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Farming staying largely the same would be the worst possible Brexit outcome

If British farming does not undergo much change as a result of leaving the EU, that would be the worst possible Brexit outcome, says Ted Trewella, a new entrant sheep farmer from Aberystwyth, Wales.

As a new entrant sheep farmer who voted for Brexit you could be forgiven for calling me a turkey that voted for Christmas.

 

It would appear farming post-Brexit will be a good deal harder than it was before, and I am yet to see a positive financial forecast for the UK sheep industry, but I think we all knew that was likely to be the case inside the EU or out.

 

British farm incomes appear to have been in decline for some time now and change is necessary for the industry to survive and indeed thrive.

 

Lucked out

 

What better change for our industry could there be than to do away with the status quo, seek out new markets for our produce and re-write an agricultural policy which takes account of our individual needs as an island nation? We have really lucked out!

 

Some of you may have detected a hint of sarcasm there, but I do fundamentally believe leaving the EU is a good thing for our industry.

 

The down-side for us farmers at the moment is witnessing our Government, the opposition, the media, our industry leaders and just about every Tom, Dick and Harry do their utmost to make a complete hash of it.

 

Importance

 

It would be too much to expect politicians, industry leaders and the public to come together in a time of almost unprecedented national importance because its far easier to have a pop at each other or engage in subterfuge.

 

Regardless of the outcome from negotiations in Brussels, we must prepare ourselves for some form of change.

 

We are still a way off seeing what form that change will be, but we would be better off as an industry to be drivers of change rather than to wait for change to be imposed upon us.

 

Hot

 

When it comes to striking trade deals with other nations out there in the big, wide world, we can expect to see food becoming a hot topic for conversation.

 

When my partner’s mother visited from Canada recently, she was shocked to see how cheap the food on our shelves was.

 

As a farmer’s daughter herself, she thought it incredible that food could be so cheap relative to other living expenses here in the UK.

 

Expensive

 

In Canada, food on the shelf is much more expensive, yet their farmers are able to export food all around the world at competitive prices.

 

So why have we heard we can expect cheaper food post-Brexit? With our obesity epidemic also in mind, frankly, we do not need it to be any cheaper.

 

But if our supermarkets are to be flooded with cheaper foreign imports, then the least we can expect as producers is to have a level playing field in terms of regulation and standards.

 

Grasp

 

There is no use in producing high-quality, fully traceable and fully assured food if it is more expensive than food sitting on the same shelf which ticks none of these boxes. It is this that I feel our industry leaders and Government need to grasp.

 

To return to the forecasting of future sheep sector returns, I believe it only tells half the story. It says returns from the sheep sector will wane if we carry on farming the same way.

 

I believe we can address this by challenging ourselves to become better producers which are much more market-focused, much more efficient and much more dynamic.

 

Invaluable

 

These are attributes I believe have not necessarily been required whilst farming under the protection of the EU, but will prove invaluable when we face the world outside it.

 

As an optimist, I like to see the future for UK farmers as bright. But it will only be bright if we are willing to embrace change.

 

To some that will be a change in their methods, others it may be a change in what they produce, but the worst outcome from Brexit as far as I can see is if nothing really changes at all.

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