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With Brexit done, the UK can lead the world in sustainable agriculture

The future opportunities for UK agriculture, with its sustainable and climate-friendly reputation, are endless. But the Brexit issue needs to be sorted first, says Cumbria livestock farmer Will Case.

A few months ago, when Abi asked me to write for the Brexit hub in November, I wondered what would be up ahead. Would I be writing about no-deal riots, food shortages and empty shelves?

 

Would angry crowds have Boris Johnson flogged in Parliament Square for the mess he got us all into? The reality has revealed itself to be less exciting, but infinitely more sensible.

 

Since the referendum we have had a few false dawns, but the future of British farming is still shrouded in mystery.

 

We have the double uncertainty of Brexit and the General Election. There seem to be any number of uncertain equations after the vote, and then after that, we multiply the outcome by Brexit to get the answer. It’s madness!

 

All of the uncertainty leaves agriculture as a somewhat rudderless ship. We have no agriculture policy and no direction from Government.

 

Frustrating

 

For me this is incredibly frustrating. Considering the amount of coverage the environment and farming get in the media, we undoubtedly deserve more attention.

 

So when the dust settles, will we have Boris Johnson promising to lead us to a post-Brexit promised land, only to find when we get there, we’ve been sold out to the Americans?

 

Or will it be comrade Corbyn demanding British food for British people, then taxing our industry to death?

 

The choice is a stark one and perhaps I’m being pessimistic. Over three years of Brexit has left me cynical.

 

But enough of the doom and gloom – I believe there’s a positive future.

 

Sensibly

 

Hopefully our new Prime Minister will swiftly and amicably reach a withdrawal agreement with Brussels, then sensibly agree to a trade deal keeping us aligned with EU standards, giving us single market access to keep the trade flowing with our friends and neighbours across the Channel.

 

I hope ambitious politicians will resist temptations to open our food market to cheap imports and protect the standards the public want.

 

The new trade deals we strike will, in time, create new markets around the world, and what we do with them will be up to us.

 

We will need to provide proper funding for agricultural policy, creating tailored environment schemes to create outcomes which will make us environmental heroes.

 

The temptation to underfund agri-environment schemes will satisfy nobody.

 

World-leading

 

Much-needed infrastructure and technology grants should be made available to help us create more world-leading facilities in welfare and productivity.

 

Newly environmentally-aware consumers should be encouraged to seek out sustainable British produce, and our image-conscious supermarkets would be wise to support us.

 

I’ve perhaps turned up my optimism dial too far, but given the right opportunities, British farming can be a great success story.

 

One that environmentally-aware politicians want to be associated with, as we produce the world’s best food while we sequester carbon.

 

Carbon negative

 

When we adapt our businesses to become carbon negative, we can sell these carbon credits to others.

 

Our politicians need to be right behind us, as we can lead the world with our model of sustainable agriculture.

 

All of this is possible, we just need to fix the impossible problem of Brexit first.

 

Will can be found tweeting at @will_case

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