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From the editor: Political actors must not lose sight of agricultural reality

If politics is a drama, then UK agriculture has some of the strongest actors and the Royal Highland Show was their stage.


On the first day, Scotland’s Fergus Ewing made it very clear that he was not intimidated by the arrival of the so-called ‘big beast’ of Brexit politics, Michael Gove. By accusing the Westminster Government of treating the devolved Ministers as ‘strangers’ in Brexit talks he laid down the gauntlet with strong rhetoric.


The challenge for all administrations now will be to come together and ensure that agriculture has a strong voice in the upcoming negotiations.


The unions, with their own supporting role at the show, must also find their voice and it was encouraging to hear NFUS president Andrew McCornick talk of the need for a united front from across the farming representative scene.


With union chiefs meeting in Birmingham last week, the formulation of a united agenda will be key, albeit one which reflects the nuances of agriculture in each country and ties in all organisations, not just the largest bodies.


Some are hopeful about what Gove will bring to the table, but to be effective for farming he needs to be far more than a Government mouthpiece for Brexit who is rolled out for the national press, seemingly with a daily seat in the Radio 4 Today programme studio.


Gove also talks passionately about the plight of the fishing fleet in his town of Aberdeenshire at the hands of EU bureaucracts, yet at the Royal Highland Show some hill farmers conveyed their fears about the impact a bad Brexit deal could have on their sector. Some were so worried about the potential decimation of their way of life if prohibitive export tariffs came in, that they compared the impact to a ‘new set of Highland clearances’.


An intriguing drama the political tumult may be, but the truth is this is real life, real people and real issues. Beyond the political posturing and chest puffing there must be substance and action for a community staring in to the unknown.


And finally, as combines gear up across the country, a reminder of a time of smaller scale machinery can be seen in FG Classic on the facing page.

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