This year has been dominated by Brexit: would we leave the EU with or without a deal?
A no-deal Brexit and the friction this would place on our exports would have a devastating impact on our beef and lamb producers. With the threat of no deal still there, I remain concerned that the interim tariff policy announced by the UK Government does little to protect our beef industry. There is a very real risk that we could see imports from South America undercutting British beef due to its much lower cost of production.
We have also seen a sustained period of negative coverage in the media specifically targeting meat consumption. I am particularly frustrated that British farmers are continually singled out as a major contributor towards climate change.
This has inevitably impacted on consumer demand. I’m acutely aware that the UK beef industry is in crisis, as prices remain at unsustainable levels, this is why I have called on the government to match fund the industry levy to increase marketing and promotion, address the lack of transparency and competition in the supply chain and ensure we have a coordinated approach to defending the red meat sector.
Looking ahead, I think we are on the verge of a data revolution that will help livestock producers focus efforts on improving their productivity. Many will have heard of the Livestock Information Programme, which will deliver a new multi-species traceability service from 2021 but also has huge potential to provide additional data that can help inform management decisions.
I am aware of the challenge the NFU’s net zero ambitions present, but I remain convinced that grazing livestock are part of the solution and not the problem. The land we farm stores thousands of tonnes of carbon and if we improve our productivity by using the top genetics, focusing on animal health and pasture management, we can really make a positive contribution towards achieving a net zero ambition by 2040.
Hear more from our board and forum chairman on their plans for 2020 below: