Farming opinion: A challenging year for farming

|It's been a difficult year for farming, writes Ben Underwood.

|It's been a difficult year for farming, writes Ben Underwood. - Credit: reader pic/contributed

Low and falling commodity prices, coupled with poor weather, has made it a challenging year for our members across the eastern region, writes CLA East regional director Ben Underwood.

This makes it even more vital that we campaign for a policy and support framework that works with, and actively supports, farmers so they have all the flexibility and tools they need to drive their businesses forward and be competitive in a world market.

There is much to sink our teeth into in 2016, the first being to ensure that all Basic Payment Scheme claimants have received their payments.

We need to see the delivery of an effective IT system next year to ensure that Common Agricultural Policy is implemented in a simple and cost- effective way. Nobody wants to see a repeat of this year’s problems that did nothing to boost confidence among farmers who had enough on their plate with tumbling commodity prices.

We also need the Government to continue to simplify the new Countryside Stewardship scheme in order to make it more attractive to farmers. It is important we encourage the continuation, or expansion, of voluntary conservation measures on our members’ land.

The Government’s recent commitment to a Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps by the end of Parliament was a big triumph for the CLA and its lobbying, but we should remember that the commitment to get 95% of the country to superfast speeds by the end of 2017 still remains.

Digital connectivity will remain a major focus for the CLA in the New Year: there are areas in Suffolk and Essex where it still remains difficult to make a voice call, let alone access a 3G signal.

Most Read

We’ll also be working on ensuring reforms to water abstraction does not disadvantage farming businesses in the eastern region, and looking to secure more positive benefits to our members as we did in 2015 – such as changes to fly-grazing laws, increased fines and punishments for fly-tipping, and getting planning laws surrounding disused agricultural buildings relaxed.