Science ‘must underpin’ new farming policy

Picture by Tony Johnson.
Picture by Tony Johnson.
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New British farming policies must be firmly focused on science, innovation and adding value to food production to make farming profitable outside of the European Union, a group of leading animal scientists and farmers have warned.

The British Society of Animal Science said the future of the nation’s food security relied on the government devising policies rooted in sound science, saying that without the right support rural communities could be left “shattered”.

Speaking today at the group’s annual conference in Chester, society president, Professor Liam Sinclair, will say: “We need to have a very different conversation about how UK agriculture will work outside the EU.

“If there isn’t a substantial amount of applied research and knowledge transfer to allow the livestock industry to improve its efficiency and profitability then food security will be seriously challenged.

“What’s more, without giving producers the support they need to survive and successfully develop their businesses outside the EU we risk being left with fewer animals, an altered landscape, and shattered rural economies.”

And Prof Sinclair will go on to say: “Coming out of the EU means the end of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and single farm payments, and if we want to extend our global competitiveness and maintain our current standards of production, food quality and animal welfare, it is essential that government develops well thought out, focused policies that are based on sound evidence and supported by targeted incentives.

“This is a chance to join up thinking across government and the industry as a whole. It will be difficult to do, but it’s vital that it happens.”

The society has drawn up its own policy white paper to set out five key areas that the government should focus on to ensure the long-term sustainability of UK livestock production and research. It calls for: additional government support to target applied research; policies must improve competitiveness and be evidence based; scientists must have access to European Research Funding; the livestock workforce must have appropriate skills and training, and that support for livestock production and research must underpin UK food security, biodiversity, tourism and the rural economy.

Bruce Beveridge, the society’s chief executive, said: “We want a world leading, competitive and profitable food and farming sector that is supported and led by the latest research and development. We believe we can achieve that outside the EU, but we must make sure we have all the tools we need to do it.”

The society said the importance of UK food, drink and farming was highlighted by its 876,000-strong workforce.