Turn back the clock 44 years and it appears many of the issues facing the farming industry when the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) were the same as the week in which Theresa May triggered the country’s exit from Europe.
Poring over copies of Farmers Guardian’s sister title Dairy Farmer from 1973, it is fascinating to see how that year’s entry in to the EEC was met with scepticism about the supposed benefits that would come with it. It also hit out at the uncertainty in the dairy industry, the ongoing poor farmgate prices and what it described as the re-emergence of the ’dying enemy, the cheap food policy’.
Sound familiar? As we start the exit process from the EU, it is alarming that farmers continue to operate in an era of cheap food prices and, in the week Article 50 was triggered, worrying price trends persist in the dairy industry.
By the end of 1973, Dairy Farmer editorials were angrily stating that ’farmers have the right to know what future Government has in mind for them’. All these years on, how ironic that we face the same scenario as we prepare to depart the EU with no clear idea about the shape of future support schemes and trade deals, and whether they will help or hinder our farmers.
As we leave the EU, it is essential Government heeds the lessons history can provide. There is no point in Brexiteers boasting that everything will be fine in the end if the underlying problems of over-reliance on cheap food and a marketplace that does not provide farmers with a fair return are allowed to persist.
Whether you voted for Brexit or not, business resilience will at farm level will be key, but common sense will be crucial among politicians and trade negotiators if they are to build an agricultural policy and trading environment which is not just based on the flawed principles of the past.
With a mixture of rain and sunshine marking the arrival of spring, make sure to check out the grass and silage special this week.