Eighty Cheshire based farmers took the opportunity to listen to the post-Brexit options which the NFU believes its members should debate and contribute to if the industry is to have a competitive and resilient future.
Chaired by NFU Vice President Guy Smith and NFU Cheshire County Chairman Ray Brown the meeting, held at the MacDonald Portal Golf Club on Wednesday 7 September, gave members the opportunity to have their say on trade, labour and support.
Here are some of the views of members who were present on the night. Remember, the NFU’s response to post-Brexit options for a productive, competitive and resilient British farming and food sector is continually evolving, so please let us have your thoughts as well
What was said regarding trade
Guy Smith, NFU Vice President: “Trade is very complex. The fundamental message to politicians is that British farmers operate to the highest standards. Now is the time to get out there and make the point that it’s a legitimate argument for the Government to secure a certain amount of food from British farms before they go into trade negotiations - such is the importance of food security.
Guy Smith (pictured above)
“If we have a reckless policy which brings in cheap food of lower standards that makes this country dependant on imports and threatens the farming industry then we all have a responsibility to get out into the media to explain the consequences to our customers.”
John Shaw of Red Beech Farm in Rushton, said: “Trade deals could take an extremely long time to negotiate. Our industry is struggling because we cannot compete but we all want to produce more. If our NFU and the Government got together to secure British food for British people we could have a chance.”
John Shaw (pictured above)
Barbara Smith of Dairy House Farm in Byley asked: “Does the NFU second personnel to Defra?”
Guy Smith NFU Vice President answered: “No but I want to bolster the NFU so we are the lead authority on trade so Defra cannot flannel us. If we know as much as they do they cannot pull the wool over our eyes. We will recruit more experts and will increase the size of our London office.”
Jarl Pearson of Higher Blakelow Farm in Macclesfield said: “I think we are in a very strong position. I’m confident other countries will want to trade with us. We have to be positive otherwise we are wasting our time.”
A horticulturist who preferred to remain anonymous said: “There is no way we could entice British pickers to do horticultural work. Even if we put a coach on to pick people up they wouldn’t come to work in the fields. We need access to migrant labour. It’s a no brainer.”
Jarl Pearson of Higher Blakelow Farm in Macclesfield: “If we are not charging the consumer enough for food we cannot encourage the right people into our businesses. We find ourselves in a vicious circle. Consumers are greedy, we as farmers are greedy and the supermarkets are greedy. It’s all about price and sadly that’s what it boils down to.”
Jarl Pearson (pictured above)
David Rowlands of The Grange in Mickle Trafford: “The wider public see BPS as a payment to landowners for not doing things. It creates envy especially where large landowners are involved. I want to see a system where farmers receive money for the things we do rather than the things we don’t. I think we’d gain more favour with the general public.”
Michael Bailey of Dairy House Farm in Knutsford said: “If we had decent food prices we wouldn’t need support. £4 billion is a lot of money to the Government. There is a deal to be done there.”
Guy Smith NFU Vice President said: “As British farmers we are not afraid of farming in a world where no farmers across the world get support. But we are rightly wary of competing against farmers who are heavily supported. That would not be a level playing field and would put all our businesses at risk.”
Richard Yarwood (Pictured above)
Richard Yarwood of Handfield Farm, Medhurst Green, Congleton, said: “I’m no lover of the current support system and I have to say the American style insurance systems sound appealing to me. Volatility which we now have to live with is the key challenge for active farmers. Volatility is so extreme that you wouldn't go into farming today.”