Government plans for future farm policy fail to recognise the vital role of farmers as food producers, with food production a national strategic asset.
This is the view of East Sussex NFU chairman Chris Jeffries, of Northover Farm, Cross in Hand, near Heathfield, a commercial sheep farmer and soft fruit grower who formerly enjoyed a career in the automotive sector. Mr Jeffries criticises the Government’s Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit consultation paper as it fails to recognise the vital role of farmers as food producers, with food production a public good. The NFU will be responding to this paper at the end of this month.
Mr Jeffries says: “The farmed landscape that you can see here today in East Sussex has been created over generations. It is essential that Government develops an ambitious policy that underpins the productive capacity of the farming industry, as a national strategic asset. The hidden public good is the production of affordable, safe food which really is a political imperative, and it is achieved by a balance between domestic production and the availability of imported produce. If domestic production shrinks then the inevitable result will be that the cost of imported produce will rise, so domestic competitiveness must be supported.
He adds: “All farmers and growers agree that farming delivers a high quality landscape with environmental benefits and farmers can continue to deliver this, provided the policy incentives are practical. Farm support should be fair and equitable to all farm businesses, irrespective of size or system.”
Mr Jeffries farms 180 acres with his son, Will, and his wife, Julie, at Northover Farm. They run a commercial flock of 130 Romney cross Texel ewes, making all their hay, plus haylage for horses. Their diversifications include Fruits of the Farm, a blueberry enterprise supplying local retailers that is approaching its first commercial season. Last December, a horse hydrotherapy facility, High Weald Horse Hydro, opened and the farm offers a rehabilitation livery service for equine convalescence. Mr Jeffries also makes outdoor furniture under the Cloverlay brand. The farm has wooded copses and areas of semi-natural ancient woodland, many wildflowers and an historic hammer pond that Mr Jeffries has restored.