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Producer concerns mold environment strategy

by 5m Editor
17 May 2007, at 8:49am

UK - Pig producers responded with scepticism to the Pig Industry Environment Strategy discussion document, which over the past couple of weeks has been available for download from the NPA website.

Many of the fears are summed up in a line in producer Richard Longthorp's written response: “Getting producers on board and convincing them that industry leaders have not themselves gone native and joined the ranks of bureaucracy-creating mandarins will be a challenge in itself.”

So today at a brainstorming session at Reading, the task of pig industry representatives was to ensure the strategy, when finalised, really does address producers' concerns and doesn't simply add another layer of bureaucracy.

It is far from clear that producers will give the final product the thumbs-up when it is put to the industry for a ‘yes' or ‘no' later this year.

But for sure – as a result of the feedback already received - the final strategy will look quite different from the one outlined in the current discussion paper. For one thing, it will be a lot shorter.

But why have a strategy in the first place? To quote Stewart Houston, “We know things are bad at the moment as far as the onslaught of environmental regulation is concerned, and could become untenable in the future if we don't do something about it.”

The task, therefore, is to find ways Defra, the Environment Agency, the pig industry, and others, can work together to meet the requirements of European directives but with a minimum of red-tape and cost – or at least to find ways to offset some the cost by persuading consumers to pay a green premium.

It goes without saying that this will be difficult to achieve. “At present we've got directives coming at us from all directions, many overlapping and all involving more paperwork,” said Stewart Houston tonight.

“What we are trying to do by introducing a Pig Environment Strategy is get agreement between producers and government that there has to be a way of reducing the cost and paperwork which at the moment is all falling on producers, and I think government is aware of that.

“Most of what we are doing is being asked for by Brussels and to a lesser extent by our own government. It is in response to the demands made by citizens. We have to find a way for them to pay their share of the cost.”

In today's working groups he refused to consider any goldplating of the strategy. Some producers might, in some situations, aspire to going beyond the requirements of the law, he said, but for now the goals were clear – to work with Defra and the Environment Agency to reduce red-tape and reduce cost.

"It will be difficult to find the balance between what producers can cope with whilst still delivering what the European directives require,” said Stewart Houston. “But I think it will be possible to get the Environment Agency to understand our dilemma. When I challenged the Agency's chief executive over a Defra report that said some producers would be driven out of business by the implementation of environmental regulations, she was clear that the Agency did not want that to happen."

The lessons learned today will be used to shape a draft strategy, which will be presented to the industry in a couple of months.

5m Editor