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Farming Matters: Jim Beary - 'The approach our country is taking is short-sighted'

Since I wrote my last article back in April things have changed considerably.

Lockdown restrictions have been eased with a large amount of confusion around what people can or cannot do and when and where they can do it. This has led to an influx of visitors to the countryside with many areas seeing more people than ever before.


While I am sure the vast majority of those visitors have been respectful and well-behaved, unfortunately there have been numerous problems with wildfires, litter, open gates and livestock worrying.

 

This has put added pressure on already overstretched emergency services, councils and of course farmers like myself.

 

There have also been some disappointing political developments too, the most notable being the Agriculture Bill.

 

Having previously written about the opportunity Government had to reshape our agricultural and food policy to include British farmers in an effort to improve the health and well-being of the nation, our landscape and economy, I am saddened that this has been overlooked.

 

Priority has instead been given to future trade deals with countries such as the US who will have the ability to send over large quantities of cheaper food.

 

Not only will this likely export our environmental conscience, it will also pile added pressure on already hard pushed British farmers and food processors.

 

This cheap food comes at a cost. As television chef Jamie Oliver has correctly and admirably pointed out, we need to be eating more healthy diets that conform to the high standards of production, animal welfare and nutrition that we have set ourselves here in the UK.

 

We are already producing high quality nutritious food here in Britain and are very much capable of producing more while continuing to enhance the environment at the same time.


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Standards

 

Importing food with lower environmental and welfare standards, not to mention the often immoral levels of sugar, salt and other problematic ingredients will have a catastrophic effect on the environments of the producing countries, the world as a whole and crucially the health of the people here that will be eating it.

 

Again, this will put huge stress on the already stretched NHS and will inevitably lead to an increase in social security claimants, a decrease in national productivity and an acceleration of the already downward spiralling economy.

 

In my opinion, the approach our country is taking is short-sighted beyond belief. Unfortunately, we seem to have a Government that is desperately in need of a new pair of spectacles.

 

It took a very credible intervention from Marcus Rashford, a well-known Premier League footballer, to highlight the nutritional issues many schoolchildren are facing every single day. Had it not been for him, there would not have been a dramatic U-turn in Whitehall policy which now means more than a million children in England will be able to claim free school meal vouchers in the summer holidays. That it took such an intervention is just not acceptable.

 

The NFU’s petition to gather support for maintaining British standards has gathered more than a million signatures.

 

Farmers, the food industry and the British public as a whole need to make a stand and say ‘no’ to the Government.

 

We will not accept what you are doing.

 

This and the very real prospect of a no-deal Brexit could have a devastating impact on farmers such as myself and I fear that hard lined conservatism may well be our undoing.

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