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How long must we put up with the EA and NE?

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 14, 2012

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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 uphill 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 is 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.

Time, I feel, for a clear statement from Farming Minister 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.

Derek Mead is an entrepreneur dairy farmer from Weston-super-Mare

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  • bullocks400  |  November 14 2012, 6:41PM

    Well said Mr Mead. The only thing I can add is that it is by no means exclusively a problem of the Levels. The whole farming industry, and our countryside, is threatened by this ill intended and self serving interference from the EA, NE and all the long list of charities, trusts, etc who are busy building their empires.

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