There’s real concern among some of Britain’s most forward-thinking farmers that a post-Brexit British Agricultural Policy will not serve the best interests of the nation’s farmers. But those who plan for the future and embrace change will be the ones most likely to benefit.
The group of 19 farmers from across the UK, hand-picked as Oxford Farming Conference Emerging Leaders (sponsored by BASF), came together recently to discuss agricultural policy and share their hopes and concerns for the changes ahead.
The biggest concern they shared is that Defra is not sufficiently taking account of farmers’ needs and ability to progress their businesses. The current level of uncertainty over future policy direction is hampering investment and stifling the ability of progressive farm businesses to plan.
The farmers, many of whom have diversified and expanded their businesses in recent years, recognised that direct subsidy support is likely to reduce, but saw it as an opportunity to develop their farming interests further. There’s confidence that the UK’s high standards of farm assurance and quality will play in farmers’ favour on the export market, provided the UK isn’t hamstrung by poor trade deals.
Any restrictions on the availability of non-UK labour will hit all farms hard, whether directly or indirectly, the Emerging Leaders said. But there’s a real fear that policy is being developed by non-agriculturalists and will lack the pragmatism needed by those farmers most able to progress post Brexit.
“Ahead of next month’s conference, it’s clear that Britain’s more progressive farmers are ready for change,” said OFC director Tom Allen-Stevens. “What we currently lack is a clear sense of direction and an honest commitment to a productive UK farming industry from Government.
“But farmers are accomplished at embracing change and seizing the opportunities a changing landscape presents – that’ll become clear from papers delivered from the conference podium, and I’m really looking forward to hearing the excellent line-up of speakers we have.”
The OFC 2018 Emerging Leaders programme is sponsored by BASF and was established in 2017 to seek out the best young leaders, aged 30-45, in UK agriculture. It was introduced to to give them a platform at the Oxford Farming Conference to debate, discuss and challenge the future of UK agriculture with peers, businesses and politicians.
Also attending the meeting, that was kindly hosted by Hendred Farm Partnership, near Wantage, Oxon, were representatives from Defra’s Future Farming and Land Use Directorate and NFU Chief EU Exit and International Trade Adviser Gail Soutar.
The full report on the policy discussion has been submitted to Defra and is available to view HERE
To meet some of the Emerging Leaders and hear their thoughts on Embracing Change, watch the video below