Environment - the solution?

UK - "An environmental agenda that is aligned and enmeshed with agriculture." According to Defra’s Duncan Prior, this should be the goal of legislators, regulators and farmers.
calendar icon 7 November 2006
clock icon 4 minute read

National Pig Association

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers - fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

The England and Wales pig industry has accepted the challenge. It plans to coax officials out of their separate areas of specialism and persuade them to work together to create joined-up regulation at the farm gate.

If it proves successful, the initiative will be warmly welcomed by pig producers who often complain that new regulations are impossible to obey because they are contradictory.

BPEX/NPA chairman Stewart Houston is behind the move towards an over-arching environmental strategy, where legislators, regulators and farmers will come together to iron out difficulties.

Following an exploratory meeting he chaired last week, BPEX will pull together a raft of interested parties to take part in a workshop on December 14.

The aim, says BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan, is to lay the foundations for an Environmental Council, which will work in the same manner as BPEX’s Health and Welfare Council.

Stewart Houston was prompted to find an answer to the burden of environmental legislation falling on pig farmers by a headline figure in a recent Defra report which predicted pig production in England will fall by 14 percent as a result of restrictions imposed by IPPC and NVZ rules.

“How can we make the environment better without the 14 percent loss of production? That will be a key role for the new environmental strategy,” he told last week’s initial meeting, which was attended by representatives of BPEX, NPA, Defra, NFU and the Environment Agency.

“We would like a complete strategy that comes up with step by step solutions.” He said the pig industry’s policy of getting buy-in from everyone had worked in other fields and he hoped it would work now with environment issues.

“My philosophy is that if there are difficulties they are not going to go away by themselves so you need to get in the people involved, get them talking, and see what can be done about it.”

Invitations to the December environmental strategy workshop will be sent to farmers, farmer organisations, Defra, the Environment Agency, local authorities, academics, consultants and advisers, feed manufacturers, housing manufacturers, equipment providers, local authorities, non-government organisations such as wildlife trusts, Natural England and assurance providers.

“I would want assurance to be included in the debate because it is potentially part of the solution,” said Stewart Houston. Duncan Prior from Defra said that environment policy was currently pulling in all directions. “We must get it joined up.”

But he didn’t under-estimate the dificulties involved. “We have the double challenge of people who might be defensive in Defra and then we have Defra’s relationship with the Environment Agency.” Ever since he became head of Defra’s pigs, eggs and poultry branch, Duncan Prior has stressed the importance of getting legislators - and regulators - out of their separate silos.

“We must overcome the silo effect in Defra,” he said. “That doesn’t mean getting somebody from each silo to take part in this new strategy, because that’s just a numbers game. The challenge is to get in senior people who sit over the silos and can pull levers.” Both he and Robert Robinson of the Environment Agency agreed that buy-in was easier to achieve at the higher levels than at the lower levels of Defra and the Environment Agency.

Duncan Prior hoped the new pig industry over-arching environmental strategy would give everyone involved a single focal point... 'so they can see emerging policy right through to practical implementation'.

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