From the editor: Food production message needs hammering home to future PM
DURING a week in which Conservative leadership hopefuls went toe to toe, farming once again found itself on the lips of potential future leaders, specifically Jeremy Hunt and his claim during a live TV debate that the concerns of a Shropshire sheep farmer were paramount in his thoughts.
Ben Briggs Ben has been Editor of Farmers Guardian since March 2016 and oversaw the publication's change in format from newspaper to magazine ...Load More Ben Briggs Ben has been Editor of Farmers Guardian since March 2016 and oversaw the publication's change in format from newspaper to magazine ...Load More
Whether he had actually spoken to a sheep farmer is something only he will know, but his assertion that Brexit posed a huge risk to the sheep industry because of its reliance on European export markets is one which has been voiced since the vote to leave the EU.
But what are these potential future Prime Ministers actually going to do to safeguard UK farming and change the debate about the value of home-grown food and self-sufficiency? As the political rhetoric rolls on, it seems with every debate food production gets pushed further down the agenda.
Our 175th anniversary special this week (pages 28 and 29) poses a fascinating reflection on how, in the challenge of feeding a growing population, agricultural yields boomed and production was prioritised. As the feature alludes to, innovation is far from over – maybe it is about to accelerate – but is there now the political will to support it?
It seems that, in a well-fed, wealthy nation, everything but food production is at the heart of future Bills which will define agriculture’s future. Alarmingly for some, Efra committee chairman Neil Parish even calls for a greater focus on affordability within the Agriculture Bill (page 8).
The Brexit process rightly provides an opportunity to rethink the food production process and support framework in place for British farmers, and even the chance to up the amount of UK-produced food which is consumed within these shores.
Globally, demand for British produce is tangibly visible as well, as shown by confirmation of the beef deal with China this week, and comes as worldwide demand for protein grows year-on-year. But do our policymakers realise that in a country seemingly blase about where its food comes from, feeding a growing population and searching for key efficiencies are still the most important priorities.
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