Whichever party comes out on top at next week’s General Election has the potential to shape the future profile of British agriculture.
With the Conservatives currently leading in the polls, a win for them would pave the way for Brexit to presumably be resolved and for the UK to exit the European Union.
The uncertainty that has rumbled on for more than three years surrounding our relationship with Europe has seen farming hit the metaphorical pause button, with many feeling it is difficult to make proper decisions about the future of their business.
Hopefully next Thursday’s General Election will enable the industry, and country, to start moving forward again, depending on who wins.
For agriculture it is a General Election which raises the stakes more than most. With the need to construct new policies and to redefine our future trading relationships across the globe, should we finally come out of Europe, it is vital the likes of Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers put in place policies which safeguard our domestic farm standards.
Agriculture must not be used as a pawn when trade deals are struck.
That need for protection is what makes the news that Ms Villiers has abandoned Michael Gove’s Trade and Food Commission particularly worrying.
It might be coincidental that this came as US President Donald Trump was once again in the UK this week, but, as recent leaked documents have shown, the US is pushing hard at a diplomatic level to gain access to this country for products such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef.
These practices fall well below the production standards we have here, but would consumers be savvy enough to differentiate these products from higher welfare UK options? If not, the threat of domestic food being undercut is severe.
We therefore await the outcome of next Thursday’s election with interest, as well as some trepidation, and the chance to assess what it will mean for agriculture in the coming years, be that outcome good, bad or even ugly.