6 January 2016

Reformed Defra will help British farming lead the world

The Environment Secretary sets out priorities to make farmers more resilient. Defra will invest 12 per cent more capital this Parliament to upgrade its animal and plant disease response, as well improving flood defences and modernising the organisation to improve the service it delivers for rural communities, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss will pledge today at the Oxford Farming Conference

The Secretary of State will outline her key priorities as:

  • re-making Defra so it becomes more efficient;
  • giving greater control to farmers and local communities;
  • investing in improving resilience, including in animal and plant disease response;
  • investing in flood defences, better protecting over a million acres;
  • establishing a new Great British Food Unit to drive up exports.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss will say:

We are making efficiency savings of 15 per cent at the same time as putting more money into capital funding – a 12 per cent increase to £2.7billion over the next five years. That means we can invest in technology and digital systems, growing our exports, world-leading science, protection against animal and plant disease and, of course, flood defences.

In the past, the department and its agencies have been accused of operating in silos – looking just at flood protection, just farming or just the environment. This is going to change.

And we have been criticised for taking too much decision-making out of local hands. While it is right that we manage major national risks, it does not mean we should seek to micro-manage everything.

Subject to parliamentary approval, we will also allow farmers across the country to maintain their own ditches up to 1.5km long from April, so they can clear debris and manage the land. This follows the successful pilots that we started two years ago. And we will soon announce proposals to give more powers to internal drainage boards and other groups to maintain their local watercourses.

It will become simpler to apply for environmental permits. We will cut thousands more inspections with the Single Farm Inspection Task Force.

We are also improving our resilience to animal disease by investing around £65million into new centres for livestock, crop health and precision engineering.

For the full press release and more information visit www.gov.uk/government/news