Start listening to UK's growers

Good luck to the members of Dr Alan Knight's Defra task force who are charged with the job of creating a "road map" to a peat-free UK by the Government's various deadlines (page 5). They are going to need it.

Not because there has not been serious investment and good work among growing media suppliers into peat alternatives. There has. Some of which we report on in our look at the latest developments on page 30.

That is not the issue. The issue at stake is the way the Government is trying to bring into being a blanket across-the-board no-peat approach for the entire commercial horticulture spectrum without meaningful consultation with growers and without any proper consideration of the fact that there are some sectors within production horticulture that simply could not continue to operate profitably if peat use were completely eliminated. This is a basic fact that even suppliers ardently promoting peat alternatives accept.

The policy is already a car crash. Since the Government confirmed its intentions to bring professional growers into its voluntary targets with the private threat of legislation if they were not met, we have had several admissions that legislation is not an option. Earlier this summer Knight confirmed what we all suspected that EU law would prevent England alone outlawing peat use. Now he has made it clear that a peat tax on imports is equally a pipe dream (page 5).

What has been completely missing to date is a serious attempt to listen to and understand the diverse sectors of the UK's commercial growing community whose needs and challenges are as varied as the crops they produce.

The task force members must demand that this is done.

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