Is Owen Paterson the man to kill off meddlesome agency?
By all accounts the new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is ideally suited to the job. He's a countryman, he does a bit of farming, he even hunts.
On that basis he has a far better grasp of his brief than anyone to previously hold the post, of whatever political persuasion.
So he will realise, too, how farmers are being hogtied and shackled with pointless rule and regulation and virtually made subservient to the wishes of Natural England.
In the absence of any clearly set-down Government policy on farming (apart from a few vague promises of support from the Prime Minister) it is Natural England which has increasingly taken over the reins since it was set up by Labour.
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It has, in fact, turned out to be another classic Labour confidence trick. As it was presented to the farming community it would be there to look after the countryside, to work with and support the people who put the nation's food on the table.
In reality it has turned out to be a by-word for pointless bureaucracy, for the enforcing of petty regulations down to the very last letter. Far from supporting farming it has added to farmers' costs, stifled production, made the already difficult task of farming profitably in the 21st century even more of a challenge – and undone years of progress in improving relations between farmers and conservationists.
Owen Paterson has it in his sights, I am told. The quicker he squeezes the trigger the better. Then he can take aim at the next target, the Environment Agency, another monstrous organisation created out of nothing and which has achieved little except generate work for itself by picking over the piles of regulations regularly shoved over from Brussels and deciding which ones to concentrate on in order to make life difficult for farmers.
I see our colleagues in France were out on the streets this week again, demonstrating in Le Mans, Rennes and other major centres about the imposition of nitrate vulnerable zones which are going to severely restrict activity and compromise profitability for pig and poultry farmers. They want the entire framework of the regulations to be reviewed and scaled down.
Nitrate vulnerable zones are nothing new for us, of course; British farmers have already had to spend millions on new storage systems and adopt more costly management practices to reduce polluting run-off to watercourses – even though the levels of nitrates considered by the EU to be dangerous couldn't even have been measured 40 years ago.
But the French demonstrations – which included dumping dung in the streets and building breeze block barriers around government offices – illustrate the difference in approach to farming across the Channel.
Only now is the French government starting to enforce the regulations under the threat of massive fines from Brussels for deliberately ignoring legislation that was drawn up nearly 20 years ago. And the demonstrations were actually organised by the FNSEA, the national federation of farming unions.
The delays may well have handed French producers an unfair and unlawful commercial advantage over their competitors for a few years, but good luck to them. At least they have a government which stands up to Brussels rather than making a pretence of doing so while quietly running a gold-plating department for European regulations.
Derek Mead is an entrepreneur dairy farmer from Weston-super-Mare