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Brexit is a betrayal of Britain’s farmers We'll all suffer the consequences of the Government's terrible plan for agriculture

Could the pandemic end the the rural brain drain? Credit: Getty

Could the pandemic end the the rural brain drain? Credit: Getty


December 4, 2020   7 mins

This article was originally published in December 2020. 

I think George Eustice, the PR man turned Secretary of State for the Environment, was still telling homely stories about his Cornish farming grandfather when my mobile phone starting ringing. I was moving my flock of sheep down a lane with my sheepdogs and had planned to catch up with the news when I got back to the farmhouse. I looked at the missed calls then stuffed the phone back in my pocket.

Lots of people, including journalists and friends, were calling to ask what I made of the new agricultural policies announced by Mr Eustice. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: I wrote a book called English Pastoral about how farming and nature in this country got into this mess, so people expect me to have some kind of intelligent opinion on what is happening and whether it is good or bad. And so, having read the documents and listened to Mr Eustice, here is mine.

Our agricultural policies are going to change — hugely — from what they have been under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). And since the tragic decline of biodiversity on British farmland happened under that policy, this is overall a welcome development.

A massive shift is needed to take us from the post-WW2 cheaper-food-at-all-costs production model to something more sustainable. We now know that those policies had loads of negative effects, like the disappearance of farmland birds or wildflower meadows. We asked (and paid) British farmers to make their land factory-floor efficient; they did, and the results aren’t pretty — nature in Britain is on its knees.

You might ask why governments need to interfere in farming and land management at all, but you’d be about two thousand years too late. States have always manipulated farming to regulate food supplies, cheapen food for the poor, make food safe, avoid famines and food shortages, and encourage domestic production for times of war and national crisis. The Bible is full of pharaohs storing grain, or passing decrees about food to achieve one thing or another.

This meddling went into overdrive in the 20th century, during and after wartime, when it became apparent that our freedom depended on being able to grow enough of our own food on our own land. As a result, farm economics are deeply weird — and quite unlike any other sector or industry.

The price you pay for food in the store, and the price the farmer receives, do not reflect the real cost of producing that food — not even close. According to government statistics, 58% of a British farmer’s income is from subsidies (remarkably, that figure only drops to 46% for “very large” farms.) It doesn’t matter what kind of farmer you are, upland or lowland, arable or livestock, intensive or extensive, nature-friendly or monoculture: you can’t earn enough from commodity food prices, so your business is propped up by these payments.

It is bonkers, but it’s a global problem, because the commodity prices are set globally and farmers globally tend to be subsidised. The US has a particularly insane system that encourages terrible industrial farming and then dumps its excess stuff on world markets at beneath true cost.

So, it’s clearly time to reform farming subsidies — and that’s what Mr Eustice was suggesting. The new system is called “Environmental Land Management,” or ELM, and it is going to pay for things much more clearly in the public interest, like helping the British landscape to recover, and making farming more sutainable.

Great.

Good idea.

I am obsessed with making my farm more nature-friendly; we have planted 15,000 trees in the past five years, and plan to get another 10,000 in soon. We have re-wiggled the river, created 15 new ponds, restored old wildflower meadows and taken part in a project to restore a peat bog on our fell.

This policy shift might just pay me more to do good things that make the world a better place — and I’d be grateful for the help. But as I read the documents behind the enthusiastic and progressive speeches I, and lots of other farmers, got a shock — not by what was in it, but by what was absent.

There is no real vision of progressive agriculture behind these changes, no talk of rebuilding the lost local food infrastructure and shifting our culinary culture away from corporate-made processed foods and unhealthy junk. There is no suggestion of the radical changes needed to rein in the power of supermarkets and other big corporations that drive down prices, and through that encourage destructive farming.

There is no mention of “food security”, or the very real risk that outsourcing our food supply places on pristine, natural and unprotected environments like the Amazon. There is little or nothing said about raising standards (an anathema to US trade negotiators) or shifting farming to be more “regenerative”.

And the details are hazy as hell.

How ELM will work and what it will pay for haven’t been worked out yet. Of course, it may develop in the next few months into a really brilliant and enlightened scheme that does great things for both agriculture and nature. But they better get a bloody move on, because it is four years since the referendum, and just a few weeks until we may crash out of the EU transition period without a deal — and ELM doesn’t replace the CAP.

The current plan is for a seven-year transition period, in which we carry on with the old systems and payments, but year-by-year phase them out and replace them with the new system. A new system which hasn’t been worked out yet.

It is not a prospect relished by farmers. As one of my peers put it, “it is like shifting from a salary to a per hour contract, with your salary halved by the fourth year, and the hourly rate not revealed”. It looks like a great many of us will lose financial support, without being able to get onto the new schemes that would allow us to fill that hole with payments for anything more progressive. Details matter, and they are in short supply.

The problem for me as a farmer is that despite being blessed with wonderful TV adverts telling me to plan for a “no deal Brexit,” I haven’t a clue what to plan for. I don’t know what to produce, or what I will be paid for. My options at 1,100ft above sea level on a pasture-based rocky farm are limited. I also know that the main market for what we produce is the EU — worth ÂŁ14.5 billion — and if we leave without an agreement then British farm products will go from zero tariffs to a 62% on lamb, 85% on beef, 45% on cheddar cheese and 51% on barley. The National Farmers’ Union projects farm incomes would crash by 60-80% in a no-deal scenario. It would be catastrophic.

So the problem with Mr Eustice’s plan isn’t the hazy ELM scheme that may, or may not, emerge soon — it is the long-term vision.

The Secretary of State was very clear that in seven years, British farmers are going to be competing with farmers from across the globe without the support of any subsidy for farming itself. It is about the oldest of neoliberal dreams — killing off state involvement and throwing open our country (and countryside) to free trade and deregulation. In any other industry this might make sense, but given the screwed-up nature of global farming economics it doesn’t. And it’s worth noting that the one or two places that don’t subsidise agriculture have suffered dire ecological results.

A cynic might say that this looks rather like Thatcherism 2.0, with farmers as the new miners, rural deregulation wrapped in glossy-green wrapping paper. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a terrifying ill-thought-out approach. Politicians are rather fond of talking about competition being a good thing, but they are sending us out to compete with farmers who have the state support that we lack, and who are protected by tariffs. This isn’t competition as anyone sane would recognise it.

We are to be collateral damage as the politicians try to deliver Brexit at any cost, imposing free trade, deregulating the countryside and unleashing wilfully blind free-market economics on farming. Their vision of the future is brutal, and barely lessened by the years of help to “transition” from the CAP. It is like someone telling you they are going to throw you off a cliff in seven years’ time but not to worry because they will teach you to fly first — you ask them how, when no one else has ever done it, and they shrug and say, “we haven’t worked it out yet, but you are definitely going off that cliff”.

The future they are creating is a perfect storm of crappiness — massive tariffs imposed on what we sell to our main markets, a slashing of the support payment system that we were part of in the EU, a lot of deregulation, and a whole heap of new competitors through new “free trade” deals which will allow imports produced in ways that are illegal here.

Even the green bit — the ELM — has yet to commit to paying a fair or decent price for things that will do a great deal of public good, like carbon sequestration or flood alleviation. It is not even clear that they have a methodology for paying for these natural outcomes.

We have a farming and food economy that is worth well in excess of £100 billion a year, and if it encourages farming that isn’t ecologically sound, as it often does by driving down prices beneath the cost of sustainable production, then you can’t make it all okay with £2.7 billion of ELM type payments. You have to grapple with trade policies to protect farmers from being undercut on price by worse farming systems; you have to regulate poor practices to raise their cost; you have to curb the cartel-like power of supermarkets; and even do the unthinkable, and make food more expensive to reflect its true cost (and make sure to help the poorest in our society by redistributing wealth  so they can afford it). If your focus stops on the £2.7 billion you are tweaking round the edges of a disaster, not fixing it.

Unfortunately, the idea that food and farming can manage without state support is a fantasy in a world in which every government is entangled in its domestic agriculture. Trying to disentangle this will drive down prices and lead to further intensification on farmland, potentially making much of farmed England worse for nature (yes, that’s possible) and exporting our food footprint to places where we don’t see the damage or costs.

When I was a kid, a scrapman used to come to the farm in a white van and would occasionally buy machinery or old gates, or rolls of rusting wire for scrap money, or take it to “clean it up”. It was sometimes a useful function, because the scrap had to be got rid of, but the fella was dodgy, and my old man used to say “keep an eye on him, or we will find things missing when he’s gone”. I think I feel the same way about the Government’s plan for agriculture — it may do some good for rural England, but if I were you I’d keep an eye on it, because later on you might well notice that some valuable possessions have gone missing.


James Rebanks is a fell farmer and the best-selling author of The Shepherd’s Life. His new book, English Pastoral, came out in September 2020.

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David J
David J
3 years ago

I live in the Cotswolds, and here my local supermarkets have sections for local produce, these expanding by the month. Farm Shops and Farmers’ Markets also seem to be booming, their popularity steadily growing.
In London, my younger daughter buys regularly from her local food markets, some of which is driven in specially from growing areas elsewhere in the UK. For example, the fish she buys is driven overnight from Cornwall.
So my presumption is that food can be grown and sold successfully for thoughtful consumers, and its quality is at least as important as price.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Yes for affluent people. Good food costs money.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Not necessarily affluent, as a trip to Deddington Farmers’ Market will reveal, with customers coming from all walks of life.

On cost, I bake my own bread from local flour, resulting in far nicer bread than store-bought, at a much cheaper price.

Chef Raymond Blanc put it in a nutshell recently: “…”More and more there is wonderful food produced in Britain – much of it among the best in the world.”

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

I spend the summer (quarantine and all that) in Provence. The quality of fresh produce is simply in a different planet.
Monsieur Blanc is simply wrong.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I think the little Frenchman knows what he is talking about. His restaurants are pretty good, so I’ll go with his view. Of course Southern European foods are wonderful, but so is stuff we produce here.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Restaurant suppliers are very different from the ones that supply your supermarket. I am comparing the produce at Waitrose with the produce at Utile and Spar.

Geffy B
Geffy B
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Waitrose is becoming more like Tesco et al. The quality of a lot of their food especially meat Is dropping and the cost rising. Of course this is due to the double whammy COVID and Brexit. It’s all BS.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago
Reply to  Geffy B

Bring back New Zealand lamb.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Geffy B

Its everything to fighting Aldi and Lidl, keeping market share and holding onto ever decreasing profits more like

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Geffy B

Garbage..Why should British Consumers pay CAP to subsidise inferior small French &German farms,?…whats wrong is The ”Green” Lobby & Tory builders combining to concrete over Farmland, and build Windfarms which are expensive &lead to Power cuts in next 3-4 years..

ann_owen
ann_owen
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

If you are working two minimum wage jobs to keep a roof over your head, you haven’t got time to go to farmer’s markets, nor for baking your own bread. You wouldn’t have the energy either after working 50-60hrs.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  ann_owen

I have worked as security guard doing 15 hour shifts 18:00Hrs to 9:00Hrs working 80 hours a week ( the top was 105 hours – 7 nights ) and bought cheap, food from a market. There used to be stall on Tuesdays and Thursdays selling bacon and cheese for £1 for 3 lbs. The Stilton and Cheddar were ancient and tasted fantastic.

Why do some people have physical and mental vitality and others do not ? Some people are still working in their eighties. Those who served on convoys in WW2 had 4 hrs on and 4 hrs off; often slept by the guns; from the time they left Liverpool and until they reached the USA ; a period of 14 to 21 days. Those who lived, endured the routine for years.

What we do need to undertake is an investigation as to why some people are fit, healthy and have plenty of physical and mental vitality even if they have have been born with poor health and suffered poor nutrition as children. We should have a welfare system which shows people how they can improve health, fitness and vitality, which was one if the reasons the NHS was founded.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

True. Shame they don’t educate people any more about the conditions our parents endured during warefare. Growing up in the 40s and 50s, I consider myself lucky to have just survived.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

I remember speaking with a Grandfather. He was brought up in poverty in the East End of London and had a weak constitution so he took up boxing and running. He fought in trenches and was gassed and volunteered for the RFC. He said he passed the medical because he strengthened his lungs through boxing and running. I asked him why he wanted to fly. He wanted to die clean having had a bath and decent breakfast in the morning.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

Agree Stephen. I often wonder however we managed to survive as a race without the aid of supermarkets, American style fast food outlets and iPhones.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

‘Free McDonalds food vouchers for all’ they cry! Agree with your every word. People are to blame with their eating/cooking/lifestyle habits in my opinion. People have got too lazy and far too materialistic.

Last edited 3 years ago by andy thompson
Nick M
Nick M
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

The minute anyone suggests that right wing people shout – nanny state!! I agree with you, I think the NHS should put more focus on prevention as well as the cure.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  ann_owen

No but your wasteline might be better. Food is immorally cheap, whoever you are.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

You must be one of the few who bother. Potato SKINS sold in the shops? Bread and toast with the crust ready cut off?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Farm subsidies are great, stop rocking the boat!
How on earth do you expect us to be able to hunt two days a week, and shooot on the other four!

Wildlife management is everything in these Ecco times is it not?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

No subsidies and many farmers will go bust – and they vote.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Exactly, but the numbers are low.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Many farmers have already “gone bust”, and a few have even committed suicide.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Wrong. They encourage immoral trade globally which keeps the 3rd world out and western waist-lines up. Our climate cannot stomach it either.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Yes, you are correct, and I plead ‘guilty as charged’ for playing Devil’s Advocate.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

It is a moral scandal that food is subsidised at all.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And cheaper processed food full of E numbers and salt is better for you of course.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Indeed but it may still be subsidised by grants to the farmer.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

My opinion is just that of a retail buyer of farmed produce but my impression – for what it is worth – is that farmers are under pressure from supermarkets to get the lowest price possible. I am a state pensioner so far from being affluent but I will only buy British produce, especially meat/chicken – avoiding tasteless fruit and veg grown in Europe even if cheaper. People will pay a little more for quality, if necessary less often. Am I being too simplistic in suggesting that if British farmers produce more, instead of being paid subsidies not to – there will be a market for their products? And pressure on supermarkets to be more realistic on price ?

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  SUSAN GRAHAM

I don’t know how often British farmers are paid not to produce. From my own experience and reading articles like this, far more commonly the subsidies are paid to make crop, milk or livestock production commercially viable. The profit margins are too
thin without them and those farms would go under. When the CAP payments go, the UK will need to replace those payments.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

..

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

We have all just been offered £3000 per Great Crested Newt pond. Ă°ĆžÂ€ÂŁĂ°ĆžËœâ€šĂ°ĆžÂ€ÂŁWe freeze out 3rd world food trade; they cannot afford food and farm subsidy. It is a moral scandal, complete hypocrisy.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
3 years ago

Yes, and Germany makes a fortune out of African coffee. and what happened to bananas from the Turks and Caicos Islands?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

The US brought action against Britain for subsiding the banana Trade from the West Indies a couple of decades ago, and whatever International court was involved upheld their claim. Since we have been deluged with Costa Rican produce, which isn’t in the same league at all. That’s the reason. I don’t know what the justice of the respective claims was, only the outcome.

Google ‘US versus UK banana trade west indies’. It comes up at the top of the results.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

I agree and in this era when every single tech *start-up* (almost) bar none is about disintermediating market sectors, then disntermediating the price-malfunctioning supermarket sector should be a goer? Especially as here we’re looking at high margin food and pruducts (Herwick wool scarves, jumpers, etc with pics of the sheep and GPS for where the flock is provided for a weekend away walk—and recomended overnight stay places?)

Though because it hasn’t really been happened, maybe there’s some massive immovable ‘stopper’ in the way that I fail to see, prventing the VCs from piling in….. and to be fair, it wouldn’t be the first time that happened to an idea of mine! 🙂

sibutler64
sibutler64
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

It’s a great idea David bit a v big percentage of the population are purely interested in price only of food and this is likely to rise with things being tight with covid and Brexit. Sorry to seem negative bit think this will unfortunately only benefit a small minority of farmers who can reach this premium market

ShellyAnne Finney
ShellyAnne Finney
3 years ago

I can’t claim to have spoken to every farmer in the country but have spoken to many in the South of England (our firm supplies a specialist service to farms) & to a man, those I’ve spoken to voted FOR Leave. I can’t give any insight into why this might be & without doubt there are many farmers who feel differently but ever since the vote the narrative we are repeatedly presented with, and this article is a prime example, is how awful Brexit will be for farmers when it’s quite clear there are many differing views & a great many are extremely positive about future outside the EU.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

“differing views & a great many are extremely positive about future outside the EU.”
according to your comment I reckon that are other farmers (like the author) that the “differing” views means Brexit is a disaster for them?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

He does say the EU CAP policy has produced that agri-desert landscape that a lot of Britain is reduced to..whether endless Kansas-style wheatfields or Oil Seed Rape or whatever….I think the problem is a trust issue…and the inability of the Govt to sketch out a pathway of how they get to a better future- not some insanely over the top, best ever, world class, future..but one that doesn’t devalue them and their work even more comnpared to just about any average person in a digital *creative* company…let alones an accountant, junior lawyer, or even middle management public sector spreadsheet person. IN so far as that goes he’s right to be worried…. but it isn’t impossible for any half switched on govt to set some worries, at least , at rest when the endless 24/7 tide of craziness of the Covid-19 mingled with Brexit finally starts to recede?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

“…and the inability of the Govt to sketch out a pathway of how they get to a better future-“
you are right, and it can not because (according to the press – I don’t have secret sources) the needs of the Red Wall (cheap food) are not compatible with the demands (Daily Mail campaign) for high quality British standards that appeal to Shire Tory voters and British farmers.
FTA with USA will mean massive agri imports. And as a result many British farmers will go bust. And those farmers vote.
I am not trying to score a Brexit point but Brexit can not be everything to everybody- cheap food for some and high standards for others….and not costs to anyone.

sibutler64
sibutler64
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

sadly I totally agree. Hard Brexit/no deal is perfect storm for UK farmers and food safety standards with maintaining and raising our standards and cutting carbon footprint and doing more for environment while at same time allowing cheaper, less safe, less ethical and less sustainable food come in and unfairly undercut us

Tim Williams
Tim Williams
3 years ago

Sadly like 52% of the population many farmers I know were also taken in by the promises of how wonderful Brexit would be for everyone with no down-sides. Project Fear turns to Project Reality

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Williams

In five years, we might have a realistic assessment of whether Project Fear was correct or not.

Steve G
Steve G
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

In five weeks I think we’ll be getting a pretty good idea 🙂

sibutler64
sibutler64
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Think we will know v quickly within a few months if we have no deal and US, Aussie and NZ deals come in with lose quality less regulated food to undercut us

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

5 Months was enough…Exiting EU will be ongoing success,blackmail &tantrums inc thereason Mays ‘Surrender deal” will become a problem..

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Williams

Sadly like 48% of the population, many people I know were also taken in by the threats that leaving EU would bring about an immediate cataclysm of biblical proportions and that anyone who voted leave would be cast down into the ninth circle of hell and be for ever damned as a stupid, bigot, racist. Even some of those who were taken in in 1975 were again taken in in 2016

sibutler64
sibutler64
3 years ago

still don’t know yet as we haven’t left properly till 1st Jan next year then we will know how hard Brexit will hit us

charles.reese
charles.reese
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Williams

I think not. This article is Project Fear 2.0 and begins with the lie that Eustace has no experience of farming. He was brought up on a farm and worked on it for nine years after leaving school. There is no reality in this article.

andy thompson
andy thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Williams

Tim, build a bridge mate and get over it.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago

Yeoman farmers in west of eng all voted Leave. Why? The ref tape and arrogance of Brussells dictats are detested. We are an island nation without seeing any benefits to global trends.

daniel Earley
daniel Earley
3 years ago

Although I have only been following this discussion regarding farming on the surface, I do realise that many changes need to take place. What I generally see is farmers saying some things may be ok but usually complain about everything else, particularly the NFU. What I would like to see, and there may be something out there already, is a detailed plan by the farmers about how to take the industry forward in terms of what to produce, how to produce it, how to care for the land, the environment and the wildlife, and how to either reform subsidies or get rid of them altogether.
As a nation we have some great produce, can we not build on that?

ann_owen
ann_owen
3 years ago
Reply to  daniel Earley

It would require that policy makers involve actual farmers when thinking up their many ecoschemes and policies, instead of just making it up as they see fit without talking to the people who have to make these things work. In general, farmers are not asked to contribute to these detailed plans which the governent du jour decides to inflict upon them. If they would start talking to farmers, we might actually start seeing some real sustainable change.

charles.reese
charles.reese
3 years ago
Reply to  ann_owen

You can’t tell from this article because the author has chosen to deceive you, but George Eustace was brought up on a farm and worked on it for nine years after school. So perhaps he actually knows something about farming, contrary to what the author implies.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  daniel Earley

Agree. They should stop whinging and being part of the western world subsidised greed racket and start leading.

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago

Brexit is a green revolution, not about money, but a better quality of life for people and animals in the UK.
The first good news is that live animal exports are to be banned in England and Wales.
Sending live animals abroad for slaughter and fattening will be banned in England and Wales under new plans.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the ban could be in force by the end of 2021 in a post-Brexit break from EU trade rules.

The RSPCA welcomed the move, saying it would be “a landmark achievement for animal welfare”.

Julia H
Julia H
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

Yes, a great move but what was the NFU’s immediate response? They opposed it and are trying to block it, arguing that all that is needed is better regulation of live exports. They are catastrophists who hate change and deserve to be ignored.

D.C.S Turner
D.C.S Turner
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

brexit is not a green revolution. instead there will be land speculation on a big scale, small farms will be sold off and give way to big US agribusinesses growing GM crops, while livestock farming is all taken indoors, factory style. The uplands will have more trees but will also be disfigured by more centre parcs type leisure facilities .

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

Only if we are dumb enough to let that happen. It is up to us to tell government what we want.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago

Exactly. It’s not like the population are dumb enough to vote themselves out of the world’s biggest market……oh wait

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

More puerile rubbish EU 450million , Commonwealth 2.1billion…EU is an outdated 1950s Globalist racquet doomed to fail, or why are there 3-5million Eu citizens who want UK citizenship if its( remainers) European paradise?

Last edited 3 years ago by Robin Lambert
Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

‘The uplands will have more trees but will also be disfigured by more centre parcs type leisure facilities .’

So, none of the sunlit uplands we were promised by Brexiters, lol!

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

Many of these issues would hugely helped if we stopped increasing the UK population.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

This farmer talks of redistribution of wealth to solve low food prices (make food cost more, take money from better off and give it to less well off.) He says : “do a great deal of public good, like carbon sequestration or flood alleviation.”

So Britain is to become less competitive in every way by carbon sequestration wile the 98% of the world chugg along as normal? That does no good. And what is more natural than floods, maybe not build on flood lands. If the writer left out the Liberal/Left tone it would ring much truer. The fact is food is too cheap, in UK it is even cheaper than in USA by a good deal. Maybe if food was reflecting the real costs the destructive practices would not be required.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago

Euthanasia?

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

No just stop so much immigration. Its making us all poorer.

Neal Sanders
Neal Sanders
3 years ago

Agriculture is indivisible from health, welfare, environment and trade. Our politicians are now at a crossroads. If they want a secure supply of good food without undermining welfare or the environment, then our trade policy needs to reflect it in terms of standards and tariffs.
This isn’t a narrow choice about subsidising farmers or not. It’s a huge social question that requires joined up leadership.
This article is a really well written cry for that.

Lloyd Marsden
Lloyd Marsden
3 years ago
Reply to  Neal Sanders

I’m not trying to start a Brexit mud slinging fight with anyone (really, I’m not) but surely by choosing to compete alone in a global market the UK has left itself at the mercy of its largest companies, in this case the supermarkets.

As you say I hope we make a strong case in any trade deals for high standards but when we need to go out of our way to keep companies in the UK happy, I fear the tools at our disposal for market competition will be negative ones such as subsidies and the lowering of prices and standards.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Marsden

No agreed – it’s an inherent danger of Brexit. It really depends on government now, and few people trust them to make the right choices above the short term politically expedient ones.

The food standards in the UK are already above and beyond those required in the EU. We can only hope that the government will hold the line on that, otherwise the chlorinated chicken Remainer brigade will be proven right.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Even the EU’s specialist body accepts there is no danger from chlorinated chicken

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

the Chlorinated ”Remainers” Dont moan about eating chlorinated Salads…..Michael Heseltine not adding to his £5million cAP subsidies is a good thing..

sibutler64
sibutler64
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

Its not the chlorine Robin its what nasties and v poor standards chlorine is used to hide in the chicken

sibutler64
sibutler64
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Sadly I think the fact the government wouldn’t support Agriculture Bill Amendment and tried to justify this by saying they didn’t want to put farmers in developing countries at disadvantage when supplying us with food says to me that they will quietly start to open the floodgates. Alongside the obvious US sellout deal risks the whole premise and main benefit behind Aussie and Kiwi deals is to push far more meat over here.

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Marsden

Since when did any of us need to keep the supermarkets happy?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Marsden

In the last decade almost every start up in *tech* has been involved in disintermediating markets that don’t function properly.

The disintermediation of markets in goods and services has meant fewer barriers to entry (small businesses access global market places as well as local) and distribution systems (Amazon) that would have seemed unbelievable not that many years ago.

Given that in this case it would be high quality, high margin produce (and products..Herdwick wool clothes, etc) the coming demise of *fast fashion* (as in wear once and throwaay don’t wash) which seems inevitable given the environmental and societal ills, there should be a space for targeted produce to bypass supermarkets and deliver direct to the buyer.

I know…show me where it’s happened? and it hasn’t yet. But in so many fields huge companies have arisen in areas that are about enabling markets like these to function..so hopefully organic, quality grub and decently made local wool products (etc) can find a market that conciously accepts it is paying higher prices but is willing to do so.

And gets enabled by the same technology that enabled Amazon to become the largest company in the world worth more than the entire Footsie 100 put together in a relatively short time.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

The Amazon Santa Claus will be delivering the Monopoly board game this Christmas.

David FĂŒlöp
David FĂŒlöp
3 years ago
Reply to  Neal Sanders

Unfortunately this includes a very unpopular choice of making food a LOT more expensive and weaning people off of cheap readily available solutions.

We cannot regenerate the environment and have cheap exotic food at the same time.

steveoverbury
steveoverbury
3 years ago

Nothing is more expensive than junk food and takeaways. Weaning people off those might put some more cash in the family purse

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago
Reply to  steveoverbury

‘Nothing is more expensive than junk food and takeaways.’

Then you can’t have shopped in Iceland or any of the little takeaway outlets that proliferate in poor areas.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Frozen pig swill would probably be more nourishing than the expensive junk food they sell in the chain supermarkets. Half the UK is barking mad because of malnourishment.

Graham Perfitt
Graham Perfitt
3 years ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

The point is with junk/heavily processed food you are consuming empty calories much of the time

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  steveoverbury

And stop them thinking food really is cheap to produce and the climate isn’t hurting.

ann_owen
ann_owen
3 years ago

It’s not food that needs to be cheaper, it’s housing that is vastly overpriced and wages which are below the living minimum.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Neal Sanders

You are i overcomplicating things. 3rd world food producers cannot trade at western world subsidised prices; our waistlines depict our hypocrisy. Morally, the western world is scandalous.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

Good article, thanks.

“…How ELM will work and what it will pay for haven’t been worked out yet. Of course, it may develop in the next few months into a really brilliant and enlightened scheme that does great things for both agriculture and nature…”

It won’t. Until someone who is familiar with farming and agricultural economics is able to call the shots in government. I vote for the author of the article…

Dennis Waites
Dennis Waites
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

I couldn’t agree more. If ministers had people of this authors experience as advisors the path could be made easier to tread. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but would be wiling to pay more for my food if grown/sourced locally.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

More whining. Farmers shuld be Paid for Growing food UK still imports 40% &Rexports 20% .Need to grow more,less imports…&More Farmers markets..They should not be allowed for Green destroying Windfarms…

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

If you are going to grow more you have to increase the yield (Holland is the perfect example) but the byproduct of that (Holland again) is high levels of water pollution.
Or are you going to turn more and more land over to agriculture?

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The UK is going to invest billions in Vertical Farming so that crops can be grown near to large towns and cities. The first one has already opened in Scotland.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

Rye in the sky

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

Vertical farming economically doesn’t work. It is good for nature though.
“Louis Albright, a professor in biological and environmental engineering at Cornell stated that a loaf of bread that was made from wheat grown in a vertical farm would cost US$27.[54] However, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average loaf of bread cost US$1.296 in September 2019, clearly showing how crops grown in vertical farms will be noncompetitive compared to crops grown in traditional outdoor farms”

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Being able to produce crops 365 days a year, without the need for pesticides or much human intervention, while being unaffected by the weather, will appeal to many growers after such a prolonged, wet autumn.

Vertical farming is a fast growing sector. Worldwide, it was worth £1.72bn in 2018, with experts predicting that will rise to £9.84bn by 2026. Japan and the US are leading the way, but other countries are catching on.

Enthusiasts say that vertical farming offers a means of guaranteeing yields and reducing the industry’s environmental impact, while improving the supply of safe, healthy and nutritious food and minimising the miles involved in its distribution.

Their vision ““ locally grown, quick-to-market fruit and vegetables, produced in the neighbourhood where it is consumed, with the traceability and integrity that food supply chains demand ““ is already being delivered by various facilities worldwide.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

Do you know the real estate prices in NYC or London or Berlin?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I think vertical farming would work for salad crops, fruit, herbs; basically any plant which grows on a steep slope and rabbit burrows.
What goes wrong is when people who do understand the basics take a good idea and apply in a wrong place at a wrong time.

In general, people applying ideas who lack a basic knowledge of maths, physics, chemistry, biology and soil science/geology , history of location and climate cause problems.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

What a dreary dystopian mess you greens wish to make the world into.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Unlike the bucolic paradise that UK farming is now?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I’d sooner that than dozen massive housing estates in Leicestershire ,causing drainage,Wildlife habitat ,Flooding,Plant extinctions etc…Funny no ;;Global Warmists” highlight this/ Why

Deryck Hall
Deryck Hall
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

There is also a need to grow crops that consumers want to eat. In some cases, that will be difficult on a large scale (eg, pineapples, bananas, the import of which has seen phenomenal growth over the past few years). Apples and pears, in contrast, have seen sales decline.

Vegetables from warmer climes are beginning to crowd out those that could be said to have been British staples.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Deryck Hall

Exactly. Farmers should grow pizzas.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It would seem to me this farmer would be happy when the vat grown meat comes to full production. The grazing lands can be freed to the wild things. Not to mention Methane gas from fracking could be altered in chemical plants to be carbohydrates, and petroleum made to cooking oil by the right processes, and farming can be binned as the destructive old thing it is.

Vat grown pepperoni and industrial carbohydrates with artificial flavorings made to the crust and sauce and petroleum made into the cheese. What perfection, how great for the song birds. Farmers paid to just be there and keep the aesthetic easements up to HMG standards.

Bill Eaton
Bill Eaton
3 years ago

Farmers have been whinging and holding out the begging bowl for as long as I can remember, and my memory goes back to before we joined the common market, as was.

Graham Perfitt
Graham Perfitt
3 years ago
Reply to  Bill Eaton

That maybe so but then it’s highly unlikely you understand the reasons why….. I recommend you read English pastorale by a chap called James Rebanks.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago
Reply to  Bill Eaton

Yes get rid of the farmers. What use are they? They are parasites? Like the Kulaks of Russia or the white settlers in Rhodesia.

Tim Barter
Tim Barter
3 years ago
Reply to  Bill Eaton

Farmers never asked to be given a begging bowl. More like the government is the dealer, the farmers the addicts and the end result is dependency.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Barter

Spot on I reckon.

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Barter

Not supermarkets? Yes it would be a political nightmare if the core of our diet doubled in price next week but that’s supermarkets turning food into an entertainment commodity that they have total control over. Of course it is a reasoned political position to decide to stop “begging” farms, rewild the countryside, and, oh yes, import all our bread veg and meat for twice the price. Don’t see that getting much support.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Hunt

Honestly, I could get by just fine if food prices doubled, but then again I am aware that good food is extremely cheap nowadays; something many people keep disputing in the face of incontrovertible evidence. (Speaking from Ireland, but whatever about future changes things are not so different at the moment.)

For example, I just made a large pot of chili con carne: 600g beef mince, 1 bulb garlic, 2 large onions, 6 large mushrooms, 1 red pepper, one scotch bonnet chili, one can of red kidney beans, one can of chopped tomatoes, some olive oil for frying – total price at Aldi about 6 Euro, nothing reduced.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Quinn

Just out of interest, and a perspective on the importance of food expenditure in the household budget, when I was an agricultural economics student in the late 60s, the average proportion of household income spent on food was 25 per cent. Today it is just 10 per cent.

Apparently – and I find this hard to believe – our expenditure on alcohol and cigarettes, on average, is 40 per cent of our household food expenditure. Does this explain the poor health of the nation?

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Quinn

Sounds good apart from the shrooms. But each to their own.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Barter

Wrong. The NFU has been at the head of the queue since the 1940s

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  Bill Eaton

It’s rude to criticize farmers with your mouth full.

Chuck Burns
Chuck Burns
3 years ago

“seven-year transition period”? You citizens of the UK must break from the Leftist globalist bureaucracy of the EU immediately! If you agree to a seven-year transition period you will regret it. Eliminate the added cost that the EU imposes on you with NO benefit back. The world wants your products including those agricultural products that you are willing to export. The EU is not your friend! Regain your sovereignty!

D.C.S Turner
D.C.S Turner
3 years ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

tariffs are designed to be prohibitive. If EU import tariffs of 45% are imposed on UK lamb, that lamb will in principle become that much more expensive. But will only carry on being exported at all if the importer – who pays the tariff – believes that he/she can pass that cost onto the retailer, and that the retailer can be confident that the customer is willing to buy it at 45% higher price. You cannot avoid this problem by saying something as simplistic as ‘the world wants your products. We in the UK do not want American chicken and other horrible US agri products. But we might find that they end up in UK supermarkets while our excellent farmers go to the wall.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Don’t worry Chuck, UK sovereignty is of vital concern. No-one tells the English what to do. If you could just send them the order instructions for American steroidal beef, chlorinated chicken and GMO produce, they’ll get out the cheque book.

unconcurrentinconnu
unconcurrentinconnu
3 years ago

THE COMMENT BELOW WAS POSTED YESTERDAY AND DELETED AS SPAM. IT IS
NOT SPAM, THOUGH IT MAY BE UNPALATABLE TO SOME (INCLUDING THE AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE)

Here we go again. Whingeing farmers complaining they don’t get enough subsidy – and even worse, they don’t know what to produce! Ye Gods! The farming sector has been the
recipient of huge subsidies ever since the 1947 Act enshrined them in law. As the cost

became prohibitive and governments tried to limit their cost, the National Farmers Union cast an envious eye across the Channel at the even greater subsidies there. Their policies morphed from we don’t want to go in the Common Market because we could not compete with Continental produce produced at beggarly wages to let’s join that
market which is protected by huge tariffs with unlimited support buying of anything we produce.

At that time the CAP accounted for 80 per cent of the EEC budget – it was about the only
policy on which the six members could agree. And it was devised by de Gaulle not only to
support French farming (the dominant agricultural country) but also to keep the UK out. No self respecting country, he thought, could accept the punitive financial terms which the
policy would impose on a large net food importing economy – like the UK. But he had reckoned without the stupidity and obstinacy of Heath. So we had 25 years of ever increasing subsidy levels, butter & cereal mountains, wine lakes, and ridiculous things like denaturing butter and feeding it back to cows. The NFU loved it – perhaps because all that
extra money was shovelled at the larger farms whcih got bigger and bigger and more

industrialised. The small farms gradually disappeared.

Eventually, even the EU was forced to the negotiating table since its exports subsidies (just to get rid of the produce from the home market) were destroying overseas markets – including the developing world. But that brought a WTO agreement which just delinked the

subsidies from production. The money was paid irrespective of any work. It is true the EU tried to link the subsidies to so-called environmental measures but for most farmers it was business as normal and “is the cheque in the post?”.

The post-Brexit policy will apparently attempt to make farmers more answerable for their environmental impacts.After 70 years of non-stop unconditional subsidies, some of us think about time too. It won’t be easy as environmental improvements are notoriously hard to value but the objective is the correct one. The incentive structure will change. Farmers will have to think of all the negative impacts they have rather than just how to maximise their private profit.

The writer complains he doesn’t know what to produce. Poor guy. He doesn’t know his market after all these years. He thinks he is losing a vast EU market – a market which is quite well supplied already by EU farmers. It is the UK which is the food deficit area – a market which the EU is desperate not to lose.

He mentions all the environmental improvements he has made. He doesn’t mention all the
schemes he has joined (all paid for by you and me) which have funded those changes.

Farmers will never be satisfied. It used to be the weather they always complained about, and now for a long time it has been their subsidy levels. It is high time they were answerable to the people who pay their bills.

Graham Thorpe
Graham Thorpe
3 years ago

Very good to read an intelligent opposing view to what was also clearly a very intelligent and persuasively-well-written article. I can’t believe that this opposing view would ever have been deleted as spam. That’s a concern.

Helen Barbara Doyle
Helen Barbara Doyle
3 years ago

Excellent piece.

Indeed we should look to become self sufficient in as many food stuffs as possible, it would make sense both economically and environmentally.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Sorry, just said something not dissimilar above, although not as well said, and then saw yours.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

There are various emotional issues. Historically Labour and Liberals were against the landed interest. Many people who moved from countryside to towns are emotionally indifferent if not antagonistic to the countryside. Britain was the first country to have more than 50% living in towns and by 1900 it was 80%. Our ships enabled us to buy food from overseas, which was why the Corn Laws were repealed. In WW1 we suffered starvation due to U boats. In 1939, The Government took control of the land. Farmers were told to bring all land into cultivation. They were given two warnings which if they ignored, the farm was taken off them for the duration of the war. Some land was taken from farmers to build airfields and was never returned.

Post 1939, the aim was to drain land, so destroying wetlands. Post 1945 fertilisers were cheap and pesticides developed To be a good farmer was to take the advice of civil servants which meant applying nitrogen, phosphor and potassium fertlisers, pesticides ,
install drains and rip out hedges. UK and then EEC/EU subsidies pushed modern farmer. Farmers who objected such as Robin Page were mocked.

French farmers have remained powerful. EEC/EU finance was basically taking money from efficient German industry and subsidising inefficient French and Italian farmers via CAP, hence the food mountains and wine lakes. Corruption was rife on the Continent. The FCO insisted on negotiations with the EEC and MAFF officials either did not speak French or were ignored. The FCO had a nervous breakdown after Suez, so the Europhiles in the FCO considered entry into the EEC was vital for UK’s status so fishing and farming were expendable. In turn MAFF officials ignored farmers. There has been a massive reduction in good agricultural research, Cambridge closed it’s agricultural department in the 1970s and London – Wye College in the 1980s/90s.

The introduction of canned food in the1850s and then convenience food in the 1960s further divorced urban people from farming. Mashed potato came from a packet.

On a simple level, soil fertlility needs to be improved; this will improve water holding ability, reduce the need for drainage and irrigation, reduce the the need for NPR fertlisers and increase the ability of humic rich soil to hold these chemicals, so reduce leaching. By increasing soil fertility we can increased yield of crops and density of animals per area of cultivation while increasing areas of wetlands and hence increasing numbers of plants and animals and numbers of different classes. If one takes a strip of land 5m wide on either side of a Chalk stream one will discover a wider range of plants and animals than any other habitat in the UK. Consequently, diversity of animals and plants within a farm are more important than area of land set aside. Undertaking statistically valid studies of the planst and animals in an area is difficult due to seasonal variations and migration whereas marking an area on a map is easy- set aside.

To analyse a soil requires vast amounts of knowledge of soil structure, geology, climate, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology and microbiology and expensive laboratories. A soil is product of thousands of years of various processes. How does one define a fertile soil? If one cannot the surely one is failing in the most basic aspect of farming?

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Yes British farming needs to go organic.

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

On my countryside walks I often look at the soil away from field margins and find it so depressing. No structure, little in the way of humus and pale, clayey slop that any gardener would reject. Years of this approach will lead to sterility without the application ofpetrochemical fertilisers

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  David Lonsdale

In some parts of E Anglia organic content is down to 2% and when compacted by tyres, rain runs off sandy soil. The humic content has many functions- holds fulvic and humic acids, provides nitrates, sulphates, phosphates , provides surfaces to which nutrients can attach themselves ( like velcro ), holds water like a sponge and keeps rock fragments apart and provides homes for many plants, animals and fungi. Brown fungi is very important.

How many farmers have degrees in agriculture and an understanding of the soil and climate ? The reason why the French are so concerned about terroir when it comes to growing grapes is that small variations in soil and climate can make a big difference to plants. Consequently what percentage of subsidies is spent on growing plants which are not best suited to a location ?

Britain led the way from the 1660s to 1830s in improving yields from land by draining, manuring, sanding and marling the soil which improved soil fertility. There is no reason why we cannot again. The soil is a product of various processes over 12,000 years; there is no reason why we cannot replicate and improve upon them.

Why was my first comment removed as spam?

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Cut and pasted something maybe?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

No, all my own words.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

No, I wasn’t implying anything at all by that.

Even if you move your own words about by cut and paste when you come to post the Disqus ‘algorithm’ automatically takes it down for some reason.

It doesn’t like live links either.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Certainly appreciate your anxieties and concerns James however in reality there is no post EU blueprint and it would not be possible to produce one. We first need to know the lay of the land and then create policy around that.

For example, border checks and controls. Whilst there are many known aspects of how the infrastructure will work, the details will only be created through experience.

The same will apply with farming and so not only do we first need to know the lay of the land but then we will need a national conversation about how to move forward.

It should always be borne in mind that most Brexiteers anticipate unknowns which will need resolving, hence the can do problem solving attitude in contrast to the can’t do problem moaning attitude of Remoaners.

Brexit will present many knowledge gaps and policy challenges, therefore what is important in order to make Brexit a success is a flourishing of British ingenuity and thereby unleash our potential.

Your knowledge, expertise and experience will be essential in this regard.

#PaxBrittania ðƾ‡¬ðƾ‡§ Ă°ĆžÂÂ”ĂŻÂžÂ Ă°ĆžĆ’ÂŒ ðƾƒÂș

philipwalling11
philipwalling11
3 years ago

There are many things wrong with the CAP that we will be better off without. The trouble is that our government is unlikely to replace it with the right measures because so few of them have a clue about farming and are having their ears filled with nonsense by the green lobby.

The most glaring wrong is landowners and farmers being paid simply for owning land. That means that unproductive farmers sit on their land when they’re way past retirement age, preventing a younger generation from getting a start. Once the Single Farm Payment goes (as it should) there could be a freeing up of land for the young and enterprising.

We should eat what we produce here in Britain rather than exporting things – lamb and beef come to mind – of which we don’t produce enough.

There is a great deal of land in Britain that is hopelessly badly used. For example, we could grow many more vegetables and salad crops rather than importing them from Europe, if we could pay the labour to grow and harvest them.

Farmers should be subsidised to employ labour instead of enriching machinery manufacturers and banks that lend the vast sums to buy the latest equipment.

We need a revolution in attitude towards farming. For too long it has been treated as something you did if you were not clever enough to do anything else. That must change.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

“For example, we could grow many more vegetables and salad crops rather than importing them from Europe, if we could pay the labour to grow and harvest them.”

Is like saying UK can produce robots, CNC machine tooling, software so it doesn’t have to import those products from Germany/Japan/USA.

philipwalling11
philipwalling11
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I don’t see your point. Explain please.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

You import fresh produce from Europe (especially southern Europe) because quality and price is superior. Sun and all that.
Try British tomatoes in July/August and try French/Italian/Spanish tomatoes.

David FĂŒlöp
David FĂŒlöp
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

But we are not getting those tomatoes here anyway. What you get en masse is Dutch tomatoes and tasteless Spanish varieties. Honestly the ones I have grown in my greenhouse in the Midlands is much better.

Nothing to do with quality all to do with quantity – Spanish tomatoes are grown in massive greenhouses essentially picked by the cheapest labour, mainly Africans.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Because you get specific tomatoes that travel well (but taste like crap).

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago

Brexit is a ‘green revolution’, that is why the green lobby are being listened to. We are going to ban live exports next year, and encourage more organic farming as well as vertical farming.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago

The local farmer’s market is generally rather bare over the winter (there’s only so much purple sprouting that one can manage to eat). So going greener and stopping imports from Spain doesn’t look like a winning formula to me.

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago

Mr Rebanks, I haven’t read your book yet but intend to. From what I’ve heard so far, most of what you write about will chime with my own ideas for how we need to care for our countryside. So far, so good.

However, I’m afraid that I’m not impressed by this article as it falls short of offering ideas of how the government should move forward.

It’s hardly surprising that after 40 odd years of CAP and the thinking (if we can call it that) being done in Brussels, that we should be experiencing the most dreadful brain fog about what to do next.

The good food revolution that is going on around the country is naturally focused on the upper end of the market, but that is not a bad thing. All markets are changed by “early adopters” and they tend to be the ones with the spare cash to pay the inevitable premium prices and cushion the suppliers and producers that are taking the risks of changing.

The challenge for you and the rest of the local and regional food providers is how to roll these changes out to ever wider local markets and inspire, encourage and motivate your competitors to do likewise.

Government can’t do your thinking for you. Whenever that happens, disaster and c**k-up is just around the corner. You have to propose the solutions and lobby the public for support and the government to enable them.

It is going to take years to wean ourselves off the nonsense that was CAP and there will be stumbles and pratfalls along the way. But at least we are making a start and the future is in our hands.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

“But at least we are making a start and the future is in our hands.”
The future was always in your hands. You can compare the yield of Dutch farmers (EU, CAP and all that) with British farmers.
Nothing (Germany did that in East Germany) stopped UK GOV from buying marginal farming land and turning it over to forestry/nature.

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I think measuring things solely by “yield”, however you define that, may be the problematic issue at the heart of Mr Rebanks’ thinking.

I’m not sure any of us want a landscape that looks like most of the Netherlands.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

I Agree with you; industrial agriculture does pollute the environment. Hence I gave you the German example.

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Since when were the Germans Dutch?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Pointless. Read my comment again.
If you want to increase the yield (we can measure it) you need to go Dutch. And if you want to protect nature you can easily turn marginal farmland (like Germans) over to nature.
My point was (and is) that UK GOV had plenty of levers in its hands to better manage agriculture and nature. In my view It decided not to do so – because it is not politically convenient. That political position will not change the day after Brexit.
I don’t have any secret news sources (if you do please let me know) but the current goverment is caught between contradictory promises made to the public during the referendum. FTA with USA will mean vast agri imports. Cheaper food for the Red Wall (demanded by the MPs) is against the interest of rural farmers in the South that are most likely to vote Tory.

Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

OK. Putting aside the fact that you didn’t reference Germany, at least not in your reply to me, we probably see things similarly.

The UK government did have many more levers at its disposal than it cared to admit but the EU was always an easy excuse and big business was always a most pervasive influence on government priorities.

Brexit and the core philosophy that drove it are about repatriating responsibilities back to the UK and giving us the chance of building a future that suits us. But we cannot rely on the government, of whatever hue, to do the thinking. It’s up to us to demand action and kick them out if the don’t listen. However, the farming lobby is along way from being able to talk with a common voice as the ban on live exports issue shows.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Between “us” and big business (BB) BB is always going to win. Simply put the “us” don’t pay much attention to farming – farmers aside.
And the costs/benefits valuation doesn’t go away.

relockhart
relockhart
3 years ago

James. A very good article – but your book is part of the problem! It’s almost too good and “romanticizes things too much. It’s been read by govt ministers who in the absence of ideas of their own, latch on to the many good points you make about where farming practices have got to – but you singularly fail to lead them towards taking a more balanced view of how farming fits into the overall husbandry of the countryside.
I farm at 900 feet in central Scotland and being 73 can identify with the thoughts, feelings and sentiments on practically every page of your excellent book about the past present and future.
Your prose – enjoyable as it is – provides an unbalanced picture for Our mainly ignorant (of the big picture) ministers – who ad always with politics in mind- are looking for some universal panacea to “recover” the countryside back to some utopian past which never existed. Farming is like bicycling. Stop pedalling and you fall off. Not all bikes are road bikes – the x country bike has it’s place too.
Clever ” subsidies” are needed to enable all farmers to survive according to their niches and location. You are right Farming can never survive without subsidy of sorts. You and I- farming sheep and cattle half way up a mountain in northern latitudes will simply be wiped out if subsidies aren’t designed to promote suitable farming practices for the area they inhabit. We are simply not in control of input (feed, fuel, fertiliser , seed, machinery) or output (meat, grain and dairy prices.
Getting Government ministers – with limited understanding of the overall balances needed in supporting the wider rural economy including more ecologically understanding of consequences, will be the key.
No farmer expects not to have to work to survive – but equally no farmer should be put out of business by the unrealistic and I’ll educated demands of the modern eco warriors who now seem so dominant in policies and the direction we “ought” to be taking.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

The same question must always be asked: if we protect British farmers why not other industries? Even on the narrow issue of food security we need huge amounts of manufacturing of equipment and supplies to make it all work.

Many years ago my family were butchers – when the supermarkets came in they offered better contracts for the meat. Some butchers struggled to get any meat or make any profit at all – the farmers merely shrugged and said “It’s the market”.

And let’s not get started on the blocking footpaths, mud on roads (something companies I’ve worked with are fined over), chemical spills, feed bags spread everywhere etc. I’ve known some really nice farmers (including my neighbour) but there’s enough bad ones to cause anger.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Your forget for years and years we subsided the ‘sainted’ miners, the car industry, shipping and countless other failures. Even now billions are squandered on the dreadful railways.

As for farmers, besides being ‘custodians of the countryside”, they have to keep up appearances. two boys at Eton, a girl at Wycombe Abbey, three Range Rovers, an outside heated swimming pool, three hunters at livery, four days shooting a week, does not come cheap, so ‘help’ from HMG is not only justified, it is essential. Otherwise the landscape will become a ‘wilded’ Jungle , as some parts of Sussex already are.

steveoverbury
steveoverbury
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Cynical but fair

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

To some extent you’re describing one of the big issues with subsidies.
1) Subsidies for hard working real normal farmers maybe fair/required.
2) subsidies for lifestyle organic peace and love style hippies, hmmm.
3) subsidies for huge wealthy landowners really seem wrong and some of them get millions.

Perhaps farms and land should also have standard inheritance tax, like subsidies they’re justified by talking about the ‘little man’ but in reality largely benefit the already rich. Of course nearly all laws get perverted to benefit the rich and powerful.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

You are correct in many ways. This is one of the great scandals of post war Britain.

When you hear of one the richest and most talented men in Britain, Sir James Dyson bleat that he is worth the million pound plus subsidy he gets on his 35,000+ acres plus in Lincolnshire, it makes one want to puke.

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
3 years ago

All businesses have to adapt to changing markets and changing customer demand. Small farmers should look at their customers being the end-users rather than huge distributors or supermarkets. Sell directly to the public, target the offering, offer added value and the margins will increase significantly.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  John Mcalester

And the impact on the price of food? And how it disroportionally falls on the poorest?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Iceland?

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

The CAP increased the price of food.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

You really don’t understand how CAP works

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

That is a question for Government not farmers.

philipwalling11
philipwalling11
3 years ago

And we should produce and eat as much food as we can locally.

Reintroducing local abbatoirs that were closed by EU regulation should be a priority.

If farmers were given an incentive to sell directly to their consumers (help with finance and management to set up farm shops and direct marketing groups) there is no reason for food prices to rise significantly.

The stranglehold of middlemen and supermarkets must be released. Their practices keep the prices down for farmers while creaming off large profits for themselves.

Landowners should be given incentives (through tax relief) for letting land to be farmed. There are plenty of young people who would take land but it is not available because landowners employ agricultural contractors over huge acreages and are treated as farmers by HMRC with huge taxation benefits, not least Inheritance Tax.

chriskitcher
chriskitcher
3 years ago

As a retired EHO I remember the local murder house’s that were dirty, unhygienic and ill equipped which subjected animals, that were unfortunate enough to end their lives in the horrible places, to so much pain and suffering. It was the EU that forced standards to increase and ensured more humane methods of slaughter all round. Lets not go back to the “dirty old man of Europe” again.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  chriskitcher

My local butcher used to select the animals he wanted and had them slaughtered in the next door parish. Many butchers were graziers. In much of the countryside, meat came from the parish or the neighbouring ones, perhaps a distance of 10 miles.

Vertical farming sounds wonderful but will it produce food of poor taste? The tomatoes of Naples taste superb because they are grown in mineral rich volcanic soil.

Basically people should eat local food, in season and according to their work. An upland farmer carrying a bale up hill and walking into a sleaty gale uses far more calories and needs far more protein than an office worker in an over heated home.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

It is bizarre that the Eu insist on a level playing field and no state support of industry – but then heavily subsidise agriculture.
This would be unpopular but its time we consumers paid the full price for food -and less in taxes to pay for subsidies. That way less would be wasted.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
3 years ago

Where do farming subsidies end up? There’s no real disagreement among economists who’ve researched this, they end up in the pockets of the owners of the land, not those who work on it. Not wholly uncoincidentally, the landowners who are heavily over-represented in the NFU.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

The only point in farming is to produce food. If we wish to re-wild then let nature do the job.
There are only two genuine reasons for subsidies, one is to protect the UK farmers from unfair competition from countries that subsidies their farmers; the second is to provide a minimum of food security for the UK.

If we do not like the effects of re-wilding, because we want a country theme park for townies,
then that is a third reason for subsidies to someone, but obviously not needed for farming.

But we should call it what it is; I suggest a ” country theme park for townies” or a “Walt Disney” subsidy.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

Here we go again. Whingeing farmers complaining they don’t get enough subsidy – and even worse, they don’t know what to produce! Ye Gods! The farming sector has been the recipient of huge subsidies ever since the 1947 Act enshrined them in law. As the cost became prohibitive and governments tried to limit their cost, the National Farmers Union cast an envious eye across the Channel at the even greater subsidies there. Their policies morphed from we don’t want to go in the Common Market because we could not compete with Continental produce produced at beggarly wages to let’s join that market which is protected by huge tariffs with unlimited support buying of anything we produce.

At that time the CAP accounted for 80 per cent of the EEC budget – it was about the only policy on which the six members could agree. And it was devised by de Gaulle not only to support French farming (the dominant agricultural country) but also to keep the UK out. No self respecting country, he thought, could accept the punitive financial terms which the policy would impose on a large net food importing economy – like the UK. But he had reckoned without the stupidity and obstinacy of Heath. So we had 25 years of ever increasing subsidy levels, butter & cereal mountains, wine lakes, and ridiculous things like denaturing butter and feeding it back to cows. The NFU loved it – perhaps because all that extra money was shovelled at the larger farms whcih got bigger and bigger and more industrialised. The small farms gradually disappeared.

Eventually, even the EU was forced to the negotiating table since its exports subsidies (just to get rid of the produce from the home market) were destroying overseas markets – including the developing world. But that brought a WTO agreement which just delinked the subsidies from production. The money was paid irrespective of any work. It is true the EU tried to link the subsidies to so-called environmental measures but for most farmers it was business as normal and “is the cheque in the post?”.

The post-Brexit policy will apparently attempt to make farmers more answerable for their environmental impacts. After 70 years of non-stop unconditional subsidies, some of us think about time too. It won’t be easy as environmental improvements are notoriously hard to value but the objective is the correct one. The incentive structure will change. Farmers will have to think of all the negative impacts they have rather than just how to maximise their private profit.

The writer complains he doesn’t know what to produce. Poor guy. He doesn’t know his market after all these years. He thinks he is losing a vast EU market – a market which is quite well supplied already by EU farmers. It is the UK which is the food deficit area – a market which the EU is desperate not to lose.

He mentions all the environmental improvements he has made. He doesn’t mention all the schemes he has joined (all paid for by you and me) which have funded those changes.

Farmers will never be satisfied. It used to be the weather they always complained about, and now for a long time it has been their subsidy levels. It is high time they were answerable to the people who pay their bills.

Phil Bolton
Phil Bolton
3 years ago

I don’t know anything about this subject, but I care. The question in my mind is, to what degree were farmers consulted when this ‘strategy’ was devised and agreed ?

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

“and if we leave without an agreement then British farm products will go from zero tariffs to a 62% on lamb, 85% on beef, 45% on cheddar cheese…”

Scary numbers, but just taking the cheddar cheese example here it’s worth reminding ourselves, not least because some people always seem to forget this and disingenuously portray it as a simplistic zero sum game, that trade is a two way street and therefore it needs to be given some perspective.

The UK is currently a net importer from the EU of ‘cheese’ by a not inconsiderable margin ie it has a significant trade deficit with it, albeit one that fell considerably last year, and that includes 15% of cheddar imports from the bloc, presumably predominantly from Ireland.

Whacking up a load of unilateral tariffs, which some expect the apparently eternally benign EU to automatically do, doesn’t just potentially hurt the UK cheesemaker hoping to export to the EU’s market, it also invites the UK, the bloc’s third biggest market after the US and China incidentally, to potentially do the same.

Sure, one could argue that those European cheesemakers could just as easily sell that cheese somewhere else outside the EU (they can’t), or into their own hallowed frictionless, tariff-free market, but that then makes the assumption that a Roman or Parisian punter has suddenly developed a miraculous newfound penchant for the now homeless, post-Brexit Irish cheddar, for example, and doubtless at the inevitable expense of one of their own domestic offerings.

Further to this, with the UK leaving the EU and given the aforementioned trade deficit in cheese with it, there is, by implication, an already established potential domestic market need to be filled by domestic producers should ‘European cheese’, essentially for political reasons, become too expensive.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Leavers never had a plan for agriculture? Get out of here!

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Of course they did. There’s a points based system for which cows are allowed to come in.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

LOL
Sadly only 1 vote from me.

Richard Martin
Richard Martin
3 years ago

New Zealand?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Martin

Russia?

Richard Martin
Richard Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I do not understand the tenor of your comment.
Russia subsidises its agriculture industry enormously.
My point was, and is, that New Zealand has attempted the brave experiment of weaning its farmers off subsidy. As I understand it, things have gone much better than expected.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Martin

All countries (directly and indirectly) subsidize agriculture.
NZ (Holland too BTW ) is the perfect example of agriculture that looks in theory productive (and it does) if you don’t take into account massive pollution of waterways. As of 2017 c.60% of the waterways in NZ are unswimable.
Now compare population density between UK and NZ.
You can not have cheap food for the masses (it does require industrial agriculture) and protection of nature.

Richard Martin
Richard Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

That is a specious argument, since of course ‘no man is an island’. You are talking about everything being connected, which is of course true. Waterways are polluted in countries where subsidy is paid too.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Martin

I simply pointed out that NZ agriculture has a major problem and I don’t see how that country is a good example for UK.
And yes, there is a direct link to the NZ agri policies and water pollution.

Richard Martin
Richard Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I’m not sure you’re right there with that first point, Jeremy!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Martin

NZ government statistics as of 2017.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Outer Mongolia?

Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago

Farmers feed us , you idiots.

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago

UK Vertical Farming projects are springing up everywhere, several big projects announced in the last 12 months. An Edinburgh-based company has ambitions to develop 40 sites and already has five on the go, one in Scotland and four in England.

One company is involved to equivalent in size to 26 tennis courts.

In London, there is Growing Underground, which produces micro greens and salad leaves below the busy streets of Clapham. And a new site is running in Bristol.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mires

But so far it’s hardly enough to provide food security, is it? And it needs a lot of energy.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago

“it is like shifting from a salary to a per hour contract, with your
salary halved by the fourth year, and the hourly rate not revealed”.

Welcome to the world in which many people already have to live, with zero hours contracts and wages and conditions dragged down to the lowest common denominator. What on earth possessed people to trust modern day Tories with Brexit – is beyond my comprehension.

I’m far from believing that EU membership is the Holy Grail, but at least it offered some stability. Brexit is proving to be an extremely complex project as many of us recognised that it would be, and sadly few if any of our politicians have the wisdom and intellectual capacity to deliver it efficiently. Expect the same c**k-up with farming as they have managed to achieve with every other task they have taken on.

nicktoeman4
nicktoeman4
3 years ago

After the UK abandoned Commonwealth Preference to join the EEC the New Zealand government offered subsidies to assist its farmers and by the early 1980s this provided some farmers with 40% of their income. Later this proved hideously expensive for the struggling NZ economy and in 1984 the Labour Government introduced reforms.

Clearly New Zealand is very different fromthe UK, especially with
respect to it’s agricultural industry. But did the change to its subsidy
regime result in lower environmental standards as the article tells us?

Natalija Svobodné
Natalija Svobodné
3 years ago

58% of a British farmer’s income is from subsidies.
it may be that we can never escape the need for subsides or indeed “protectionism”! Do we really want a race to the bottom environmentally or life quality because that is the current trend. Borders were designed to give a free-flow to cheap labour and money. Aka avoid tariffs and environmental / labour costs for business.
Open borders for the common person are a double edged sword.

The cold reality is capitalism can purchase goods in other countries where environment protections are non existent or worker protections and safety are un-accounted for or unimplemented

How could it be that an english farmer could be competitive in such a setup?….That is the thing that must change by law (but will not until it becomes economic to do so – laws must encourage this change!) Make pollution expensive for companies, make sure they have worker rights and safety as in the UK simply to ba a trading partner!

Farmers are kept to keep the skill alive hence the subsidy – but they should be more than that! This is the real tragedy of open border policy!
Our environment and quality of life and ability to be self sufficient are measured against profit by a small few and quality of life and environment here or there is seen as collateral rather than as a right for all!

Why not ask trading partners must adhere to british environmental standards and work and health safety standards incurring the same costs and responsibilities? better this was a worldwide standard – as surely all people deserve to live that way trading partners or no. Businesses must be held accountable to the environment! Its no good punishing the british farmers and workers who want to work in a safe environment with reasonable protections to then trade with other countries with no standards!

Buy local! and force change in policy to imports! it’s a better shot! which is better all round! We saw it in supply lines with corona evaporate. Imagine if things dried up never to return? Agriculture infrastructure is hard to implement and hard to replace. and with a food growing cycle to miss the timing means famine. Imports should have tariffs that make it just as expensive as home made!

Being food secure just makes sense as a national security measure!

Korina Wood
Korina Wood
3 years ago

A Free Market is just that, Farmers who are unable to make a profit charging high prices will go out of Business.. just a fact. Imagine if you were forced to pay more Tax to Amazon so that it could keep up its profit level. Paying one group a Subsidy is just wrong. New Zealand managed very well when their Farming subsidies were removed.

Waldo Warbler
Waldo Warbler
3 years ago

“Brexit is a betrayal of Britain’s farmers”What a shame that such a thoughtful and sensible article should be captioned by such a daft and erroneous headline.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago

So the title of the article should read “Government continues to ruin British Farms”.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

“people expect me to have some kind of intelligent opinion on what is happening and whether it is good or bad” Well based on this screed, they are clearly wrong

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

Why single out farmers?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

Because the author is a farmer……..

agsmith.uk
agsmith.uk
3 years ago

Ultimately, the consumer decides what should be produced and at what price. The competition between supermarkets certainly drives down prices charged by farmers but it is not in their interests for farmers to go out of business, providing they are producing goods that the consumer wants. Taxpayer subsidies to farmers are counter productive. If subsidies are necessary, they should be directed at those people in need, through the welfare system. There is no merit in paying more for something that you can get cheaper elsewhere. If cheaper food can be bought elsewhere, then maybe farmers should think about producing something different, more ‘niche’ and, potentially, more profitable! Government should get out of the way and stop trying to pick winners!

Steve Mires
Steve Mires
3 years ago
Reply to  agsmith.uk

More organic food perhaps would help.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago
Reply to  agsmith.uk

My only counter argument to this market based analysis is that the country needs to sustain its national resilience regarding food security even if it isn’t able to feed everyone.

This is the paradox that is yet to be solved. However I’d tend to agree with you, sort out the market framework and then tweak it to protect food resilience.

Certainly environmental goods and services can be niched and also the country could be encouraged to eat more lamb, mutton and fish.

Christin
Christin
3 years ago

Of interest is the almost total lack of information in the hands of voters about the nature and quantity of government “subsidies” for agriculture. Also of interest is the fact that “government” was responsible for the policies that are now seen as “catastrophic” and “not green”. Lol. So presumably the current batch of greasy politicians and bureaucrats will all be enlightened erudite champions of goodness and light. The author and some in the comment section seem to prefer to be told by the politicians what to plant, what to eat, and presumably what color undies to wear. Politicians have installed cameras on every corner, eavesdrop on every phone and email conversation, and now insist on telling everyone how many people are allowed at dinner. Take back your liberty. There’s an idea.

George
George
3 years ago

An excellent article, telling it how it is. How can the PM announce his fancy carbon reduction policy today before he has begun to think how it will be achieved?
Farmers operate the largest solar panel in the country (the land), and they have the ability to make a huge difference to CO2 levels by sequestering carbon, into crops, hedgerows, trees, and most importantly carbon rich soil, where frankly the sky is the limit.
At the same time they can feed much of the nation, and repair the damage done to ecosystems over the last 70 years. What we need is joined up policy, NOW, not in seven years time (ELMS if we are lucky), to turn us from nitrogen guzzling oil soaked trashers of the environment into truly carbon negative (why stop at neutral?) operators.
The new agriculture act is full of laudable objectives, but precious little detail on how it’s going to be done. What it does spell out is that we are going to have our food subsidy payments slashed well before there are any new schemes available that we are told will pay us for public goods. In 4 years time the wheels will have fallen off, and ELMS won’t even have begun.

As many have said before me, if we are to lose the ability to make money from producing food (via the subsidies we have been receiving), which itself often gets used to subsidise the huge amounts of environmental work that are already being done, then environmental work is going to get a hell of a lot more expensive.

Every farmer needs a go-to advisor, like our fathers had post war, with NAAS (National agricultural advisory service), not the trade, who are always trying to sell us something we don’t need. The advisor would be a friend bearing gifts, offering reward for changing to sustainable systems, with a big stick in their back pocket for those who don’t play ball.

Richard Fry
Richard Fry
3 years ago

Amongst many of the valid points made is the statement……It is not even clear that they have a methodology for paying for these natural outcomes……
If past performance is any guide, DEFRA will be unable to deliver ELM. That is the equivalent of turning the whole UK landmass into one giant Countryside Stewardship Scheme and they just do not have the delivery mechanisms, manpower or skills in place to do this. i predict this will be the case even in 7 years time – it is a train crash in the making.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Back in 1953, Coronation Year, farmland in England sold for about £100 per acre. Today it is £8,000 per acre.

If you were/are fortunate to be able sell for it for (that magic word) “redevelopment” multiply by thirty.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

I think we do have to listen to farmers..but also not just listen to them

(This stuff is always difficult.)

Speaking as someone who was brought up in the country and earned tax free black market money (though not much) when much younger than now digging sheep out of snowdrifts for farmers there are all sorts of things that sit like dots that aren’t joined up..and haven’t been for decades.

So I remember a farmer near Conistone, not to confused with Coniston, who over 30 years ago was getting money for keeping some rare plant going on some limestone pavement outcrops…so getting paid to keep the countryside decent seemed to be *a thing* back then I thought would rattle ahead, but in financial terms it doesn’t seem to have to have done.

Herdwick wool which seems always to be cheaper than chips…literally comparing fleece price to bag of chips price…is brilliant wool, but nobody ever seems to be able to find a way to market it into glossy catalogues in a way that would create demand (though with fast fashion now clearly responsible for so many environmental ills and up to child labour and slave labour) surely jumpers you are meant to wash when they get dirty not chuck away must be a thing whose time has come?

The same with farmers markets and what have you, there should be a way in t’digital age to organise this stuff at scale.

I could go on… but that’s three dots that never seem to get get joined up even though they sort of bounce around for years. The only thing that does seem to raise brass for those lucky enough not to marooned in the agri-business desret landscapes (ie in national parks or likewise) is tending to every single set of stones that ever remained remotely one on top of the other and either flog it or rent it. In Cumbria some towns became holiday homes towns years ago, but in lots of places now what used to be farms are little *communities* of holiday homes (basically)…which is because they aren’t being used as farms ….

It IS a massive problem and it’s like a sort of Sherlock Holmes plot, or Agatha Christie film more like; the clues are all there but there’s never a Hercule Poirot turns up to put them all together to produce the elegant solution of a countryside we all want to see.

That’s the countryside full of small artisan farmers producing the stuff we don’t mind paying Waitrose prices and more, to buy, and so able to support vibrant local economies to enjoy visting with more than than a few decent grub pubs, and change-over-day hubby and wife teams making any money.

Instead it’s a succession of Inspector Japps, and Captain Hastings’, endlessly arriving and departing at the various ministries, thrashing about enthusiastically on the most unimaginative wild goose chases decade after decade.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
3 years ago

A good article, perhaps upland farmers could replace their herds of sheep with herds of beaver if they want to contribute effectively to flood prevention.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Briatin stopped being wildwood about 5000 years ago. Today there are so many deer that young trees are prevented from growing and undergrowth is cleared which reduces habitats for organisms living on and close to woodland floor.

One could introduce wolves but they can travel 50 miles aday and prefer catching sheep rather than deer as it is easier.

Much flooding is taking place because ditches which also acted as mini reservoirs are no longer being cleared out due to environmental procedures.

Until people start understanding the evolution of the British landscape over the last 7000 years and perhaps even 10,000 years, expect a problem to be solved only for the actions to create more. One needs people such as Dr Oliver Rackham to make contributions and I suggest reading his “Illustrated History of the Countryside “. We also need people with a profound knowledge of agriculture in their counties to make a contribution; for example understanding pannage; the development of water meadows, the impact of the Anglo Saxon plough,soil improvement techniques through the ages, etc, etc.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago

The food supply chain is a matter of national security, it should not have been relegated to an absurdity of neo-liberal point scoring. That neo-liberal fantasising could easy result in UK ports welcoming food aid. The well-off may scoff at that possibility believing their wealth will give them an advantage but empty shelves curtail purchase for all.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

A poor article. A subsidy drunk remainer unable to look for the new opportunity. Farming receives EU CAP and British tax payer subsidies in large amounts and are as bad as people living on welfare. We need to be forward looking and accept technology such as GM and chlorine washed food. We should also not forget the system we have now has damaged the land, polluted the rivers as well as decimating wildlife along with food disasters such as BSE and salmonella eggs/chicken. Full open competition is needed and any support for farming should be for 3rd world countries.

David FĂŒlöp
David FĂŒlöp
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter KE

I think one of the lessons learned from WWII should be that for an island nation the ability to produce food is as important as the ability to manufacture ammunition.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago

Harking back to WWII is what gets you into this mess in the first place. It’s 2020. We don’t want to dig for victory so we can eat root vegetables and apples. We also don’t want to pay through the nose for the privilege. We want free trade in food while maintaining some reasonable level of basic self-sufficiency. This is what the UK had with the EU and CAP. The chlorinated chickens released by the jingoistic Brexit morons are coming home to roost.

David FĂŒlöp
David FĂŒlöp
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

I think we misunderstand each other. What I am saying is that in my opinion all countries should strive for being as self sufficient as possible. There is no reason to dig for victory at all – with modern agricultural practices Britain could be in a much better position than sixty years ago

I am an immigrant in Britain by the way and as such had no say in the brexit referendum.

Helen Barbara Doyle
Helen Barbara Doyle
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

Stupid reply. We should be self sufficient where we can be, this year illustrated that! We can’t rely on importing food, you don’t know what might happen, a global pandemic for instance.

And that is before we get onto the subject of food miles.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter KE

GM means genetic manipulation. The question what is being manipulated with what and for what purpose. One can manipulate a plant to cope with vast amounts of pesticide which kills weeds and pest which results in killing predators and polluting surface and groundwater.

Washed with chlorine occurs wjem uses water from the mains as it includes thism element.

To be for or against science is drivel. One must define precisely what one is doing, why and define possible outcomes and then measure them.

What we need to do is increase fertility of soil.

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago

The western world subsidizes food which freezes out 3rd world trading food at the cost of production. Any realistic contribution to climate change would stop the greed of the western world and trade fairly, globally. World health would improve; obesity in the west and poverty in the 3rd world. It is a moral scandal. Food subsidy encourages western folk to assume they can gobble away without consequesnces. Western Farmers ought to stop being part of this fraud, stop whinging and lead. If food was realistically priced, western govs would need to triple social payments. Morally it is unsustainable on every level to pay peanuts for our food.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

Don’t have the time to give the answers to your mostly wrong assumptions but get an undergraduate’s book on agricultural policy. You’ll learn something.

dick.martin
dick.martin
3 years ago

You say that the one or two places that don’t give subsidies have suffered dire ecological consequences. Is this true of New Zealand? Subsidies were removed in the 1980s and the country seems to have gone from strength to strength, doubtless largely because of its rich grassland. But one doesn’t read of dire ecological consequences. Might the UK emulate New Zealand or is there a reason why what worked there won’t work here?

Pete Rose
Pete Rose
3 years ago

The headline doesn’t match the content of the article. Come on Unherd, you can do so much better than click bait.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Rose

They really can’t

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

‘and ELM doesn’t replace the CAP’

Thank God for that then.

Bar the CFP, the CAP is probably one of the most immoral, inefficient, unsustainable, wasteful, environmentally damaging resolutely unreformable policies the European Project has ever put its name to, essentially forming the basis for the UK’s longstanding EU rebate and, after many decades, still accounting for around one third of the EU’s entire budget and yet only 6% of its GDP and only employing 3% of its workforce.

It’s there to promote food security, I get that, but primarily it’s there to promote price stability, keep food prices artificially low and prop up the European Project’s political and economic status quo, as well as lining the pockets and sustaining the disproportionate lobbying power of big European agribusinesses.

It’s all very well making the broadbrush claim that UK farming can’t survive without it, but the author himself admits that all these innumerable terrible decisions have been made over decades of its implementation during the UK’s membership of the EU despite it repeatedly pressuring for its reform.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Agree with most, but not the “keep food prices artificially low” bit. If the EU wanted lower food prices it would just abolish its high tariffs on agricultural imports. It is content to have prices higher than world prices because of food security objectives (which you mention). And, in the imperial plans of Brussels, autarky is desirable for its own sake.

charles.reese
charles.reese
3 years ago

I think George Eustice, the PR man turned Secretary of State for the Environment, was still telling homely stories about his Cornish farming grandfather…”
With this dishonest opening sentence you have completely undermined your argument. Eustace was brought up, and worked for nine years, on his family farm. If you choose to lie in the first words of your article, how can I believe any of it? The major premise of your piece, that “Eustace doesn’t know anything about farming but I do because I’m a farmer and he never has been” is false. Presumably the rest of the argument is also false.

animal lover
animal lover
3 years ago

The reason they are vague about the future is because under The Great Reset, no one is supposed to own property anymore.

Mike Ferro
Mike Ferro
3 years ago

We had all this a couple of centuries ago with the Corn Laws, the farming and landowning interest up against the much wider interest of more affordable food for the consumer (ie the rest of us).
The consumer won, the Corn Laws were repealed, food became more affordable, the economy boomed and the farmers got over it.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

Currently in this country there are around 175000 people employed full or part time in agriculture including the farm owners themselves. They simply don’t have the numbers to exercise any clout and certainly not when compared to their French counterparts who number almost a million. Measured against farms across the EU, UK agriculture is exceptionally efficient and has been so for a long time. However, the benefits of that efficiency are not harvested by the producers but by the retailers who have a hold on food distribution and sales. Farmers markets and initiatives to promote local produce are a help, but they are simply not enough. Brexit and the ability to escape the stranglehold of subsidies should help British farming much as it did New Zealand’s, but as there is nothing new about our farmers being let down by British governments, I am not optimistic.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

Why is this stale stuff being regurgitated? The author’s fears of very high tariffs on exports to the EU haven’t materialised, so the immediate “catastrophic” scenario has been avoided (though, of course, it would not have been catastrophic – famers love to talk in cataclysmic terms). In any case, the main market is the UK – we are hardly self-sufficient!

I agree with the author about the vagueness of the Govt’s plans but the general direction is clear – payment for maintaining the environment, and no payments directly linked to production which are illegal anyway under the WTO. One wonders what would satisfy farmers. A guaranteed income for every acre? They have been featherbedded ever since the 1947 Agriculture Act, and just when the feathers were getting a bit thin, along came the EEC with the French designed CAP which de Gaulle hoped would keep his farmers comfortable but which for UK farmers in the 70s was like winning the Jackpot. The larger the farm, the more the subsidy, and the UK had very large farms compared with their continental counterparts.

Some of the gloss came off the CAP first with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (though there were those nice area payments in compensation) and then with Enlargement in 2004 when the goodies had to be shared with the farmers of central & eastern Europe. But it was still a system which provided plenty of support to farmers, even if it did not help the environment.

The direction that policy is taking should be applauded but since every man and his dog has an opinion on how payment for the environment should be measured and implemented there will be a vast amount of disagreement over it. The NFU naturally will fight it tooth and nail – its main constituency are the large arable farmers who would feel their production methods under closer scrutiny, and the very large zero grazed (=permanently housed) dairy and beef herds would also feel the gaze of Government and public on their dubious production methods.

But since anything that affects the farmer’s “independence” or freedom to farm as he pleases is seen as bureaucratic interference one can see the resistance already forming. It’s just a ploy of course, a bargaining position, to push up the price of co-operation. A subsidy is of course a farmer’s right, and if you want anything in return you must offer a larger subsidy.

I see the latest outcry from the farming lobby is against a potential free trade deal with Oz and NZ. They want EU farmers to have preferential access compared with our southern cousins. They seem not to understand that southern hemisphere farming will be competing as much with EU farmers as with them. And Oz/NZ farmers don’t get the generous subsidies that they and the EU farmers get. And they have to overcome the handicap of 12000 miles. But no matter. UK farmers are already squealing like their livestock when they take them to the abattoir

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
3 years ago

Of course, UK farming should prosper with state support. That would be much more readily financiable if consumer prices were rock bottom. That was the system prior to EEC entry. Why should it not be now?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago

What an utter load of protectionist baloney and special pleading. Food production cannot be achieved without subsidy – an unbelievable statement.

The author should read up his history about the abolition of the Corn Laws, which was a huge boost for the British poor (but who cares about them).

By the way, with net zero targets and setting aside more land for wildlife and nature, we need greater intensification of agriculture, not less.

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
3 years ago

I see two salient issues. They are related but separate.

What should agricultural subsidy look like? Should farmers be paid to produce food for people to eat or a pastiche of bucolic rural Englandshire for foodiies and self indulgent environmental writers to drool over?

Why hasn’t the government got whatever system it is going to impose into place in good time for the industry to be able to plan how to adapt to any changes.

When 90% of the population have absolutely no relationship with the land living in urban agglomerations, the debate about the objectives of subsidy needs to be openly discussed. For myself, I value good food over so called environmental enhancements. But that is just one opinion.

However, nothing about what we may like to see happen matters at all if there is still no coherent system in place that the industry can work with. We have been let down by politicians and the civil service yet again.