farming sector.

Environment and agriculture secretary, Liz Truss, told the Conference that more decisions need to be taken in Britain for the benefit of British producers.

She added that she is also working to change regulations covering pesticides and the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, which she said should be made on scientific evidence alone and at national level.

Agriculture minister, George Eustice added that there should be room for decisions to be taken on a national level working within a European framework.

Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said that a potential EU referendum was one of the biggest threats to British farming. He said that leaving the EU would cost the farming community nearly £20 billion in support from the CAP but called for a fairer share of the proceeds of the CAP and called for a simpler system.

Lord John Krebs addressed the Conference on the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. Among the measures deserving serious consideration is GM crops, he said.

Changing policies on pesticides, animal feeds and welfare are threatening to reduce wheat crops in the UK and the pig herd each by one-third, delegates to the Conference heard.

It was the stark message from the CEO of the Agricultural Industries Confederation, David Caffall. In a heated debate, he said that research by the AIC had shown that while new technology was of critical importance to the agricultural sector, all too often it is hampered by regulation.

From the same platform, environmental campaigner, George Monbiot, blamed poor farming practices, environmental degradation and the decline in rural communities on the subsidies received by farmers.

Also at the Conference, was the launch of a new report that says increased productivity in British agriculture is directly related to R&D and that the sector needs to focus more on both public and private research in order to grow.

A greenhouse gas calculator developed at Aberdeen University has won the Practice with Science Award run by the Oxford Farming Conference.

Away from the Oxford Farming Conference, a market analyst predicts that reduced pork production in China in 2014 and potential reductions in Europe in 2015 could create new market opportunities for North American pork producers during the coming year.

The chair of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board said, despite the challenges posed by Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea in 2014, North American pork producers saw record profitability as the result of high hog prices and lower feed costs.

More than 300 Chinese pigs have died from foot and mouth disease some 3,000km from the previous known outbreak in Tibet.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock



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