Tom Bayston: Seize election time to get politicians onto farms

Tom Bayston farms near Goole and is NFU Council delegate for the West Riding.
Tom Bayston farms near Goole and is NFU Council delegate for the West Riding.
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Whether or not you are suffering from election and/or referendum fatigue, there is no denying that the forthcoming General Election provides all of us in the farming community with a great opportunity to build or reinforce our relationships with MPs throughout Yorkshire.

This is a mission that will be more important than ever post-Brexit, when our politicians will have to debate and decide on future food and farming policies for the first time in well over 40 years.

As the election campaign gathers pace, it will be crucial to find new ways to get our message across – even to those urban MPs that, with no farming constituents, have in the past not seen food and farming issues as being directly relevant to them.

The fact that nationally, together with others across the supply chain from farm to fork, we employ nearly four million people and generate more than £100 billion for the economy makes food and farming big business. This makes our sector relevant to all and that is something we must strive to communicate.

As someone actively involved with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), I was pleased to see its manifesto cutting quickly to the chase – reminding election candidates of what British farming delivers. Producing 61 per cent of the nation’s food and managing 70 per cent of the UK land area is no mean feat and this means, above all, that we will need an agricultural sector that is productive, resilient and sustainable.

We are actively encouraging our farmer members to take time to contact their candidates in the run up to the election to get to work building the closer working relationships we will need with the MPs of tomorrow. We know from the conversations we have already had that we are pushing on an open door, so let’s seize the opportunity in the coming weeks.

In Yorkshire we produce some of the finest food possible and have a thriving food and drink manufacturing sector. Our objective must be to make British and especially Yorkshire producers the suppliers of choice for retailers, food service companies and of course local people.

Our future trading relationships with the rest of the world will be crucial for all agricultural sectors, but the drive to develop a thriving home market must underpin everything that we do.

With the uncertainty of Brexit ahead, there is no doubt that farmers will need time to adapt to life outside the European Union. We will need help from our future government to respond to the various opportunities and threats that Brexit will pose. In short we will need our politicians to understand our diverse farming businesses and to fight our corner in the years ahead.

In return, we will continue to provide the highest quality food from our beautiful countryside. Yorkshire’s patchwork of different fields and crops that contribute to England’s green and pleasant land deliver a range of benefits for the nation – everything from clean water and biodiversity to world-famous landscapes. This too is something our future politicians must get to grips with so let’s get them out on-farm so that they can see at first hand the work that we do and just what it is that we have to offer.

To read the NFU’s General Election manifesto in full, visit the union’s website at www.nfuonline.com

Tom Bayston farms near Goole and is NFU Council Delegate for the West Riding.