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From the editor: Ag policy transition could remove incentive for farmers

If readers of Farmers Guardian were to look at their favourite landscapes they would no doubt see vistas shaped by agriculture, with farmers at their heart.

In some parts of the country farming may play a greater role than others, but there is no doubting the contribution of agriculture, both in terms of feeding the nation and shaping the countryside so many enjoy.

 

And yet, as we stand on the cusp of a new era for British agriculture outside of the European Union, how appreciative are those in Government and within wider lobbying bodies of the vital role agriculture plays?

 

Writing in this week’s Farmers Guardian, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis comments that a future agricultural policy will ’unleash their [farmers] potential, not just as world-leaders in food production to the highest standards, but as champions of the natural environment as well’.

 

There will be many farmers who would argue they have already been fulfilling their potential. And there will no doubt be wider concerns that her article points towards the environment and biodiversity being the main aims of the Agriculture Bill and not, as so many would argue it should be, food production.


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This is a debate at the core of food tsar Henry Dimbleby’s claims on which he calls for a greater focus on biodiversity and greening, as opposed to the principle of feeding people, before going onto acknowledge the truth that there will be farming casualties in the transition away from the agricultural systems we have at the current time.

 

With direct payments set to be phased out from next year and agricultural policy adopting a more visceral environmental approach, there are many farmers who will face an uncertain future as they struggle to adapt to a new reality of market-driven economics and greening policies they fail to connect with.

 

While calls from Cumbrian MP Tim Farron and the CLA to delay the phase out of Direct Payments would provide short term relief, there needs to be a more coherent approach from Government about how exactly it will assist the scores of farmers struggling to make the transition from one era of support to another.

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