What’s DEFRA for?

I was listening to a Scottish comedian on the radio the other day, one of those old programmes on the BBC iPlayer. He was at the Edinburgh fringe and reassured the English members of the audience that the Scots don’t really hate the English. “What we really hate is Westminster,” he said, “and so do most of the English. We should just put a wall around it.”

I’m with him. I live 35 miles from London and I can assure readers from the distant fringes of England, Scotland, Wales and wherever else, that people round here are generally just as hacked off with the out of touch attitude of UK governments of every political hue.

London has been particularly irrelevant in the latest farming crisis, with DEFRA issuing announcements about how it had, somewhat passively, told Brussels about how something needed doing. (I’ve worked with people like that. Hours-long meetings would end with a list of action points all of which had the name of somebody who hadn’t been at the meeting next to them).

I would suggest, with teeth slightly gritted, that the timing may not be good for a strategy for saving the agricultural industry that depends on the goodwill and co-operation of our European partners, just as our own Government has refused to take part in a Europe-wide response to possibly the biggest crisis that’s faced us as a continent in 50 years, solely, apparently, because that response would be ‘European’. This isn’t the place to get carried away on the subject, but I think the British official response to the refugee crisis has been despicable.

Does anyone imagine any British industry, including agriculture, is going to be at the front of the queue when our fellow Europeans are asking who should be on the receiving end of other people’s sacrifices and generosity?

I’m very frustrated with the farming industry over all this. The Government’s strategy seems to be to do less than naff all for farming, but ‘hey look over there – we’ve shot a badger and allowed the use of neonics on an area the size of a front lawn somewhere in deepest Bedfordshire’. Farming needs to get a bit cleverer over politics and it needs to make sure politicians can’t take its support for granted. This industry needs to be taken seriously by government as a business. It’s been suggested before in this magazine that maybe it should be covered by the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills and that idea wants looking at again. Meanwhile farming needs to stop being a business that wags its tail every time it gets a pat on the head from our leaders.

Chris Lyddon
Editor Farm Business

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