HTA director general Carol Paris and other HTA staff met Defra ministers Richard Benyon and Lord de Mauley last week to discuss ash dieback as well as a range of other issues including peat, hosepipe bans, research and development funding, and Sunday trading.
On Chalara, the Government will not give direct compensation to nurseries but is looking at other ways to mitigate the financial impact, for instance by stimulating re-plant grants. Longer term, Defra officials will work with industry to review the forestry grants scheme, thereby providing greater market stability and increased resilience for UK growers.
On sustainable growing media, the HTA looked forward to Defra "endorsement" in early 2013 of Alan Knight’s report. Defra said its response was due by the end of January 2013.
Regarding water, Benyon said it was essential that the garden and water industries continued to engage constructively on water resilience even in times of non-drought.
In relation to Sunday trading, while recognising the political sensitivities of relaxing existing laws, there was "general acknowledgement" at the meeting that the current restrictions on garden centres seem outdated.
HTA business development director Tim Briercliffe said: "The meeting also provided a good opportunity to stress the need for government support for research and development for ornamentals. We know that trees and plants provide enormous benefits to society and the environment, but in recent years their contribution has been of secondary importance to food security in terms of government R&D provision. It is vital that this trend is reversed."