One of the most hotly-argued set of issues, relating to Brexit, has been the potential impact on farming of either staying in, or leaving the EU.
In order to be properly informed, Jonathan took the opportunity to visit a local beef farm and listen to the concerns of the farmer, whose family has been farming in that area for generations, and who has an in-depth insight into the challenges faced by the Cheshire farming community.
Jonathan heard about how things had changed over the years, how some of the ‘old’ ideas about farming were coming back into fashion, how farming does not benefit from constant changes of political policy, and how Brexit might impact.
“Overall,” Jonathan reflects, “I came away feeling that politicians had not served farming well. In particular, whilst they have traditionally seen themselves as the Party for farming, the Conservatives have done little to engage with the people who know best: the farmers and their families.”
On Brexit, Jonathan learnt that:
· Many farmers will find it difficult to carry on, financially, without the Single Farm Payments, which the Conservatives have only guaranteed – and can we really trust them on this, anyway – for the next couple of years
· Farmers need policy makers to listen to them, and there is no confidence that, were we to leave the EU, a UK Government would be any better at this than through our membership of the EU; indeed, the track record pre-1973 is not encouraging
· The EU has always treated farmers and farming well: there is much to be gained from staying in an organisation that is naturally sympathetic to the challenges faced by farmers
· The bureaucracy associated with some EU processes could be improved
· Unless those making decisions about farming take the trouble to understand how each farm is different from any other, and reflect this in policy, farmers will continue to find themselves having to work round inflexible rules
· There needs to be an even stronger emphasis, in the future, on incentivising farmers to help tackle climate change and to protect the environment.