Opinion: Sam Dilcock, National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs agriculture and rural issues steering group chairman.


They say enthusiasm can move mountains and a rolling stone gathers no moss.


As a young farmer, after the events of last year it would be easy to feel as if I am standing at the base of Mount Everest looking up, with nothing more than a shoe string and a plastic feed bag to face the challenges ahead.


The shoe string may help me trap enough food to survive along the way or lash things back together and the plastic bag may provide me with some shelter or help me carry supplies in anticipation of difficult times, but either item could strangle, trip or suffocate me if used incorrectly.


It is undoubtedly the innovations conjured up along the mountain path and the knowledge of how the natural world round me can be used which will allow me to thrive and overcome these challenges. However, stand still too long and the moss begins to grow or the rock could roll backwards down the hill.


On my return from the Oxford Farming Conference, I reflected on the last three years of my involvement with the National Federation of Young Farmers (NFYFC) Agricultural and Rural Issues (AGRI) steering group.


I am confident young farmers’ voices are being heard, whether about rural broadband, affordable housing, transport or future considerations for a British agricultural policy.


At the conference, Konrad Brits of Falcon Coffees said whereever you go in the world, the needs of any society or business are the same; fairness, equality, sustainability and profitability. Therefore, future policy can only be world leading if it addresses these key factors.


One thing is for certain, we do not want a car crash policy rushed into implementation without proper consideration of the consequences.


Although there is a common belief subsidies need to change, this cannot be done overnight and a careful transition plan will make or break a future farming policy.


This policy needs to allow for investment in infrastructure to facilitate food production. Whether buildings, energy, people or technology, public money needs to be invested into tangible assets which help sustain the public’s food production while rewarding the environmental work farmers undertake.


It must, of course, be voluntary, so if one wishes to proceed without public support, one may.


We should try and offer producers some form of security from natural disasters and matters out of their control.


We need to assure the public we can sustain production and custodianship, but let them know they must take responsibility for the impact their existence has on the world round them. We all share collective responsibility for the integrity of our produce, environment and industry.


So we are standing next to a mountain, but let us chop it down with the edge of our hands, as it is much easier to keep the rock rolling on a level field than continue to push it up a steep and slippery slope.

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