You can’t rely on the politicians. If you haven’t realised that by now, there’s no getting through to you. Our leaders, as only a hopeless optimist could describe them, have run off leaving an awful mess. Despite a very welcome assurance from commissioner Hogan (annoyingly in this fast-moving environment after I’d signed off the news pages) that CAP support schemes will continue until Britain has conclusively left the EU, it seems to me that you have to make sure that your farming business can work without EU payments, because they are, quite possibly, not going to be around for much longer.
Now I’ve spent my working life in agriculture arguing for treating it as a business, but being cut off without subsidies when everyone else is still getting them is not a prospect I relish for this industry. It’s vital that the Government tells us how farming policy in the UK is going to look and does it quickly.
My bet is that our already efficient farming industry is going to have to become a lot more efficient. We can’t afford to listen to those who would stop the building of large-scale units any more. Farms will get bigger. Small operators will go out of business. Anyone who believes in what John Gummer famously called “Marie Antoinette” agriculture will be greatly disappointed.
Farming won’t stop. We can stop building, and do, every time the economy slows. We can stop making cars, as our Japanese owned transplant factories move to somewhere that gives them access to the single market. But we’re going to carry on farming. The market for food never goes away.
While I’m talking about efficient farming, I want to pay tribute to the many citizens of other European countries who work in British agriculture. Your contribution is immense, vital and highly valued.
That leaves me with not enough space to talk about the latest issue of the magazine. If you’re sick of the referendum and its ramifications, there’s a lot more to read about, from blowfly to sugar beet, to a tractor that runs on methane. Enjoy it.
Editor, Farm Business