Speak up for farming's future

Command Paper meeting in Pocklington, Yorkshire_53164

Farmers across the North East region are now responding to the government's ongoing consultation on future agricultural policy post-Brexit.

With a deadline set of 8 May for all responses to be submitted to Defra, farmers are speaking up to make sure the farming voice is heard loud and strong.

The NFU has a range of online tools to help its members take part including a guide to the Command Paper and guidance on how to respond, as various options are available.

At the region's four flagship meetings, that attracted more than 200 farmers this month, the message was clear: it is vital that farmers make time to respond, given that the policies developed on the back of the consultation will impact on every farming business in the coming months.

After the meetings, some of the farmers that took part highlighted some of the views that they will be putting to Defra:

Rod Beal, arable farmer in Northumberland

“I do believe that we need to embrace a more sustainable approach to farming, but the Command Paper gives very little detail on how this will be achieved/incentivised. To get the best possible outcome, the government needs to work much more closely with farmers, recognising that many have already begun this process and learning from the practical, innovative work happening on the ground. Greater collaboration will be crucial plus protection for our prices or bureaucracy will have to be reduced to even the playing field.”

Andrew Kelcher, livestock and arable farmer from Northumberland

“First off, profitability is so important if we are to survive and develop sustainable businesses for the future. The focus on environmental delivery is perhaps no surprise but for that approach to work, schemes need to be much more tailored to a wide range of different farms. I was very concerned about the suggestion of a 10 year transition period as I feel so much changes in a decade, including governments, so there is a real risk we would get thoroughly bogged down, with goal posts being moved all over the place. To me, 5 years would be more sensible – giving us time but also moving things along.”

Martin Morrison, who farms in North Yorkshire

“We are looking into a long dark hole. We don’t know what’s coming, so the various options set out in the Command Paper are little more than ‘pie in the sky’. I’m concerned that some of the proposals would compromise our production and our competitiveness. Any decisions on changes to animal welfare need to be thought through very carefully. It’s easy to ban systems, like colony egg production on the whim of some NGOs, but with food poverty a reality in this country the impact would be more far reaching than anyone realises. Feeding people has to be our priority and it’s hard to see how feeding 70m people is not a public good.”

John Emerson, sheep farmer from County Durham

“The thing we have to get right is a level playing field. I think we can stand up to anyone in the world but only with a level playing field. I don’t believe we will get a simplified approach – that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas – and while environmental schemes are important, the starting point for developing any new scheme has to be recognising all the environmental work that has already been done on farms over many years.”

Charles Rook, whose family runs beef, pig, poultry and arable enterprises in East Yorkshire

“The Command Paper is very light on detail, so we are all still trying to pin the tail on the donkey, but for me, getting a level playing field across the UK, EU and further afield will be crucial. It’s possible to justify a push for higher production and environmental standards with a level playing field but without it, we will be focused on environmental management and enhancement at the expense of food production. Of course farming and the environment go hand in hand, but I am concerned about what land use on farms could look like in the future.”

Philip Rowbottom, an arable farmer from West Yorkshire

“I am very concerned about the lack of thought about food production. Growing food is what I do – it’s what I’m trained to do – and we are not that far away from experiencing food shortages. Two days of snow just a few weeks ago resulted in empty shelves in supermarkets. While ever people can pop to the shops for a pint of milk and a loaf, they won’t wake up to the knife edge we are walking.”

Nick Grayson, a beef and arable tenant farmer from Rotherham in South Yorkshire

“I cannot understand why affordable, quality and safe food production is not considered by the government to be a public good. We’ve been channelled down the ‘environment’ route for some time now, so no surprises there, but to say that CAP has not provided value for money is something I cannot fathom. If what we currently produce, whether food or countryside, is not considered value for money then what is? As a young farmer I want to try and adapt to the new system but I am worried that some of the proposals in the Command Paper will make it very difficult to farm.”

David Shaw, a dairy producer from North Yorkshire

“Two things particularly stand out for me – first the fundamental importance of achieving better trading conditions with our customer through better contracts for dairy farmers. My second concern is around the sheer number of ancillary organisations and NGOs queuing up to respond to this consultation. It is absolutely vital that as many farmers as possible respond to make sure the farmind voice is the main voice the government hears.”

Olivia Richardson, a young farmer from North Yorkshire

"I feel that progressive reductions to BPS over a 10 year period would be fairest for all and I’d like to see the money saved used for increasing productivity and competitiveness to aid profitability. The environmental enhancement aspect seemed more flexible, rather than a one-size fits all approach, but I was concerned about the suggestion that not adhering to these environmental and welfare regulations would result in farmers being taken to court, rather than facing a fine, as well as the proposal to tax inputs such as fertiliser. On the need to better educate consumers and school pupils, I believe that until agriculture is on the education agenda/in education policy, it will not be a priority for head teachers."

Last edited on: 16:04:2018

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