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From the editor: 'Over the next decade, British farming may face an identity crisis'

Cut through the ongoing debate about the future of British agriculture and the millions of words spoken by politicians, industry leaders or farmers in recent years, and there is no doubt that the industry finds itself at one of the most fundamental tipping points in its recent history.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

Agriculture, for so many, has been about tradition, heritage and community going hand in hand with the practicalities of making a living from the land. Many people who are born farmers identify as such for their entire lives.

 

But change is coming and the pace of that shift could leave many behind unless they remain alert.

 

The new Welsh Government consultation about the future of support is indicative of how the language surrounding farming has changed across all UK governments. It has moved from being about food production to focusing on the environment and sustainability.

 

Whether that is because politicians representing farming are making the right noises to ensure they secure the requisite cash is yet to be seen, but there is a real danger that with a shift in emphasis comes disengagement from farmers who are sceptical of schemes they perceive as yet more bureaucracy.


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AHDB’s Farmbench article in this week’s FG also showcases a farm business far from the traditional image of British agriculture.

 

Is this a bad thing? No. But if Government sees such units as the ideal and forgets the small farms that are the backbone of British farming, then our rural communities will suffer.

 

The balancing act between retaining traditional farming systems while moving towards a new model for British agriculture, and its support systems, will not be easy.

 

Additional factors such as Michael Gove’s support for gene editing, or the global nature of trade as exemplified by the Mercosur deal, may also bring discomfort.

 

Over the next decade, British farming may face an identity crisis as it finds itself dropped between the old world and the new.

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