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Over The Farm Gate

Over The Farm Gate

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LAMMA 2021

LAMMA 2021

Lots has gone wrong in the Brexit talks, but farmers must pull through whatever comes next

Lots of things have gone wrong in the Brexit talks with the EU, but the nation needs farmers to pull through, no matter what comes next, says Oliver Dowding, apple juice producer and agricultural spokesman for the Green Party in the south west.

What challenges are we all facing?


More than most farmers and those working in the rural industries can cope with.


Brexit lingers in the background when it should be foreground, but is obscured with daily obsessing over the coronavirus scourge.


There’s been more turmoil in many businesses over the last four months than most would want to endure over several years, with no imminent likelihood of release from this torment and uncertainty.


Government seems to be filled with weak Ministers unsure what to say every day, changing positions with increasing regularity.


We, the governed, struggle to know what direction we can go in, but people are starting to ask what they will be allowed to do.


How have we become like this?




Even the new BBC boss is telling comedians to stop making jokes about the Government and Brexit.


Then there’s the most extreme patterns of weather making a mockery of the best laid cropping plans for most farmers.


The eternally wet first three months became a baking heatwave with little rain for two months, and for some people longer.


Then just when we wanted to kick off with harvest, more rain.


It’s a hugely different picture from south to north, with many in the south having finished (a generally very poor) harvest, but in the north things have barely started.


It’s September now, and it’s never good to be harvesting cereals then.




Costs will be rising rapidly, yields aren’t great, and the prices are pretty miserable.


That misery will be matched by farmers’ mood and mental health, never mind financial wellbeing.


Is there anything to be cheerful about?


For most farms, the answer is at least we don’t live in the cities, where the coronavirus impact upon health and daily life is much more profound.


For three days a week for two months I have been in Wandsworth, in London, selling my apple juice and cider at a new market.


I can attest to the difference in mood and the impact of the virus.




I look up the enormous tower blocks and contemplate what it would have been like to face lockdown in a tiny flat, high above the city.


Little access to fresh air, personal economics in turmoil, children unable to go out, schools closed, care agencies unable to help enough and so on.


But back to Brexit. Many people have short memories.


On June 26 2016, our now Prime Minister assured us all that ‘British people will still be able to go and work in the EU’.


Crucially, he said ‘there will continue to be access to the single market’.


Something’s gone horribly wrong. Well, lots of things, actually.




Add to that the recent Tenant Farmers’ Association survey showing one third struggling to pay the rent.


The public sadly don’t know that a quarter of farms are rented.


Do they care?


I hope farmers can pull through the grim outlook for many. The nation needs us to feed them, even if not everyone knows or appreciates this.


Oliver can be found tweeting at @OliverDowding

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