IT is indicative of the current tumult that policy discussions at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show will be dominated by two men – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – who are not on the guest list. More’s the pity.
If the two men vying to become Britain’s next Prime Minister deigned to visit the Harrogate showground, they might appreciate why agriculture is so important to the regional and national economy.
The context is this. Under Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Farming Minister Robert Goodwill, Defra is led by two politicians whose presence has provided reassurance to Yorkshire farmers, and rural businesses, at a time of such much uncertainty.
But there is no guarantee that they will still be in post by the end of this month – especially as both men have had major differences with Mr Johnson, the cavalier former Foreign Secretary, who is now expected to succeed Theresa May.
With Mr Johnson promising a ‘do or die’ approach as he raises the stakes with the EU over a no-deal Brexit, the consequences for farmers are being laid bare by NFU president Minette Batters who is not holding back with her criticism.
Warning that such a scenario would be disastrous from an economic and social standpoint, she says sheep farmers could find themselves unable to export lamb to France, now a key market, while a glut of imports from overseas lead to prices plummeting here.
Individually, the viability of individual farm businesses may not matter to the Government decision-makers. But, collectively, these firms are responsible for the nation’s food production and investment decisions follow years, if not decades, of hard work and careful planning.
And, as such, it is even more important that farming and rural leaders present a united front so that the next PM is not in a position to play fast and loose with this entire sector.