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Britain betrays its farmers again The new trade deal with Australia will be an unmitigated disaster

Farmers will have to intensify or die. Photographer: Bethany Clarke/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Farmers will have to intensify or die. Photographer: Bethany Clarke/Bloomberg via Getty Images


June 21, 2021   5 mins

I usually love this time of year: it fills me with hope. My ewes and lambs are belly-deep in grass, Matterdale about as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it. But today I am as hopeless as I have ever been — about the future of our countryside. The British government has signed a free trade deal with Australia that will not only do immediate harm, but also set the tone for how we’re going to manage the British landscape for many years to come.

I am not starry-eyed about rural Britain or the state of farming. My last book, English Pastoral, was about the mess we’re in and why. We seem unable to understand — or care enough about — creating food systems that reconcile farming with nature. There is, whether we want to hear it or not, a collapse in farmland biodiversity. Since more than 70% of Britain is farmed, that collapse is devastating. And yes, a lot of this happened under the EU’s frequently barmy Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

We got into our current mess by copying the intensive farming methods of other countries after WWII: hyper-specialisation; mono-cultures; ending mixed rotational farming; making fields ever bigger; using artificial nutrients, herbicides and insecticides; over-ploughing; and separating animal livestock into intensive systems that are grain or soy-based — all propped up with an armoury of medicines, wormers and insecticides.

We took some of the edges off these policies by being in the EU, which regulated and constrained our agriculture (it was quick to ban antibiotics as growth promoters, for example — something that’s still legal in the US). For better or worse, we now have farming standards and sensibilities aligned with the EU.

Post-Brexit, we had a choice. Would we ask British farmers to compete with the rest of the world on equal terms — or not? Competing on equal terms under free trade would mean we’d have to follow the methods of other countries — probably of the world’s most intensive farming landscapes.

But we wanted something better on our islands. We were told that Brexit could be “green”, with farmers protected and rewarded for working with nature, not against it. We were told repeatedly by the Government that it wouldn’t sign trade deals that would allow imports of food produced in systems with lower standards. We were told that allowing them was unfair and would undermine efforts here to do better. Our farmers, we were told, would be asked to do exceptional things — and supported, but not through the blunt EU tool of propping up farmer incomes.

Many farmers were up for that. I was one of them. On our farm in the Lake District, we’re planting 25,000 trees, restoring three miles of hedgerow, restoring our old wildflower hay meadows, re-wiggling rivers and creating wetlands.

It is possible to find sensitive ways to produce great food, while helping repair nature in the British landscape. But when we signed the trade deal with Australia, we killed this idea stone dead. Now, we are asking British farmers to compete with Australian farmers on equal terms of free trade — regardless of the impact that competition might have. Regardless of their production methods and systems.

Welfare and environmental standards are completely different in Australia. According to the RSPCA, Australian farmers are legally allowed to keep hens in battery cages and sows in stalls. They can feed hormones to and hot-brand their cattle and take the skin off sheep in a practice called “mulesing” (perhaps don’t Google it). Of course, Australians can make their own rules and live by them, and you can make your own mind up about each of these practices. Not all Australian farms use them, but that’s not the point. The point is that all of these things are legal in Australia and banned in Britain.

The problem is not that Australian farmers are terrible or have an awful product. I’ve been on many Australian farms. They are fine people, and some are exceptional farmers (I have learnt a lot from them). They operate in an entirely different ecological and economic context, and the British people have a different sensibility about key issues. There is no credible defence for allowing foreign farmers to import their produce into our country, when they can undercut us by farming beneath standards we insist on here. Especially if this fact is then hidden from shoppers by vague labelling, or hidden in processed or cooked foods.

No one wants our farmers to achieve the scale of Australian sheep farms. The British landscape can’t scale up enough to compete, without grave damage to its remaining biodiversity. Ideally, we need a landscape of small fields with hedges, wildflowers, grasses, scrub and trees — which allow our native flora and fauna to thrive. There is no doubt that we can feed ourselves well from better farming, if we get serious about it and support it.

But this week British farmers realised that, for all the “green” talk, we are now being asked to do more (not less) of the things that got us into our current mess. Get big. Get efficient. Or get out.

There is, theoretically, an emerging system (called “Environmental Land Management Schemes” or ELMS) that might reward farmers for promoting public goods — nature — alongside their farming. But in practice it is nowhere to be seen, probably highly bureaucratic, and almost certainly lowers the income of farmers relative to the old CAP system — therefore increasing the pressures to exploit land more, not less.

The problem is ideological — it is all based on a misunderstanding that we can be as “efficient” as North America on our productive land and have nature round the edges. We can’t. We actually need patchwork mixed farming landscapes that replicate our native ecosystems. Farming intensification robs us of that. This isn’t debatable, it is the ecological truth.

In the wake of the Australian free trade agreement, we will be told the usual nonsense about cheapening food for the poorest in our society. (The people who say this don’t care two hoots about poverty in any other context.) In reality, cheapening food is more often a mask for the horrific cheapening of labour, and a sop for people caught on the wrong end of systemic inequalities. Let the plebs eat KFC — but for God’s sake don’t raise taxes and redistribute wealth.

This should be seen for what it is. A displacement. A scam. A government that won’t put its own land and its people first isn’t worthy of the name. It is little more than a self-serving ideological cult.

Farmers are drawing a simple and obvious conclusion: intensify or die. And this is a disaster for the British landscape: a total, unmitigated disaster that will unfold over the years.

Perhaps worst of all, for me, is that this deal has killed support among farmers for higher welfare and ecological standards and regulation. I can’t win that argument with my farming friends now — not now they’re unprotected from being undercut by imports. They say, “We are competing with lower standards 
 We don’t run fucking butterfly farms”. Sadly, they have to do what they have to do, and we will all be the poorer for it.


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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Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
3 years ago

So free trade with our cousins and greatest allies is bad, free trade with our hostile neighbours in the EU is good.

There is nothing in the deal that will permit lower standards. If anything, by restricting the amount of meat that could be imported, this was a total sop to Irish agriculture and the deeply hostile Irish government.

Utter nonsense.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ri Bradach
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

I remember the old days in Ireland where every white collar person wanted to own a couple acres in the country where they could keep a cow or two sheep and thus be called a farm and pay no tax. Like having a second home without rates, and likely positive tax consequences as well.

Ag is a very weird thing everywhere. Here in the South USA tree planting is the thing for tax purposes – but it also made timber sustainable and very well managed indeed. I remember France in the 1970s where the small farmer was given welfare as the French so loved the good native food and scenery which ag/industry could not produce.
I think the Farmer needs some direct subsidy just for being a small farmer. If the urban can get the dole for just farming children, the country person deserves the dole for farming farms.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

Greg, do you know where a lot of your meat & dairy comes from? Yes, those pesky Irish that skewed the grandeur of Brexit. England can o my produce 60% of its own food. Wee backward Ireland on the other hand (total population 5.9M produces enough food to feed 35M. Most of that goes into England. Hie cheeky of us to feed you.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Never said anything to demean Ireland, only that Ireland is deeply hostile to Britain – as you prove with your chip on shoulder misread – and that Britain should not favour a self appointed enemy over an ally.

Ben Pattinson
Ben Pattinson
3 years ago
Reply to  Ri Bradach

The deal allows the tariff free import of products that have been produced in a “lower welfare” environment than our own in the UK, thus it does permit lower standards.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Pattinson

Wrong. Contrary to the diktat from Brussels, the deal specifically preserves the right of both nations to set their own phytosanitary standards.

https://briefingsforbritain.co.uk/some-uk-farms-can-compete-with-australia/

Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

We’ll have to make some compromises as our islands are too small to feed 70m people especially if we only have non-intensive agriculture. I understand the trade changes happen slowly over 10 years and that Oz has a job meeting Asian demand for its products. We had an RSPCA article last week which was taken apart by UnHerd commenters. Global Britain has got to mean global food in some context.
I would prefer some informed references to the trade text rather than emotive opinionated overviews before making a conclusion.

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

For that, I’d direct you to the brilliant Catherine McBride. An economist, free trade advocate and Brexiteer, she argues convincingly with direct reference to the text that she has expertly reduced to its salient points.
To read her findings is to give cause to a pang of despair that there are far too many fools involved in the drafting and to realise that there is a significant degree of Stockholm syndrome at play vis the EU.

ralph bell
ralph bell
3 years ago

I agree with much of the deep understanding and passion the author has for the British landscape. But as others have pointed out it should have a very small effect on UK farming and will be fazed over 10 years. Therefore integrating this deal with the new environments goals and ensuring fair trading whilst maintaining high welfare standards should allow farming in the UK to be more sustainable and attractive to the future generations.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  ralph bell

no one gives a damn about woke ” sustainable”…

sam_davies
sam_davies
3 years ago

Forgive me, but isn’t there a set of laws that prevent foods that don’t meet certain production standards being sold? And if not would that not be the obvious solution? If retailers can only sell produce farmed to particular standards, it would mean Australian farmers wishing to export to us would have to meet those standards… Or no one will stock their produce. I may be over simplifying….

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago
Reply to  sam_davies

You are correct.
Trade deals are simply about lowering the imposed costs of doing business between countries.
To cut to what they are really nervous about, UK farmers will continue to be massively subsidised, of course, except the cash will come direct from the UK without being filtered through EU kidneys first.

Ben Pattinson
Ben Pattinson
3 years ago
Reply to  sam_davies

Unfortunately I don’t think there are a set of laws that prevent foods produced to lower standards entering our markets. Its not about protectionism its about UK farmers wanting a level playing field. Simply put, if we have to import food that can produced on these shores, then it should be produced to the same standards that our farmers have to adhere to. Simple obviously but not what is happening.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago

What nonsense.
For a start, Australian cattle are far more likely to be free-range and pasture-fed than UK cattle.
Furthermore, this deal is not just about beef, or even substantially about beef, despite all the activist bleating, or should I say mooing.
Not to mention that the RSPCA in Australia has been infiltrated by PETA-types (who would do the same hit job on British beef farmers if it suited their cause).

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
3 years ago

This is a case where we have been in a protectionist system with with high subsidies that has a tendency to generate inefficiency. The price the general public has to pay for that is higher food costs. There are many who find the costs prohibitive. The inevitability of lower standards and farming intensification is not certain. There is strong pressure from the UK public to maintain high standards and any government who gets rid of them will be voted out. Where can you also show Australian imports do not comply with high standards, or standards are not kept in the free trade deal? 40 years ago the UK stabbed the commonwealth in the back by joining the EU. Take a look at how the New Zealand agricultural sector had to adapt and transform in the 1970’s and 1980’s to become competitive in the open world market. Look how UK farming had to respond in history to the repeal of the corn laws. What you should be campaigning for is government support to adapt and innovate to become more competitive and play to the UK strengths, instead of peddling socialist nonsense.

Oan Osborne
Oan Osborne
3 years ago

James, I’ve read your books so I know you’ve worked on Australian farms. And that’s what we call them, “farms”, not “ranches” (the really big ones are “stations”). So I’m surprised that you seem to be confusing Australian agriculture with America.

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 years ago

The only suggestion I have here is to enforce strict source labelling for Australian imported meat, and see if consumers really care all that much about ecological and animal welfare standards. While I sympathise with UK farmers facing sudden undercutting now we’re all outside the EU, the fact remains that cheaper imports were a key promise of Brexit, and they’re actually being delivered as promised.

If it is not possible for the UK farming industry to scale up in the ways US and Australian farms do, that is sad, but it does not invalidate the case for cheaper imports: in fact it strengthens the case for them by creating the argument that part of the economic growth created by cheap imports can be used for subsidies to the UK farming industry to maintain biodiversity further than is presently possible.

The other point has to be that irrespective of the price differences, this will provide the UK consumer with more choice, and that’s a good thing in itself. Virtually every food product you can buy here comes in varieties distinguished by both price and quality, and they all sell, so while market share may fall for some UK products in the home market, they won’t disappear. Additionally, the trade deal cuts both ways: Australian farmers are currently incapable of meeting demand for beef from their existing Asian export markets: are we really saying that the UK market is about to be flooded with beef under such circumstances? It is surely also possible that this opens up export markets for premium UK beef, isn’t it?

Anyway to return to the first point I made, all objections to price undercutting make the (usually unstated) assumption that protectionism is an acceptable alternative. It never is. If you say then that this is callous towards the UK farmers in question, you must also admit that your own preferred alternative involves being callous towards UK consumers. If you say that even so the protectionism is preferable: fine, but prove it. Don’t pretend that the trade-off in question isn’t real or somehow doesn’t matter. It does matter, and there’s no way around the fact.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Riordan
Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
3 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

You probably won’t see much of it in the shops, but people will be eating it in the hospitals & your kids will ge getting it in school. Because only one thing matters in catering for the public sector- price. Nothing else ( despite all the promises) matters. It’s price that rules

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

Farmers are rotten at marketing their product, most of them, though it is improving. If what is produced is kinder, healthier, and environmentally friendly, then market it as such, there’s enough people prepared to pay a premium

Last edited 3 years ago by JR Stoker
Hugh Eveleigh
Hugh Eveleigh
3 years ago

Many points you raise are sensible and measured but I think you are completely wrong in your analysis of the future. Australia, which you know and which I was brought up in, is one of our closest friends or they were until we entered the EU in ’73 and I can assure you that that was an ‘unmitigated (short term) disaster’ for Aussie and NZ farmers and it lost us years and years of goodwill. We absolutely must have a free trade deal with Australia and there is a long 15 year clause built into the agreement which will soften any short term disruption.
Personally I buy all meat from registered ‘family’ butchers with connexions to specific farms and I will never change my habits in respect to this. We can and must develop the highest possible standards of animal welfare in the UK and we shall then have an internal market as before, but it will grow, and we can export the highest welfare-based products to Aust and beyond. The possibilities are huge but it needs farmers like yourselves to up the game and show the world just how good we can be. Aussie meat will surely be labelled and people can make their choice. If our standards of welfare are unsurpassed people will continue to pay the extra.
I appreciate that the deal is not meat-centric – there will be many other non-animal products so it is not all about farming but I do feel strongly that this is the chance to reveal to the world that we have the highest animal welfare standards and that you and others are working toward achieving that goal as soon as possible.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Eveleigh

Are you aware that you belong to a tiny privileged elite who can afford good food?

Ri Bradach
Ri Bradach
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Eveleigh

As with anything when it comes to foods and consumer goods, labelling is key and provides choice to the consumer to make an informed decision on a mix of values.

Your choice to buy from family butchers that use identified farms is case in point and your value mix is driven by key factors other than price. I agree with you and am privileged to make the same choice.

However, for all those who don’t have the income to make that choice, the competition is welcome and allows them to make decisions based upon a value mix in which cost is a key determinant.

Consumers should not be forced to make choices on deleterious terms to protect uneconomic activity.

Alexandra Stonor
Alexandra Stonor
3 years ago

Importing from the other side of the world? How will this impact the green agenda? Shouldn’t we be reducing the air miles of our food?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago

Do you seriously think beef imports arrive by plane? That’s reserved for the out-of-season fresh veg (beloved by greenies and vegans) that mysteriously arrive here in winter from South America, Africa and Australasia.

Stuart Y
Stuart Y
3 years ago

And it might “go off” according to Emily Thornberry.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

No.. only wokes care about green

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
3 years ago

Good news is that time will be given to regroup. It is paramount that financial incentives continue, or increase, for biodiversity project. And paramount that labelling is clear and understandable. The market is increasingly concerned about welfare and ethics and will “vote” with its purse. The competition can only accelerate a better outcome for our farming stock. The idea of flooding the shops with cheap meat is scaremongering. It could also be remembered that the seasons dove tail neatly.

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
3 years ago

It is only the middle class market that can afford to be concerned about animal welfare. Most UK consumers buy on price. However if Farmers were strategic they would ask for payments for flood protection, increased wilding etc. Pity they opt for protectionism instead..

Last edited 3 years ago by Mark Walker
Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Walker

Sadly Mark. You appear to know little about how the system works.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Walker

most middle classes would not know a cow from a badger

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

What will be the price of Australian beef, lamb, pork, chicken, apples, wine , beer compared to British ? You need to prove Australian produce will be cheaper for the same quality.
Surely part of the problem is that supermarkets keep prices down for farmers. If farmers sold directly to consumers they could increase profit margins. Could farmers recreate their own marketing boards ?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Supermarkets are about maximising profits.
In Australia, a major chain got involved with the RSPCA in order to get around the tight standards required of organic produce. The result is now their “RSPCA-approved” chicken, which needless to say, does not meet the organic standards. But the labelling sounds good.
If you thought chlorinated chicken from the USA was the major threat to British food standards, think again. It is true that much beef here in Australia is hormone-injected. Proof of this may be seen in desperate labelling highlighting alternative “hormone-free” meat. Same goes for pigs confined to stalls; free-range pork has to be labelled, the rest doesn’t. As for eggs, well their marketing board resisted labelling free-range eggs for years. Eventually it lost the battle, so then a cat-and-mouse game ensued where the legal meaning of “free range” was challenged repeatedly. Losing that one too in the end, the egg-boys are now trying to relabel cage-laid eggs as something intimate, warm and cosy. Very desirable!
Some time ago the government knocked back labelling distinguishing GM-free food, so it’s now impossible to buy soy products or similar to avoid the Monsanto empire.
For the past several years, major supermarket chains here have been engaged in a price war over fresh milk, which reached such extreme levels the local farmers supplying them were literally being sent broke and forced to sell up to big corporations, often overseas owned. This was advertised as “keeping prices down” to serve the consumer, but of course, the consumer was just a nice-sounding excuse for conducting out-of-control competition wars that ended up hurting everybody except the supermarkets’ bottom line.
Lying and cheating has become baked in on the boards of most of the organisations representing farmers, the organic/biodynamic sector excepted. They call it “marketing”. The bottom half of the population trying to live beneath Australia’s huge wealth gap can no longer afford crayfish or other seafood that used to be every family’s regular treat here. Lamb is right now crossing that unaffordability threshold. Some seafood is now unavailable outside expensive restaurants, because 90% is exported to the tables of UK and Europe. These farmers could not care less about their local population. They would export their grandmother if they thought they could get away with it and make more money.
Meanwhile, in one of the richest countries in the world, the dispossessed and unemployed and abused and vulnerable and young scrabble through the waste bins out back of the supermarkets to salvage scraps and discards that have passed their use-by date, while buying only the cheapest unhealthy processsed stuff inside, because they cannot afford anything better.
The market has no morals, and free trade is ripe for rich pickings by those in the know.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

How much RSPCA and Organic Certification is pushing up costs? I buy lamb at ÂŁ7.50 from a farm where they do not use medicines routinely. Animals are fed on grass and home gown cereals if needed. The animals range freely. They are not organic.The meat is superb. They use medicines, pesticides and fertilisers very sparingly. They appear to have a common sense sense approach to farming.
One aspect which is ignored is that people are not trained to cook. I remember working in a poor area in a supermarket. People were buying tinned vegetables when from 4pm on a Saturday, outside in the street market, stall holders were practically giving produced away fruit and vegetables. One stall used to sell Stilton, Cheddar and bacon past it sell by date for 3lb per ÂŁ1, it was superb.
If one buys fruit and vegetables after 4pm on Saturdays and stick to chicken and pork when supermarkets have reduced prices, one can greatly reduce one’s food bills. Stir fries using basic brown rise, vegetables and meat are very cheap. Tomatoes and fruit going soft can be turned into sauces and preserves.
Jamie Oliver did a documentary which showed up peoples lack of cooking skills. Also in one of his documentary a hospital on the coast did not buy it’s fish from the local seaport but from a warehouse hundreds of miles away.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Thank you for this unblinkered, if depressing account.

Rebecca Pearce
Rebecca Pearce
3 years ago

Thank you for this piece, I totally agree with you on this – and feel pretty despondent about it.
I married into (and work in) Agriculture and we all voted Remain for a variety of sound reasons – including that we did not trust  the “Green and Welfare” elements of the promises made. How I wish that we had been proved wrong and that this opportunity had been grasped as a chance to actually make a difference.
It should be so obvious that the difference in scale / populations / standards make it impossible to replicated, and nor should we. The “cheap food for the poorer end of society” is, as you say, frequently trumpeted by those who also think that the opening of more food banks is a good thing, instead of looking at the cause.
The deliberate clouding of the labelling and country of processing does not help and of course, price will always be the main decider when buying – this is in no way a criticism, but it is a fact for the majority of shoppers.  Added to the disconnect between the consumer and the grower – we live in one of the main veg and cereal growing areas of the UK and still there are so many people who can’t identify veg and some who treat the countryside appallingly. 
We run a FB page for our farm – mostly to try and share information and photos about what we we are doing and why and a lot of people are interested. It was set up as there are many people on all social media platforms, or IRL, who think (and say) that Farming is a job for the uneducated 
. Or that we’re all subsidy grabbing, bee killing, pesticide wielding, loud machinery driving, neighbour irritating, hunting/shooting, Brexit voting, expensive 4×4 driving, red chino wearing, murdering, rich landowners who don’t care what damage is done to the countryside – and to try in a small way to counteract this ie we really are not all like this or all these things
there’s so much involved in all aspects of farming, and most farmers view themselves as custodians of the land.
 But, if they are opinions held – like the often trotted out, “All farmers voted for Brexit, they all had signs up, they deserve what they get” (they didn’t, we didn’t, we aren’t all landowners who get to decide signage etc) How can we – as a sector – ask people to care? How can we demonstrate what we do now compared to what is being asked/foisted on us?
 The damage that this will do to our landscape and eco-system, animal welfare, and UK Farming in general is too scary to contemplate. I hope we are wrong, but I suspect that is a forlorn hope.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca Pearce

Removing cooking classes from school greatly reduced peoples understanding of food.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Rebecca Pearce

you left out ” Schoffel wearing”…

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
3 years ago

Deleted. I was talking bollocks again.

Last edited 3 years ago by Antony Hirst
John Urwin
John Urwin
3 years ago

I have read English Pastoral and Field Work by Bella Bathurst, so have considerable sympathy with James Rebanks’ views. However, farming is less than 1% of GDP and the UK must join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership which is worth ÂŁ9 trillion. This will rise should the US eventually join.
Tourism in the countryside is worth about 10 times the value of farming, but farming does help to create our very attractive environment which tourists enjoy, so must in its turn be supported. Under the CAP, farming was subsidised by ÂŁ3 billion of which ÂŁ2 billion was paid to farmers for just owning land, and the CAP was introduced to subsidise mainly French farmers. De Gaulle kept the UK out of the Common Market until he had sewn up the CAP. Hence a different approach is needed. The economist Professor Dieter Helm, in his book Green and Prosperous Land sets out the damage that intensive farming has done to our wildlife, water courses etc and proposes a way forward. While James Rebanks may disagree with some of Dieter Helm’s proposals, how effective will he be just shouting from the sidelines? Dieter Helm is independent chair of the Natural Capital Committee so is close to government. Could the two of them be an effective lobby?
Regarding cheap food, until people realise that the appalling state of health of the UK population (frequently raised by MD in Private Eye) is due largely to the food we are eating, nothing will change. Most health campaigns are ineffective, but the anti smoking one is the exception. How can we formulate a campaign that works in favour of simple good food and against the processed pap peddled by the supermarkets? If we can, then our farmers will be saved and we all win.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
3 years ago

I fully agree James. Let’s not forget that it was the same Michael Gove (of big red bus fame) who coined the phrase ‘public money for public good’. That was designed to pitch the public against the farmer by suggesting that previously farmers got public money for doing nothing. He knew full well that under the EU subsidy system ( flawed as it was) subsidy was paid to the person actually farming the land. That safeguard was inserted in the regulations at the request of farming organisations in 2011 as real farmers were fed up with property magnates & celebrities buying up farms just to claim the subsidy.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Should state organisations, Police, Armed Services . NHS. Councils, Prisons buy food from local farmers ?Farmers and cooks would discuss menus and food supplies. Eat local and seasonal.
How much food is discarded or sold at low prices due to being wrong shape ?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

A local farm shop sells shoulder of lamb and pork at ÂŁ7.50/Kg while a supermarket sells shoulder of lamb at ÂŁ8.50 kg.
Why do customers be they the individuals, hotels, Government not buy direct from farms? We have the inter net. Buy locally and seasonally. Reduce transport miles.
There needs to be a detailed analysis of food production; production costs; distances travelled; role of supermarkets, buying by Government, large private companies; food wasted due to regulations, etc .
I am consider that by farmers selling direct to customers; food buying based upon season and locality; use or internet so major buyers inform farmers weeks to months ahead of time; removing regulations on size and shape which cause waste; farmers can increase profits and consumers eat better quality. However, this requires peoples with a breadth of knowledge, and capacity for innovation whichis not encouraged. We need a Barnes Wallis of the farming and food world, combining vast practical,experience’brilliant understanding of theory, vast patience and excpetional vision.

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
3 years ago

I would urge all of you to learn more about the escalating ecological crisis. We need a profound cultural shift away from growth economics. Please check out my proposals for a United Aspiration to restore 50% of Earths biocapacity to wildlife. I am urging schools to teach the science of global ecological overshoot. Why does the UNHERD.com platform not educate its readers in these important matters? We are in the middle of ecological collapse and there is barely an article on this subject to be seen anywhere. This was my email to UNFCCC World Population Day 2021 – Poems For Parliament

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

dream on eco sandaloid…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Sadly, the type of person in government and the vast majority of voters know nothing about farming, and the Min of Ag and NFU have been utterly and shamedly derelict in duty in any lobbying, let alone powerful lobbying ( as in the US) on behalf of livestock farmers in the UK.

The septic ” woke” ignorance so oleaginously and unctuously pandered to by Johnson, had had a devastating effect.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago

I found this article to be up to date and factually accurate, truthful in its feeling, and movingly moral in its concern for people, both farmers and non-farmers, and for the animals and plants of our environment..
I speak as someone who has lived in both UK and Australia, over extended periods, with farmers as my closest neighbours. I have owned a farm at one point myself. I currently live in one of Australia’s richest farming regions, so can speak from up-to-date personal experience.
Mr Rebanks, you should know that there are many, many of us here in Australia who feel exactly as you do—we are organised, and both directly and indirectly are deeply concerned with farming and conservation of the natural environment everywhere. We, too, have shed blood over the years trying to educate those who do not want to know about the serious issues currently threatening, not just our living standards, but the survival of our values as human beings.
The key issues are no longer what people know: knowledge is out there now in unlimited quantities, at all levels, for anyone who is genuinely wanting to find out the facts. Just go to the Internet

No, the key issues now concern those who do not want to know. They abound still, and they are currently engaged in a backlash against every form of progress, solidifying themselves socially and politically into a fossil caught in the dry-ice, brought up short and incapable of further learning or evolution.
It therefore flies in the face of the facts to trust the word of any of the die-hard retrogressives who can only look backwards and try to bring back the olden days.
The UK moved forward when it joined the EU in the 1970s as an act of faith in the future. It has now lost its way in the 2020s. The same may be said of Australia, which has not yet overcome its psychology as a convict colony and its consequent love-hate relationship with its former masters. Governments of both countries are currently in thrall to pseudo-populist non-ideologies; both have a history of continued cynical dissimulation and horrible immoral lying; both are servants of Mammon, who himself is one of the principal servants of Satan. Australia differs from the UK in one key respect, however, which makes it even worse: its Prime Minister and several key senior members of the federal cabinet are active members of a fundamentalist pentecostal cult whose spiritual antecedents are linked to those of Trumpism in the US.
The naivety of some of those posting here is truly worrying: do not believe a word the two governments say, please, because they have on both sides proven themselves over and over again to be totally untrustworthy.
Those on the side of progress should beware of allowing themselves to be drawn into false us-versus-them wars based in outdated and eroding ethnicities, of being beguiled without questioning into shallow faith in the supposed universal benefits of competition.
Competition is just one half of a duality: competition and cooperation. One cannot exist without the other, by definition. Competition is “I”; it is selfish on its own. Cooperation is “We”; it is stagnant without its complement.
The Prime Ministers of the UK and Australia are respectively a former populist journalist and a former smooth marketing man. Expect nothing more from either Boris writing for Doris or Scotty from Marketing.

Stuart Y
Stuart Y
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Thats us “telt” discussion over. Thanks for knowing whats best for the rest of us.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Y

What does “telt” mean? Is that an English word suited to the international readership here, or is it some super-secret in-group smarty-pants code word designed to send signals to fellow believers?
I presume you mean, “Don’t you tell me what to do!”
I was under the impression that Unherd‘s platform invites those who feel they have a worthwhile new or deeper angle to contribute, to add their voices to the discussion.
The super-individualistic anglo world seems to resent anyone telling it anything these days about how it ought to behave. Morality and ethics appear to be taboo subjects. Personal abuse and Little Englander putdown now substitute for true thinking and good humour.
That’s more than a pity, because without morals and good ethics, as well as a cultivated sense of what is genuinely funny rather than just spiteful and nasty, we are done for.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I think “Thats us telt” is Scottish vernacular.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago

I think “Thats us telt” is Scottish vernacular.
Ah, thankyou. If Stuart Y is a Scot, he is likely to be the product of a much better education system than that in England, plus now the Scots are supposed to be far more cosmopolitan and internationalist, so he should know better. But there I go, telling people how to behave again


Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I too don’t know what ‘telt’ means and I feel rather as you do that there are often knee jerk reactions here to opinions that are not shared. But please don’t go away. You are right about the mission of Unherd so keep making your contributions!

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago

A kind response. Thankyou. I will persevere.
I am reminded of the Guardian a few years ago, actually, where articles on certain topics were guaranteed to provoke a slanging match of hate-filled one-liners, all opinionated fact-free condemnation. This tended to originate from a small minority, but their insertions were aggressive, and were coming close to making it very difficult to read through the worthwhile contributions.
Then the mods seemed to change their approach, and commentary these days is much more civil. There will always be variation in quality, of course, and always difference of opinion, and these are fine—they are what one is looking for; but I do find basic civility makes all the difference to my experience of the discussions.
I expect Unherd will settle down and refine its tone, given time.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I suggest you read Peter Shore’s “Separate Ways ” and Cecil Kings Diary 1970-1974. Post Suez, the FCO had a nervous breakdown and by the 1960s strikes had crippled British Industry and were were the sick man of Europe. By the early 1970s people like King thought wewere heading towards Third World Status. The Ruling Class were desperate to join the EEC which is why Heath sacrificed our fishing industry to gain entry. Basically, since 1942, the Ruling Class lost confidence in itself ( whether politician of Left or Right, Civil Servant, Banker , Lawyer, Academic, Journalist , Directors of most Large Companies ) and have lacked the hardiness, enterprise and individuality which made Britain great and chose the easiest option of maintaining their comfort and status.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thankyou, yes, I was living in England in the early ’70s, just before the UK decided to join.
I was not particularly political in those days, but when I left to return to Australia, I took away a vivid impression of the powerful atmosphere of claustrophobia and gloom, of a place where you couldn’t get anything new done. Re-entering Australia, I had to stop right there at the airport and just breathe in the clear sunny air, relax into the sense of space and possibility.
Australia’s own traumas with abrupt cessation of much of its export market were to follow, of course, and the Vietnam War was giving it a different set of challenges from those facing Britain, drawing it into the US’ disastrous interventions in Asia and leaving a cultural scar not dissimilar to that left by Britain’s Iraq odyssey.
My view of the UK now is that England has to solve its identity crisis if it is to move positively into the future. By definition, that does not involve new things, be they house-building, HS2, or levelling up. Identity pertains to the psyche, and it involves finding a new way of being. It seems it is just that that so many from all classes are so frightened of.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

The problem is the Clerisy: the arts educated lawyers, politicians, civil servants, media types, academics, arts administrators, teachers , etc who are effete ineffectual ineffective impractical and lack initiative, imagination, ingenuity, ability to improvise and above all drive. Consequently the Clerisy cannot solve problems; only wring their hands and bleat .
The below is documantary on Barnes Wallis. One see the strength, spirit , optimism is his voice, face and body which is lacking amongst the Clerisy. Wallis said “The Genius of the English is in Their Individuality “.
The Great Inventor – YouTube

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago

I suspect the attitudes here are quite different if the writer was writing about the effect of a EU deal with say, South America, and Britain was in the EU. Then it would be “the EU is destroying British farming”

I wonder what brexiters were trying to conserve exactly? Free Market fundamentalism isn’t the same as conservatism.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago

W

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Mark Walker
Mark Walker
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

The UK consumer will choose the cheapest meat. UK Farmers should be campaigning for payments for land stewardship in UK rather than this rant against the UK consumer.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Walker

Are you saying that Union Jack clad brexiters upon entering a supermarket will ignore the meat with the Union Jack symbols? Because free market?

What was it all about, eh? Making Britain great by destroying one it’s few successful and indigenous industries and turning its farms into American ranches or wild lands. George monbiot must be delighted.

That said farmers did vote for Brexit so sympathy is limited.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
3 years ago

Where’s your evidence that farmers were any more likely to vote for Brexit than anyone else

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

It was fascinating to note that, after the last beef culling BSE crisis, when supermarkets, able to sell beef again, did so at much lower prices… and sales went through the roof- Until there is some compatibility between livestock rearing/ price/ cost and consumer cost, the issue will not go away?