Don’t miss this month’s new look Dairy Farmer. Take a look at the digital edition today.
As we kick off the new year, we are being hit with the old volatility cycle, where the tightness of supply disappears and with it the much improved milk price.
We are already seeing reductions starting to bite, but sadly not as fractions of a penny, but whole integers, which only goes to further shake short-term confidence in production.
This was before many have had sufficient time to plug that black hole cleft in the accounts and catch their breath to set their stall out for challenging times ahead.
Shaking longer term confidence is the uncertainty and fear of being cast out onto the rough seas of freer trade and all the ramifications this may bring.
Such apprehension is encapsulated this week in a report from an unusual quarter, the cross party group of MPs and peers comprising the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology for Food and Farming.
Group chairman and Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy says: “There are serious concerns that if negotiators do not value farmers enough and build poorly managed trade deals which reflect this, particularly a US-UK deal, it could trigger a race to the bottom in terms of standards and ability of our own farmers to compete.”
Their press statement warns that Defra must work with the Department for International Trade (DIT) to make sure in all new trade agreements British farmers are not undermined by lower welfare imports, such as concerns over chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef.
It says those exporting countries will oppose any improvements and want standards reduced, and that the DIT in pushing to carry out secret negotiations with the US only serves to underscore these publicly held fears.
Perhaps the biggest fear it has, with other sectors seemingly getting a foot in the door, is that our sector could be relegated to a mere bargaining chip in negotiations, and warns any poorly handled trade deal could pose the ‘biggest peacetime threat’ to UK food security.
Which is pretty strong stuff and something our negotiators need to take on board!