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Leave-voting farmers have not and will not change their minds about the EU

Farmers who voted leave will not change their minds about the EU, and have confidence in UK agriculture to deliver food and environmental benefits outside the CAP, says County Armagh beef farmer John Henning.

Spring is now upon us and as Harriet Ann Jacobs said: ‘The beautiful spring came; and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also’.

 

The general mood among farmers has revived too, with a lot of livestock turned out, field work well advanced and silaging getting underway in the past few days – although progress is slow with a significant shower of hail and rain earlier this morning, reinforcing the notion summer is still ahead of us.

 

We are now in the middle of calving, with a third of cows and 80 per cent of heifers calved in the past three weeks.

 

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been easy with calving the two-year-old heifers proving to be a challenge – probably due to several factors, including a good autumn and bad choice of bull to run with the heifers.

 

On a positive note, we are well pleased with our show team with the countdown to next week’s Royal Ulster Show (Balmoral) well underway.

 

Proud

 

We hope to have an all-female line-up this year and are proud they are all home-bred, as were their dams and grand-dams. Hopefully success in the showing will not prove as elusive as Brexit.

 

Last time I commented on the anger which has become increasingly prevalent since the EU referendum, particularly the nastiness directed towards those in favour of Brexit, and more recently, the anger from many who voted to leave as their frustration with those who seek to overturn the referendum decision increases.

 

The reaction to that opinion piece was interesting, with some very positive feedback, although there were also comments on the importance of ‘representing’ industry views, complaints from a farmer who has forgotten all the crises which have befallen the sector in the past and one forthright conversation which clearly highlighted that the individual probably hadn’t even read the article and who believed only those who thought the same way as himself should be taken seriously.

 

Sadly, however, most chose to ignore the real thrust of the article on the level of nastiness around Brexit and particularly that directed at our politicians – many of whom are doing their best in difficult circumstances.

 

So here we are, nearly forty days past Brexit day and it’s still not clear what, if anything, is happening on when or indeed if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

 

Rhetoric

 

The rhetoric continues apace, and many who should know better in the EU really are ramping up the pressure and making a very convincing argument for Brexit.

 

The run-up to the European election later this month will be quite interesting, but I wouldn’t be too confident that the political establishment will listen to the voice of the people then either.

 

Certainly the messages delivered in last week’s local elections seem to have fallen on very deaf ears.

 

It’s also very interesting to read some of the positive economic news which frequently fails to make the headlines.

 

This doesn’t inspire much faith in those ‘experts’ who made contrary arguments in the past.

 

Despite all the uncertainty spoken of by industry commentators and others, there is little evidence of this adversely affecting the decision-making of farmers on the ground.

 

Concerns

 

The concerns about the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), increasing bureaucracy and memories of milk lakes, beef surpluses and grain mountains which encouraged many farmers to vote leave are still valid, and I have yet to meet many farmers who have changed their mind.

 

Most are confident in the ability of UK agriculture to deliver for both farming and the environment without the constraints of an EU system which wasn’t always fit for purpose.

 

The challenges and uncertainty due to Brexit will continue, but won’t be much different to the many unexpected events which have had an impact on farming over recent years.

 

In response we will continue to adapt and change to these challenges because ‘farming is a profession of hope’.

 

John can be found tweeting at @johnhenningmoo


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