A farmer rang me this week to raise two issues: Phil Latham and the future of farming in the uplands. A mixed bag then, writes Ben Briggs.
His point regarding the former alluded to last week’s Farming Matters column, in which Mr Latham asked whether Nigel Farage was the right man to secure Brexit. The caller thought he was, while Mr Latham had felt he was not. We agreed that they could disagree.
His second point regarding the uplands was whether, rather than talking about environmental schemes, our politicians and union leaders would be better reinforcing the need for lambs to be £100/head, therefore ensuring ‘money for butterflies’ would not be needed.
It is a point that will likely resonate with many in the farming community and is brought into sharp focus following comments from farm leaders about the precarious state of the uplands at a time of such change.
But can we simply demand that lambs go back to £100/head when the market clearly will not support such returns? Even the latest wool clip prices will bring little joy to many who once made a sizeable slice of income from their shearing efforts.
Speaking the language of policymakers is seen by some as a dereliction of duty to core farming principles. Yet to ensure they make progress with politicians in all UK nations, union leaders and representative body chiefs have to ensure they are on the same page as politicians.
The debate about flooding and farming being key to the solution, as covered in this week’s Farmers Guardian, is evidence of the unions trying to position farming as a key agent for change, especially talk of being ‘net carbon zero’.
After all, an industry that seeks positive outcomes is far more likely to reap financial benefits than an obstinate blocker that simply digs its heels in.
Whether it is in the uplands, lowlands or in coastal areas at the forefront of rising sea levels, agriculture might have to adopt a more modern form of discourse if it is to ensure protection for its most treasured elements of tradition.