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Agriculture seems to be a sideshow in this Brexit farce

Agriculture is the only remaining primary industry in the economy yet it seems to have been ignored as a sideshow to the overall issue, says Oliver Dowding, arable farmer and agricultural spokesman for the Green Party in the south west.

There is so much one could say about Brexit – I’ll stick to agriculture and the environment.

 

Disappointingly, this crucial part of our economy, of which agriculture is the only remaining primary industry, seems to have been ignored as a sideshow to the overall issue.

 

Foreign competitors must be laughing at us, appetites raised with the prospect of stealing our markets for UK products from those who striven to build them.

 

During the referendum I was perplexed that many farmers thought there were sunlit uplands the other side of a Leave vote.

 

Frustration

 

The naïveté struck me as staggering. ‘We want to get rid of red tape’ was often heard as justification.

 

Older generations remembering halcyon days post-war thought that we could recreate them as if they had never gone away.

 

I suggest it was little more than a frustrated reaction to a poorly run Defra, lowly ranking within Government, coupled with farmers’ own business pressures.

 

They thought that being outside the EU would somehow miraculously improve these. Why?

 

Regulation

 

Where next? Few like (most) regulation and burdens, despite mostly being of good intention albeit sometimes poorly thought through.

 

The vast majority of UK regulations were created by successive UK Governments. The parts that the EU delivered have largely been about wider, and vital, issues for the environment, employment etc.

 

We can’t ignore the environment. The threats to all of us cannot be understated.

 

We will have to accept that Government must unavoidably react with regulation and legislation which hurts business, including agriculture, for the greater good.

 

Crisis

 

Anyone thinking people of a green hue, and I am most definitely one, as an organic farmer for 30 years, and agriculture/environment spokesperson for the south west Green Party, are intent on destroying everything as we know it would be wrong.

 

I consider myself pragmatic. We have to take people with us, not alienate them.

 

Equally, we cannot let the global ecological crisis get further out of control, and the wretched Brexit saga be unresolved.

 

Green is the way forward. It can be made manageable for most to provide a safe and economically rewarding future.

 

Development

 

Greens come in many shades! We are not a bunch of lentil munching sandal wearing nut jobs.

 

We are people who care and want a future that everybody can enjoy harmoniously.

 

For agriculture this means removing some of the tools which people have become reliant upon, changing the diet which many have become accustomed to, and more.

 

The sooner farmers understand this, learn to develop and adapt, the better.

 

People will eat less grain-fed meat, more beef will be raised at or from pasture, there will be less grain grown to feed livestock, more woodland must be planted and people have to waste less – both as consumers and farmers.

 

If we do not adopt these radically changed approaches, the future is that bit bleaker, with or without Brexit.


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