Lobbying - Restructuring at Defra raises obstacle for ornamental industry's plans to influence Government

The ornamental industry's plans to lobby Government on labour, subsidies and other issues have hit an obstacle after Defra moved its horticulture and potatoes team leader Kathleen Kelliher to deal with sorting out Brexit and labour issues rather helping the industry directly.

Kelliher's official role is now "farming adviser". Her replacement Nick Turner is also Defra head of organics, with horticulture and potatoes now added to his title, which could conflict with his new role helping industry deal with issues such as the loss of pesticides.

Defra said its approach to pesticides will remain "evidence-based". Kelliher was instrumental in setting up the ornamentals round table and providing an outward-facing presence for Defra in the sector. Set up in 2014 to make "asks" of Government, the round table has been the policy conduit for the sector since then. These asks include import substitution, a garden expo, careers and apprenticeship funding, policy relaxation on plant protection, growing media and Sunday trading rules and funding for training and supply chain improvements. The group, which met last week, is set to meet in January as well as informally on 29 November. It includes the HTA, RHS, Horticultural Development Company, Horticulture Innovation Partnership, Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Lantra, NFU and YoungHort.

The HTA's Raoul Curtis-Machin said he hopes Defra brings in more knowledge and expertise around landscapes and ornamental plants. "I am frustrated that when I meet politicians I have to spend half an hour explaining what horticulture is - from production to landscaping. Without that knowledge, how can civil servants represent us?"

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