The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) believes that the speech given to the Oxford Farming Conference by DEFRA Secretary of State, Michael Gove foreshadows the contents of the promised Government White Paper on agricultural policy expected in the spring.
TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “We are used to having our hopes dashed of hearing a meaty Oxford Farming Conference speech from incumbents as DEFRA Secretaries of State but not this time. Like or loathe what we heard, we received a fairly firm view of future Government policy, the like of which we have not seen since Hillary Benn’s speech in 2010 in which he set out his 20 year plan to boost domestic food production. That plan fell by the wayside when Labour lost the 2010 General Election later that year and we will have to wait to see if the Gove plan survives the political choppy waters of our time.”
“Disappointingly, there was a triumph of hope over practicality in the extent to which Mr Gove seems to be relying upon technological change to provide the swift answers we need to address labour shortages and the urgent need to increase farm productivity. Also on the negative side, there was nothing said specifically about the tenanted sector of agriculture, and there also continues to be too much reliance on the market being the means by which we sort out our food safety and food standards issues in a free trading environment.” said Mr Dunn.
“On the plus side there was a clear understanding of the need for a sufficient period of transition to a new policy framework. A commitment for the Government to act as a strong champion of British produce at home and abroad. A pledge to deal with market failure in the food chain and a promise that no one entering into an agri-environment scheme today will be disadvantaged when new schemes are developed for the post Brexit era.” said Mr Dunn.
Over the next few months the TFA will be holding a number of meetings throughout the country to gauge the views of grassroots members and others on the shape of future Government policy. The roadshow begins in the North of the country with meetings on 22 January in Kendal and on 23 January in Hexham. The roadshow then heads south in February.
“During our roadshow of meetings we will be joining with representatives from the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) to unpack what we know and discuss the best way forward,” said Mr Dunn.