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The election result cannot be predicted, but farming must be top of the agenda

The outcome of this election is impossible to predict, but the implications for farming are huge. All parties should put the countryside and food at the top of the agenda, says Conservative Baroness Anne McIntosh.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Farmers Guardian is not supporting any political party in the December election.

 

During the course of the campaign, we will be carrying or have carried articles from Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Brexit Party candidates or members.

 

What an eventful autumn this has been.

 

No sooner were party conferences over than we had the Queen’s Speech, following a much curtailed prorogation period.

 

State Opening saw Her Majesty the Queen open the new parliamentary session with an array of new legislation.

 

Full credit to Prime Minister Johnson for managing to bring a revised deal to deliver Brexit, which gained agreement in principle on second reading, but was then pulled preventing further scrutiny.

 

Without much delay, a General Election was called to take place on December 12, effectively putting you, the reader, in the driving seat.

 

There will be local hustings enabling the public to press candidates standing on their views. A wonderful opportunity to put rural issues and food, farming and the countryside as number one on the political agenda.

 

In-tray

 

What would you like to see at the top of the incoming Government’s in-tray?

 

For me, I want an understanding of rural communities and the challenges of connectivity – both good internet speed and mobile phone access.

 

Then I’d like a vibrant future for livestock farming, dropping the threat to ban live exports, which are limited in number and already heavily regulated.

 

We need to ensure food security and greater self-sufficiency of production.

 

Protecting our high standards of production, animal and food health, welfare and hygiene from uncompetitive and potentially sub-standard imports are essential.

 

And access to a steady supply of labour is key to farming and horticultural businesses, as well as hotels and catering and, of course, for the delivery of care and health services.

 

As for ‘getting Brexit done’, we have to accept negotiating a free trade deal, even with near perfect regulatory alignment, will take months if not years.

 

Willing

 

Our current EU partners may not be willing to do a free trade agreement with us if, as we suggest, we might move away from dynamic regulatory alignment to a regime of equivalence, giving us a perceived competitive advantage.

 

We were promised free and frictionless trade at the time of the EU referendum in 2016, so while we are told Brexit means ‘taking back control of our money, our borders and our laws’, that does not mean we can live in total isolation as an offshore island adjacent to the continent of Europe.

 

It makes sense that we continue to have parity of regulations with those countries we are geographically closest to and with whom we trade the most.

 

Climate change is another of today’s major challenges, and farmers could be part of the solution, particularly storing flood water temporarily on farm land as a flood prevention and alleviation measure.

 

The outcome of this election is impossible to predict, but the implications for our future in a post-Brexit world are huge.

 

The next Government will decide whether we leave the EU with a deal and a transition period or not, and what the nature of our future relations with our current EU trading partners will be.

 

Anne can be found tweeting at @AnneCMcIntosh

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