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UK farmers should be out on the streets protesting to protect food standards

As an Irish farmer, it is disappointing to see my UK counterparts are unwilling to get out on the streets to protest to protect food production standards, says County Meath beef farmer Eamon Cassells.

How was lockdown for you? Did you learn to play a musical instrument? Did you pen a best seller? No? Me neither.

 

While it’s nice to be recognised as an ‘essential worker’, farming hasn’t lent itself to the same opportunities for personal development that others have enjoyed.

 

Instead, I’ve gained a stone, developed my eye for online stock judging and perfected my ragwort pulling technique.

 

Still, if online marts remain an option there will have been at least one positive from all of this.

 

I know some see the mart as a great social experience, but I see it as a waste of a day.

 

Follow

 

To have the option to log in and follow proceedings without having to abandon a day’s work is a welcome upgrade.

 

Since I wrote last, Britain and the EU have diverged as they lay out the roadmaps for their respective farming industries.

 

The EU has decided to double down when it comes to food and environmental standards, with the release of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

 

And no, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for us EU farmers. The targets laid out are ambitious, some questionably so.

 

Target

 

The target of 25 per cent of land to be farmed organically has raised more than a few eyebrows.

 

It comes with the assumption that the market for all this extra organic produce will suddenly appear.

 

If I was an organic farmer, I would be wondering what will happen to the price premium for my product if my niche product is no longer niche.

 

The thinking behind this seems to be based on a gut feeling that organic is better, rather than on any solid data, and ironically, reminds me of the same emotionally driven decision making that was behind the Brexit vote.

 

Gambit

 

However, this is the opening gambit and there will be plenty of horse trading before the new CAP gets over the line.

 

And while there will be changes enacted at farm level, at least it shows a commitment to maintaining standards.

 

Meanwhile, the UK Agriculture Bill has raised serious questions over the UK Government’s commitment to said standards, especially when it comes to imports.

 

Detail

 

This has been covered in far greater detail by the Farmers Guardian news team than I could ever hope to, but I will note with disappointment the half-hearted efforts by British farmers to protest these issues in London earlier this week.

 

Surely if there is a hill that British farmers should be willing to die on, it is this?

 

It’s interesting that Irish farmers will go to the capital to protest about something the Government can’t change, yet British farmers won’t do the same for something their Government can change.

 

Eamon can be found tweeting at @Eamon4prez

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