Other countries send agriculture officials to meetings on world food security, but the UK is represented by the Department for International Development. Staffordshire beef and arable farmer Richard Bower asks whether this can remain the position after Brexit.
The countdown to Christmas has started, with most farmers and their suppliers also hoping for pre-Christmas Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments.
The countdown to Brexit is also drawing ever closer.
If there is a deal, we will have a transition period with the EU following Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rules, before our Government’s introduction of a domestic Agricultural Policy, which we now know will phase direct payments out over seven years.
Brexit seems much more real now, and while I am confident we will negotiate a future trade deal, it is not certain.
Markets do not like uncertainty, which will create opportunity for some but challenges for others.
I was invited to sit on a panel for an alumni event of Tesco Future Farmers last week.
Two take home points were: Tesco didn’t know what was going to happen and wouldn’t share their plans, while the audience said the last CAP reform and direct payments have bred inefficiency.
I also attended the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) in Rome with the World Farmers Organisation’s Gymnasium programme last month, which coincided with the 45th Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
The main ambition globally is by 2030 to have zero hunger. This is not just for the developing world, but is also about allowing access to nutritious food and a healthy balanced diet in the developed world.
Food was number one on the agenda.
At a high-level private sector mechanism dinner, I was introduced to diplomats from other countries.
The Australians, for example, send their agriculture ministry to CFS, whereas our Government is represented by our Department for International Development (DFID). Post-Brexit, should that remain our strategy?
Additionally, when in Rome, we spent 2 days at Luiss University with a Masters in Food Law class, going through World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules which will be the parameters of how we will trade with the EU in a no-deal scenario.
The most interesting area for me is the EU ban on hormone beef.
The WTO allowed the US to introduce retaliatory trade measures on the EU, because under WTO rules hormone beef cannot be banned.
In new trade deals with US, will the UK ban hormone beef and take retaliatory trade measures in return? Or will we accept hormone beef?
This is why the deal with the EU is so difficult – especially the border in Ireland and the uncertain position of a backstop.
The EU does not want us to allow products into the UK which they do not want to cross the border into the EU.
Hence the common rule book proposal on standards within the Chequers deal.
We might say that the products will not cross the border and give the example of Switzerland, which trades with EU while still allowing hormone beef into the country, but it wasn’t so long ago that horse meat was being sold as beef in the UK.
This is what makes the EU deal so tough and why they would prefer we remained in the single market.
Short-term, I hope BPS arrives on December 1 for every farmer in Britain.
I would also encourage every farmer to apply for the EU grants available to us between now and December 31 2019. De minimus rules allow us to claim €200,000 per business, (over a three-year period, 2017-2020). The money is there to improve productivity and the investment filters through to farm suppliers.
Being from the West Midlands, many of my school friends now manage manufacturing businesses in a booming sector, claiming grants which boost efficiencies.
Why as farmers should we not do the same? It would help us lead the world to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Richard can be found tweeting at @rich_bower