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From the editor: How strange it is to plan for the last autumn before Brexit

This week from the editor, Ben Briggs.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

IT must be summer recess in Parliament if the national media has turned its attention to farming and a sudden surge in food prices. With much of the country seemingly on holiday and politicians out of the way, agriculture found itself unexpectedly in the media spotlight.

Check the headlines, however, and you realise that supposed food price spikes were reported on as recently as 2017, with April of that year seeing a food price surge of 2.7 per cent for the previous 12 months, and last November also seeing warnings of rocketing butter prices and not enough cream for Christmas.

But did the public really see any major difference in their food bills? Doubtful. As a percentage of household income, the amount spent on food is at an all-time low and an increase of a couple of percentage points is unlikely to hit families or individuals too hard.

Yet maybe that era of cheap food is about to change. As we stand on the cusp of autumn, how fascinating it is that cereals harvested now, along with the pedigree and commercial livestock currently being traded, will see their monetary value determined by post-Brexit economics.

Prime Minister Theresa May was right when she said this week that a no deal Brexit ‘would not be the end of the world’, although her tone was eerily reminiscent of a tired parent reprimanding an incessant child, but the fact is no one really knows what is to come.

As we approach the tipping point on Brexit negotiations, there are more questions than answers, with what happens to labour availability another issue which has yet to be resolved. As Farmers Guardian In Your Field writer Phil Latham points out this week, claiming that improvements in technology will solve the here and now dilemma of where to find appropriate staff is fanciful.

The media’s cameras might move away from agriculture once the politicians return and start bickering again, but the big questions about trade, labour, currency and what they all mean for farmers will not suddenly disappear.

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