The support Government gives to farmers during the pandemic will be an indication of how far Ministers intend to back us on Brexit, says Cheshire dairy farmer Phil Latham.
Coronavirus has topped the list of the problems for 2020, flooding, storms followed by pestilence and what looks now like a drought, we are living through challenges of almost biblical proportions because someone allegedly ate an undercooked bat or a raw pangolin.
It has been interesting to see how the various European countries have reacted in the face of the challenge and how their individual control policies have been implemented. There is no evidence of a European super state mandating policy.
Instead we have witnessed the brutal reality of life in member states struggling under their own sovereign disease control.
The containment phase was clearly under resourced and the lockdown phase to reduce transmission through social distancing which has followed in most countries apart from Sweden has been implemented with varying degrees of success.
Thank goodness that the Italian and Spanish figures appear to have plateaued, the Austrians are talking about reducing restrictions and the UK and France seem to sadly still on be an upward spiral.
With the PM in intensive care things look a little grim for us, the captain of our ship who piloted our Brexit course is confined to quarters.
I wish him well, a speedy recovery and a return to his office as quick as his recovery will allow, we need him at the helm as you cannot have two captains on a ship.
That said I think our Government has made an unwholly mess of control.
When I came back from skiing from France two days after the Italians shut their resorts, I wouldn’t have let me into the country without compulsory quarantine in Government control, that way I’d have been there when I developed symptoms.
We did not do everything we could to prepare, to isolate or devise a strategy that would cope with the tragic challenge ahead of us.
We failed to take advantage of our window of opportunity for collective buying for medical kit when the EU’s emailed offer to buy as part of their scheme somehow got lost in Number 10’s junk mail.
We are without a good testing regime to ascertain the level of infection in our communities.
We cannot identify those recovered to allow them back to work with immunity passports, and those without infection cannot relax in the knowledge of their disease-free status.
We are left with guess work about infection status for all but the most ill.
We have no treatment regime and no vaccine, so the way out of this looks like a slow burn herd immunity strategy, a long drawn out period of lock down doing untold damage to our economy.
As the impacts of lock down unfolds, there are significant new challenges to deal with as markets change, with a shift in demand creating unmanageable surpluses.
The challenge of dealing with these is no doubt best met by working at scale, cooperatively and strategically.
Food we can no longer sell could be sold into intervention or we could produce less through incentivised schemes.
We will see now how valued we are as farmers. Whatever the Government comes up with, it will be an insight into what Brexit might deliver for us and the Governments priorities.
Throughout this the incredible help that migrant workers provide our society is becoming evident.
From fruit pickers, food processing staff to NHS nurses and doctors we can see the tremendous undervalued contribution that these hard working people bring to our lives allowing us to function in normal conditions but allowing is to survive quite literally in these uncertain times.
We are clearly better off working together with our neighbours than competing with them, which is why I still feel a sense of remorse at our direction of travel.
Phil can be found tweeting at @PhilLatham.