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General Election 2017: Most farmers ‘not confident at all’ about minority Conservative Government delivering for agriculture

As Britain’s politicians come to terms with another shock from the electorate, Abi Kay spoke to farmers to ask how confident they are that a Conservative minority government could deliver for farming. 

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Stuart Roberts – cereal and beef farmer, Hertfordshire

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

By a long distance – strength in Brexit negotiations, especially on future trade arrangements which will dominate the future shape of our industry.

 

We need to get clarity on the future direction of UK agricultural policy post-Brexit, which I believe must be designed to underpin strong, safe and secure UK food supply chains.

 

We also need consistency in the use of science and evidence in relation to all aspects of agricultural policy, especially animal and plant health.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Not very confident

Jon Perkin – Tenant dairy farmer, South Devon

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

I had a huge concern with Brexit that no one was going to come out of it looking any good. We never would have got a good deal from a hard Brexit, so I would want to see a soft Brexit or no Brexit at all.

 

From my point of view, if your only concern is industrial farming then you are going to be a bit disappointed today. But this is a good result or step in the right direction for the environment, animal welfare, local food and food safety.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Not very confident

Guy Poskitt, vegetable grower, Yorkshire

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

The problem we have now is the Brexit process will be delayed, confused and lacking direction which cannot be good for agriculture. We need a defined policy on Brexit and that is going to be very difficult to deliver, because however it pans out the Government is never going to get a majority.

 

The reason Theresa May went to the polls was because she was concerned the Government was lacking direction on Brexit. The problem has now been compounded not eased. Other member states are going to be laughing at us.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Not very confident

Michael Oakes, dairy farmer, Worcestershire

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

We need the right Brexit deal. Access to the single market for dairy is vital. Brexit is a massive opportunity for us if we get it right, but if we get it wrong, it is a big threat to the whole of the farming sector.

 

We cannot be sold down river for a deal. We needed strong leadership to deliver that, and this has just added more uncertainty. If I was Juncker sitting in the EU, I would be thinking we are in a much better place now.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Fairly confident – On grounds DUP have a strong interest in agriculture and may raise its profile

Aled Jones – Dairy farmer, North Wales

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

We have had some kind words of commitment from Government but what we would really like to see is a commitment to invest in agriculture. We know farmers put £7.40 back into the economy for every pound spent – I think everybody would accept that is a good return.

 

We need to grow this industry to make sure we are far more resilient in terms of not being so dependent on imported food.

 

We also need a commitment on improving technology – making sure the adoption of technology happens on farm.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Fairly confident – On the grounds we have made some very sound claims for why they should

Walter Simon, crops and horticulture, Pembrokeshire

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

Access to the single market, without a doubt. We have made our lives harder because we are going to go through Brexit and that has not made us friends in Europe, which is our main export market. Things were going to be difficult anyway, but let’s not add more layers and problems on top of that.

 

I am more comfortable that we will get good access than I was before. Before there was a UKIP-like hard Brexit which said we could do without our European neighbours – now I think there is a greater chance of a softer Brexit which will be good for agriculture.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Fairly confident

Will Evans, livestock and arable farmer, Clwyd

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

We need to grasp the nettle on TB. It is not getting any better. We buy in a lot of cattle and the amount of tracer tests we have to do has gone off scale. I feel like it is getting worse in this area, not better.

 

I voted to remain and I am still convinced that leaving the EU after 40 years is a big mistake, so one good thing is perhaps it will at least stop the rush to a hard Brexit and might make the people in power consider it a little bit more.

 

I met Theresa May this week, we sat around the kitchen table with three of my neighbours and spoke to her for an hour. She was very nice, I felt she listened to our concerns and took them seriously, but I did come away with a feeling agriculture was very low down on the Government’s list of priorities.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Not very confident

Charles Anyan, arable farmer, Lincolnshire

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

We need a strong environmental policy, and obviously with Brexit we need a decent free trade agreement without tariffs, because that will push the price of wheat further down. We need to be on a level playing field and have the ability to compete with our neighbours.

 

I have not seen a Conservative-led Government that really gives a damn about agriculture for a long time. We have got to lobby hard to put the case for agriculture because it is really important to the economy and the nation.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Not confident at all

James Small, livestock farmer, Somerset

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

My priorities are the same as they were before the general election. I want to see farming playing a much more important role in Government policy, I want recognition of farming’s place in the economy and recognition of the work farmers do across the country, not just environmental work but producing good, safe, assured food.

 

We also need a good domestic agricultural policy and sensible policies around labour. It is vital we get good trade deals – not necessarily about exports but about imports. We could have a wonderful export deal, but if we are undercut by cheap goods produced to lower standards, we are going to struggle significantly with that.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Fairly confident – On domestic issues

  • Not very confident – On Brexit

Simon Bainbridge, beef and sheep farmer, Northumberland

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

Trade. Not having tariff-free access to the single market really concerns me. If we have not got a good deal with Europe, sheep farming will struggle. 96 per cent of our sheep meat exports go to the EU – you cannot replace those markets overnight; it will take years.

 

I was not hugely confident prior to last night – I was really very worried about this ‘no deal better than a bad deal’ talk.

 

Payments are a priority too. I know the Government said they will keep them to the end of the next parliament, but they have not said in what form. Upland farms are completely reliant on area payments or environment schemes to make ends meet. Until you add BPS and environmental payments, farmers are not making money from selling sheep or cattle.

 

We also need to have a debate about whether food has become too cheap. We used to spend one-third of our income on food, that is now down to ten per cent. There has to be a debate about the price and value of food.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Not very confident – But more so than pre-election

David Exwood, beef and arable farmer, Sussex

PRIORITIES FOR THE INCOMING GOVERNMENT:

 

It is still all about the trade deal, we have got to focus on getting the good trade deal. I think this will make it more likely, it is going to take longer to sort out but I think we will get a better deal. The Tory version of Brexit is out the window. I cannot see how the version of Brexit they are pursuing can continue, so if this can bring some compromise it is a good thing.

 

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT A CONSERVATIVE MINORITY GOVERNMENT CAN DELIVER?

 

  • Fairly confident

Twitter poll

Our live Twitter poll shows a clear majority of respondents so far are ‘not confident at all’ about a minority Government’s ability to deliver for farming.

 

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