After the protracted Brexit stalemate before the General Election we have, since December, moved at a pace. First, the Farm Payments Bill followed by the Agriculture Bill have at least provided a good measure of clarity and stability for the agricultural industry.
A structured transition period from the Basic Payment System to the new Environment Land Management Scheme has been outlined and there is a greater understanding of what ‘public money for public goods’ may look like.
But the biggest hurdle is yet to be decided and none of us should underestimate just how crucial a one it is, for not only the industry but the British public.
Any future trade deal must safeguard UK farming standards. There has been so much in the media of late decrying farming and pointing the finger of blame for everything from carbon emissions to the destruction of natural habitats.
While this may have some truth in farming practices abroad it is not – and if British farmers have anything to do with it – never will be the case in the UK.
The pointing fingers would be better directed at the Government, holding them to account for our food standards and saying ‘no’ to imported foods produced to standards which would be illegal here.
Cheap food is always going to be a contentious issue. Households are on a budget. Why would they choose the pricier British product if next to it is a cheaper version imported from overseas? But would the average consumer’s choice be different if they knew exactly how that product was produced?
We have to believe it would, which is why education is so important and British farmers must continue to shout loudly about the high welfare standards, land management and production they employ.
We hear horror stories about hormone beef and chlorinated chicken but they may be on our shelves if the right deal is not struck.
For all our sakes the Government must stand firm and protect this industry.