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Cooped up on a perfect spring day on a train heading north through the East Midlands and Yorkshire, I at least have some time to look over a few hedges. And finally there are signs of progress with spring fieldwork.
Seeing sprayers in action in Suffolk and planters on the Cambridgeshire Fens, I was feeling almost relieved in a way to at last be able to turn my attention to what was happening out in the field, given the extraordinary political events of recent weeks and months. But then it struck me that, across the industry, neglecting what is happening in the political arena is something we simply cannot afford to do.
While spring crops must be planted and fertiliser and sprays applied, we must also keep abreast of what is happening away from the farm, whether that be the triggering of Article 50, election results elsewhere in Europe or the continued assault on farming’s access to crop protection products by those who oppose their use under any circumstances.
The voices calling for a total ban on use of glyphosate and neonicotinoids will not fall silent during farming’s busy spring season, if anything they will become more strident. Set up a Google alert for glyphosate and not a day will pass without news of yet another ‘study’ warning you it will kill you pinging up on your tablet or phone. Farmers and agronomists, unaccustomed in the main to political lobbying, have begun to respond, writing to MPs, taking to social media and even organising petitions, much to the indignation of some of the anti-pesticide campaigners. So while spring work will make demands on time, keep in mind that now is not the time to step back.
By the time you read this, the Prime Minister will almost certainly have triggered Article 50, signalling the official start of the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union. It is alarming, therefore, to hear farming groups are being left out in the cold when it comes to meeting with the officials shaping the future of UK international trade relations.
Figures obtained by Arable Farming’s sister publication Farmers Guardian reveal out of 234 meetings held by the Department for International Trade (DIT) last year not one was with a UK farming organisation. Much depends on the trade deal finally negotiated by the Government.