Lancashire organic dairy farmer Tom Rigby explains why he is concerned about the impact Brexit could have on UK dairy exports to East Asia.
Defra has arranged 13 workshop sessions this month on the future for food, farming and the environment. I will be attending one in Manchester on April 16, but the most significant should be the last at Stoneleigh on April 30.
In advance of this, the NFU has arranged 37 consultations with members to harvest as many opinions as possible. On April 17, vice president Stuart Roberts and head of food and farming Phil Hambling will be at Skelmersdale to hear from farmers in Lancashire.
Regular visitors to the NFU’s North West regional office will know the large wind turbine close to where the M58 joins the M6 is usually enveloped in steam. This comes from a milk drying plant as big as any at Westbury in Wiltshire, with space alongside to double capacity.
Some of my milk is currently dried there for export to China as infant formula, and very appreciative customers they are too. It may be environmentally questionable, but for as long as international competition is required to help keep the home market honest, then the prosperity of our sector may depend on plants such as these.
It was therefore concerning that on a recent visit I sensed some unease about Brexit as their trade around the world had been growing nicely while members of the EU.
One major exporter of cheese tells me most of his sales to the East either pass through the EU or have loads consolidated with products made there, and leaving the customs union may cause complications. Personally, I wish we could stay as a full member.
Our country has been more divided; the farmland around here is littered with Civil War relics from the Battle of Winwick Pass in 1648, a conflict fuelled by many of the same sentiments as today.
They successfully fought to free the country of the ’Norman yoke’ and feudal system, but unrealistic expectations soon led to disappointment and disillusion.
Monarchy was restored and has been largely popular ever since – even if at times we have had to bring in Dutch or German-speaking ones to do the job.
I expect we will rejoin the EU, but I hope it is from a position of strength with minimal damage to the rural economy.
Whatever your views, do get involved with Defra’s consultation.