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‘Farmers need to influence policy’

Industry should make its voice heard and work with advocates to shape policy and regulation, Nuffield scholar tells delegates

‘Farmers need to influence policy’

Sue Evans

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Farmers need to push for greater influence over agricultural policy and regulation by working with advocates to promote their ideas, Nuffield scholar Sue Evans has urged.

Presenting her research project at the annual Nuffield Farming Conference in Glasgow, Evans called on farmers to improve the flow of information from farmers to government, stressing that their voices are rarely heard when policies are made.

Citing the damaging phosphate regulations imposed on dairy farmers in the Netherlands last year, she said agricultural regulations often prove ineffective and deliver unintended consequences, adding that the UK’s farming unions tend to respond retrospectively to threats to the industry

By the time a consultation document seeks responses from farmers, most of the preliminary thinking around how to approach a problem has already been done.

“As farmers rarely write reports, government is unlikely to get much input from them at the design stage,” Evans said

“My objective is to influence you, to inspire partners to influence policy and regulation. But it’s not only down to you – we also need the government to start listening more to farmers’ solutions.”

She stressed that producers should be “proactively leading with the answers, preferably before the problems are identified in the press”, citing examples of Indian farmers who work with advocates to influence agricultural policy.

“In the UK there are demonstration farms and trial farms in place, but policy writers rarely get any feedback or input from the farmers,” she told delegates.

“Farmers have a greater role to play in producing policy and regulation. If we don’t provide the solutions to government, others will.”

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