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Who is more important to the nation – farmers or pen-pushers?

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 10, 2012

Derek Meads accuses the Environment Agency of ruining the Somerset Levels

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You can barely pick up a paper or listen to or watch a news bulletin these days without being told how hard up the country is. There is no money for this, even less for that, and none at all for a lot of things.

So how come we can still afford useless luxuries like the Environment Agency and Natural England? Two of the most over-staffed and under-worked agencies that have ever been created are still sucking millions out of the economy to pay inflated wages and cosset staff in luxurious air-conditioned offices.

And for what purpose? Certainly not to the benefit of the farming community, whose presence they seem to regard as an irritation, an annoying intrusion into the ideal world they are trying to create.

As far as farming on the Somerset Levels is concerned it goes much further than that. They are ruining it. Their concerns lie solely with the birds and the butterflies, while farmers have to fit in their activities around them.

But when it comes to more mundane things like the maintenance of rivers and proper drainage systems they have neither the time, energy, inclination nor money to do anything about it.

Farmers are trying their best to keep this nation fed. But on the Levels they are fighting a constant grinding battle against a massive load of control and regulation all biased so that productive farming is only of secondary importance.

Just how much the Environment Agency is failing in its duty has already been revealed by an Audit Commission report showing that 80 per cent of rivers in the South West are not being maintained properly.

Rather than getting on with ensuring the area is properly drained so that farmers can produce food, the agency seems more concerned about raising water levels for the benefit for wading birds, despite no evidence to show that such measures are actually necessary.

As to their passion for grabbing top-grade agricultural land and flooding it as part of some grandiose coastal defence programme that is another disgraceful trend which has to be stopped.

As we demonstrated when such plans were advanced in Wick St Lawrence and Kingston Seymour, all that happens is that thousands of tons of that fine soil ends up as a pile of silt in Cardiff Bay.

Between them the Environment Agency, Natural England and our local authorities have thousands of highly-qualified but completely inexperienced staff drawing massive salaries for sitting in offices and watching as the countryside deteriorates.

Bucket loads of money are being wasted on unnecessary projects and reports while the list of problems that are strangling farming's progress grows by the day.

It is high time we had a clear statement from David Heath as to what he intends to do about this disgraceful waste and, while he's at it, another clear statement as to who he feels are more important to the countryside and the challenge of feeding the nation: farmers or pen-pushers.

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  • ralphhobbs  |  November 10 2012, 9:32AM

    Is this a wind up? I thought this blinkered and self-important attitude (that farmers and land should only produce food) had all but disappeared from today's more enlightened landowning community. All the farmers I know would be embarrassed to read this article, or laugh like I did.

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