This week’s edition of Farmers Guardian seems to showcase the full gamut of political interaction with agriculture, with varying degrees of success.
The good could easily be characterised as MSP Emma Harper’s welcome efforts to strengthen the laws surrounding dog attacks on livestock. As she explains on this week’s back page, she has pushed through a set of legislation in Scotland that will be the envy of farmers across the rest of the UK who are blighted, as the latest FG investigation shows, by the scourge of livestock worrying.
Now to the bad, which this week again appears in Scotland where union leaders have reacted with fury to new silage and slurry storage measures they claim are a back door attempt at bringing in Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations. With Welsh farmers already demoralised by even harsher measures there and English farmers worried by storage rules in Defra’s Pathway to Sustainable Farming, there are genuine concerns where this legislation will end.
As for the ugly, that is a joint effort between Welsh and English politicians, with the Farmers Union of Wales accusing the Welsh Government of being badly out of touch with the needs of farmers and rural communities, and upland campaigners in England quite rightly asking how, exactly, those in the hills will make a living once direct payments have gone.
Aside from Ms Harper’s in-tune thinking, it does paint a worrying picture of political understanding at a fundamentally crucial time for the industry as it moves from the wider governance of EU support to domestic farm policies. While farmers and their representatives understand the industry has a crucial role to play on issues such as water quality, the blunt force of legislation the industry is being hammered with often beggars belief.
Perhaps it is time politicians donned their wellies and actually listened to the concerns of real farmers, rather than living in the virtual reality of the political bubble. Not only do draconian measures sap the spirit of many farmers, but they also destroy goodwill when it comes time to implement these new rules.