The incredible challenges we all face in 2023 cannot be underestimated.
In my lifetime, I can’t recall the issues of food security, food prices and food poverty making the news in this first world country.
The situation was vividly described in a moving speech by Ian Byrne MP in Parliament, who spoke about how his struggling constituents in Liverpool cannot afford to cook and eat proper nourishing food.
As farmers, this must spur us on to at least maintain production levels when it would be a safer course to manage risk by producing less.
We should never take for granted the huge public support that farming receives and it is clear the nation continues to value our high food standards, produced to world-leading animal welfare and environmental protections, as well as our ability to produce renewable energy and contribute to the nation’s energy security.
I still believe Defra are in denial of this fundamental, firstly from correspondence last year from George Eustice, Jo Churchill and Lord Benyon.
Secondly, listening to Janet Hughes on NFU Live, rearranging the ELM’s deckchairs after at least two years of personally steering food production downhill.
I was relieved to see Lord Benyon being lobbied to reconsider policies by the Eddisbury MP Edward Timpson, who we met at Bidlea Dairy last month. By the way, credit to Adam and Becky Brown for their Aldi TV pitch, great publicity and congratulations to Ray on his community farming hero award.
I was alarmed to see an October 2022 Lords Report document which is 100-plus pages long about behaviour change for climate and environmental goals. I’ll leave it to your imagination which behaviours need subliminal brainwashing? Has this piece of work taken precedence over dairy contract regulation, I wonder?
I recognise that area payments belong in the past. Stimulating food production requires measures to manage price volatility, alongside hedging of inputs. However, the likely cost of gas and electricity beyond April is unknown to many businesses.
Grants for technology, productivity, slurry storage and animal welfare must be grasped, especially by young farmers and new entrants. Each investment involves a demand on finance and confidence though.
There are plenty of January blues to reflect on, but spring will come. Take advantage of conference season to stimulate your businesses.
Please join us at Alsager Civic Hall on February 24th for our County Dinner with guest speaker Mr Olly Harrison.