We cannot rely on this Government to deliver for UK agriculture – farmers must step up and get involved if we’re to secure a decent future, says Oliver Dowding, arable farmer and agricultural spokesman for the Green Party in the south west.
Some say the Conservatives got a stonking majority in the General Election – Andrew Davies did in his Brexit hub piece recently.
They did, but only MPs, not citizens’ votes. Just 1 per cent more votes won than in 2017 delivered 48 additional seats.
By 2024, they will have governed for over 66 per cent of the post-war era, always on a minority of cast votes.
50 per cent of constituencies have elected an MP of the same party since 1945.
What will all this extra power deliver to farmers?
The Conservative manifesto promised ‘in all our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.’
It also ‘guaranteed the current annual budget for farmers and funding for fisheries in every year of the Parliament. The farmers will be expected to respect the environment.’
When Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers attended the Oxford Farming Conference last week, a show-of-hands poll revealed not one in the audience trusted the Government to protect food production standards in trade deals.
Being outside of the EU isn’t going to improve agriculture’s protection from harsh trade winds, rising climate extremes hammering harvests across the world or global disease challenges such as swine flu, which impact UK prices.
Our industry needs long-term confidence to deliver what consumers want, and it also needs politicians who accept that, and act above and beyond their need for short-term vote-harvesting.
No farmer expects endless ‘handouts’.
But in the harsher new world, we do expect fair terms of trade from increasingly powerful buyers.
We need due consideration for what we deliver besides producing food, and reward for things which aren’t delivered through the food price, but which consumers and citizens – generally rightly – demand of us.
The Conservatives, more than any other party, preached about respecting people’s past votes on Brexit.
Is it too much for us now to expect them to uphold and respect their plentiful election promises?
There were many, such as a new and independent Office for Environmental Protection and a £500m ‘blue planet fund’.
But on Tuesday, the PM suggested everyone should chip in £1 to raise… £500m to ensure Big Ben bongs on so-called Brexit day.
I know which priority matters most.
With the new Agriculture Bill being debated, we need positivity. We need delivery on promises.
We need practical policy that farmers can work with, not have to fight against.
We need British policy for British farmers and British food, not American-influenced policies.
But to get the future we need, don’t rely on the Government to deliver. Get involved!
Write to them.
Go to their surgeries.
Provide examples of what you value, the cost of providing such, and what happens if those things are lost.
Above all, don’t moan from the sidelines.
Oliver can be found tweeting at @OliverDowding