Sign - Department for Environment, Food & Rural AffairsHow many DEFRA civil servants have worked on a farm?

Not enough, say MPs, who want more government officials to get out from behind their desks and get their boots dirty.

Civil servants should be sent into the countryside to do farm work, says the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

Find it hard to believe? You can read the recommendation in a committee report published today (Friday, 23 September).

The small print is in paragraph 61 – you can download the entire document here (1.3Mb pdf) or read the recommendation itself below:

“Officials within Defra and its agencies need to appreciate the impact of regulatory decisions on farming enterprises, particularly small businesses that may be facing other financial pressures or uncertainty.

“Defra should consider whether a programme of hands-on experience with farming businesses targeted at the relevant staff would lead to improved policy-making and how this could be delivered.”

Will the government implement this proposal? I’ve no idea. But the DEFRA ministerial team is certainly fond of emphasising its rural roots.

DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman says working for the NFU taught her much about the energy, dedication and fortitude of Britain’s farmers.

Me? I worked on farms before becoming an agricultural journalist and I believe the experience has made me a better reporter.

I think it would be great if more DEFRA officials had first hand experience of farm work too – even if just for one day.

But I also think it would be good if more farmers were given the opportunity to see for themselves the inner workings of the civil service.

I’m hoping to arrange a job swap for a day between a DEFRA civil servant and a regular family farmer.

With a bit of luck, seeing how the other half live might make both sides more understanding of the other.

I’ll publish an account of the experience in Farmers Weekly magazine, so more people can gain an insight too.

If you’re a farmer or DEFRA civil servant interested in taking me up on this offer, do get in touch – 07967 634971. I’d love to hear from you.