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This pandemic has given us an opportunity to put food at the heart of the Ag Bill

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on food security, giving us an opportunity to reshape post-Brexit policy around production, says Matt Legge, a sheep, beef and pig farmer from the Isle of Wight.

All of a sudden the Brexit subject may seem far less important than it once did.

 

Perhaps, in the context of the Covid 19 crisis, this is so, but we will get through the pandemic and the future of our industry will still rely on getting Brexit sorted in a way which is fair to our industry.

 

Ironically, the current crisis may have come at a good time, if there is ever a good time for a pandemic.

 

The public, and political minds, have been more focused on feeding the nation than at any other point in the post-war era.

 

Worry

 

The initial spell of panic buying and the slowing down of supply chains left many in the corridors of power actually starting to worry the supply of food would fail.

 

Although this has, to a large extent, now passed, the fact remains that the subject was placed front and centre of the nation’s thoughts.

 

There has been a renewed sense of pride in our industry as we get on and do what we do.

 

Farmers don’t seek special reward for doing the day job, but we do need a framework on which to build on the relationships we have with our customers and move to a more secure and sustainable supply British food.

The nation must become more self-sufficient.

 

Pause

 

While the Agriculture Bill has come to an apparent pause, I am reassured by the tabling of amendments to bring food back into the conversation.

 

I hope there will be time to hear these amendments and that the Bill, wholly built around our industry, can refocus to prioritise food production.

 

If we get this right, we can afford to focus on the added benefits we bring in the form of environmental enrichment, improving our carbon footprint and boosting the wider economy.

 

Negotiations with the EU are continuing, but there is still some work to do before any deal can be progressed.

 

Poker

 

With the EU’s push for the UK to accept their regulations being a sticking point, perhaps our negotiations with the likes of Japan and the US may just be a poker trick to soften the EU stance?

 

The negotiations need to be demonstrating positive outcomes very soon, as a June conference will be tabled to confirm how things are working out.

 

If we can’t demonstrate progress by then, there is still a real chance that a December 31 cut-off date will leave us without a deal.

 

Adamant

 

With Mr Johnson and Mr Gove still adamant that the UK will stick to the deadline, will they risk the cliff edge exit, or will the Covid-19 crisis force them to revisit the legislation they set to give themselves more time?

 

Our politicians and civil servants have always been working to tight deadlines on Brexit, but the amount of work to do in the next few weeks will require a pace faster than we have seen to date.

 

With the recent increased political and public interest in every aspect of our industry, from labour to food production and the environment, we have to question if we should now be joining with others to push for an extension, avoiding that cliff edge.

 

Matt can be found tweeting at @Duxmore


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