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It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, ag policy’s coming home!

The England football team is young, vibrant and has more opportunity to reach its full potential than it has in more than 50 years. Staffordshire beef and arable farmer Richard Bower says Brexit puts the agricultural industry in much the same position.

Since I am writing this article at the same time as the football World Cup, I thought I would compare the farming industry to the England football team. I am a big fan of both.

 

England are actually doing well, playing with flair, scoring freely with the likes of Harry Kane scoring the most goals in the tournament so far and we had the luxury of losing to Belgium with our second team, which put us in the easier knockout phase of the tournament on paper – however I am writing this before the Columbia game!

 

Gareth Southgate seems in total control, much like our Government with the Brexit negotiations.

 

The World Cup win in 1966 is our greatest football achievement and we all look back at it fondly.

 

Stifling

 

Our football clubs are now mainly foreign-owned, and while we attract the world’s best players, many see this development as stifling the progression of homegrown players for the national team.

 

Much the same as farmers voted for Brexit because they wanted to take back control from Brussels.

 

Personally, I did not vote for Brexit. I have been fortunate to work in Brussels, where long-term agricultural policy is set in seven-year periods, which means it cannot be changed by member state governments who are just focused on gaining short-term votes.

 

The agriculture budget is also the largest budget of the EU, highlighting its importance.

 

Opportunities

 

But admittedly, now the decision has been made to leave the EU, regardless of how I voted, I am fully behind it. There will be massive opportunities for those who look for them.

 

Some member states want the EU to forge an ever closer European union with centralised tax collection. This is what David Cameron negotiated against.

 

We were never going to change our currency, which always put us in an unfair position when compared to the likes of Germany, an exporting powerhouse which opted for the Euro, that trades at a lower exchange rate than if the Germans had stuck independently with the Deutsche Mark.

 

I am confident we will get a good trade deal with EU which also allows freedom to trade with the rest of the world.

 

Young farmers

 

From the European young farmers I have worked with, I have learnt as a nation, we consume five times more Irish beef than they consume themselves. The Danish and Belgiums also want to continue to send their produce this way.

 

However, Brexit is a time to reassess everything. Much like the England football team has done in recent years.

 

They have spent £120 million on St George’s Park in my home county of Staffordshire, which our local NFU branch visited in the spring.

 

This is a world class facility which focuses just as much on training players to be professional and leaders as on perfecting their football skills.

 

Hard work

 

Leaving the EU, we must not sit back. The hard work starts now.

 

Funding is required for our industry to improve productivity, and we can spend this money how the domestic market, landscape and business culture requires, rather than due to EU constraints.

 

Environmental requirements are going to increase, but I am happy to use these standards as a marketing tool to consumers.

 

We also need to get onto the front foot where global trade is concerned. China opening up its market to British Beef last week is a massive positive, though things will be more competitive than ever now.

 

Impressed

 

I was very impressed on a recent trip to Russia with Danish Food and Agriculture (their NFU) farmers who have exported 40,000 breeding sows to Russia in the last two years.

 

Since the trade embargo, Europe is not allowed to sell meat and dairy products to Russia. However, they can trade the breeding stock.

 

Entrepreneurs look for the opportunity in every situation and the Danish have done this in Russia.

 

No wonder agricultural productivity in Denmark is at a higher level than overall national productivity for all industries.

 

Brazil

 

I also met the Brazilian farming minister at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin in January.

 

He said Brazil wants to triple its agricultural production and they are planting trees in their pasture fields which are grazed by cattle. They are selling the beef as zero carbon beef.

 

This is the global market we now find ourselves in, and we need to be smart.

 

The England football team has opted for a young English manager over an overpaid foreign manager, the golden generation of players who never reached their full potential have gone and we now have a young, vibrant, exciting football team who do not even care what the media writes, because they share real life and real time updates with their fans through social media.

 

Potential

 

Farming has the same potential and we must adapt to the future.

 

I know many will read this who do not care about football, but I can assure you there are more people in our country who do not care about or understand agriculture than football.

 

As an industry we need to unite and tell the world what we are all about. We must see Brexit as an opportunity to do this.

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