Firstly, let me wish all our members a very happy New Year! Of course, I’m writing this in the middle of December and the Environment Agency has just delivered my first Christmas present – a 70-page consultation on increased charges! Splendid!
Thankfully, they extended the consultation period until the end of January, so I won’t be trying to read it while stuffing the turkey. We’ve already seen the proposed charges, which the EA say are needed as they’ve not been increased for years and they want to improve the efficiency of the service.
While I recognise that some increase is necessary, the proposed charges are eye-watering, and I would urge anyone affected to join me in responding strongly that they are not justified or welcome. A small olive branch has been offered in that they want someone from industry to be seconded to the EA for six months to do a review, but it would have been good if they’d thought about this before we made such a fuss!
Another area under serious fire from the European Commission is tail docking. They’ve decided that, despite the vast amount of information given to them to demonstrate that the UK is already reducing tail docking and has proper justification when it is needed, Defra now has to provide a concrete plan, by January 2018 (!), showing how they are enforcing the legislation and proving what they will do in terms of penalties where no action is being taken.
The Commission has even said that if all else has been tried and failed, stocking densities will need to be dropped. Of course, Defra will actually respond by the deadline with a plan and not shrug its shoulders and ignore it like many other countries would. Make no mistake, this will be one to watch next year. It’s even delayed the welfare codes consultation coming out, which means there will be more emphasis on tail docking in them. Thankfully though, we have a good working relationship with Defra and the policy staff working on this are both pragmatic and sensible, so we are hoping a collaborative approach is taken.
We had a fantastic Young NPA National meeting in London focusing on antibiotic use. Great debate was only marred by an article released by The Times that morning, suggesting the NPA had accused the Black Farmer of lying about his new antibiotic-free label because all meat is effectively antibiotic free. Not only had they completely taken our quote out of context AND played the race card, they also used old antibiotic usage figures to boot, making us look rather negative and backwards. The chap still clearly has no idea about who we are or what the industry position is, however, so we plan to try and meet with him soon.
Finally – do get involved in the slogan competition for our new banner campaign and, if you have not yet submitted your nomination for the NPA elections, this is your last chance!