Farming is making the news for all sorts of reasons. Across the Channel demonstrating French farmers brought the Tour de France to a halt as the pepper spray meant to disperse them was blown into the face of riders in the peloton, including race leader and Brit, Geraint Thomas.
Across the Atlantic US farmers are set to receive $12 billion (£9 billion) in support payments as President Trump’s trade war escalates. Trade wars are ‘easy to win’, the US president is reported to have said. And worryingly it seems he is not averse to paying a high price for victory.
Here in the UK, as the drought tightens its grip, food shortages are in the headlines – with lettuces, carrots and onions among the staple crops predicted to be in short supply. Just a few weeks without rain, following a difficult spring, have exposed the vulnerability of our supply chains.
We have of course become accustomed to supplementing our home-grown supplies with imports – lettuces from Spain, onions from Poland and so on. But will that be so easy after what is looking increasingly like a ‘no deal’ Brexit?
If nothing else this most challenging of growing seasons has highlighted the need for Government to deliver an agricultural policy that will enable development of a robust and resilient farming sector. To do that it will without doubt need to better understand what farmers do and to that end, in the arable sector, the NFU Combinable Crops Board’s efforts to engage with politicians via its #YourHarvest campaign is to be commended. In a nutshell, the aim is to get politicians into a combine on a farm in their constituency during harvest to find out what UK grain growing is all about. Have you invited your local MP?
As I write I am on a train journey from Suffolk to Lancashire. It is something of a relief to leave the scorching heat of the dry-as-a-desert eastern counties to spend a couple of days in the North West, although the drought is causing problems for farmers in this region too.
From London through the Midlands my view through the train window is one of harvested fields and combines at work. Most of the oilseed rape and winter barley seems to have been cleared and there’s been no wait for the wheat. Thankfully OSR and barley yields and quality appear to be better than expected. Let’s hope we can say the same for at least some of the wheat.