NFU President Minette Batters urges the union’s 55,000 members to step up pressure on their MPs in the fight for the future of agriculture.
Speaking at this week’s NFU board meeting in Warwickshire, Ms Batters said the organization faced the biggest challenge since its formation in 1908, in trying to convince political leaders to ‘s’ start on the right track “.
“Otherwise, never so much will be lost, for so little,” said Ms Batters, echoing Winston Churchill’s ‘hour of the finest’ speech.
“So whether it’s mass lobbies, whether it’s bringing together all the processors, all the manufacturers, we’ll do whatever it takes,” she said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government were at a crossroads with the future of British agriculture, Ms Batters told members.
“The government has two roads that it can take and it is, believe me, sitting at that T-junction right now,” she said.
“It can take the path of partnership, lead what I believe is a global transformation of climate-smart agriculture. Or he can face a war of attrition with the farmers hard.
“Postpone the plans”
Last week, the NFU urged ministers to postpone their plans to reduce direct payments to farmers in England in 2022 and 2023, warning that the industry was on a “knife edge”.
Ms Batters said the NFU has a “moral responsibility” to listen to the evidence on the government’s plans for agriculture.
The National Audit Office warned that essential elements of the future environmental land management (ELM) program are not in place. “The detail is not there,” Ms. Batters said.
The analysis of land agents also warned that some farmers may consider a 50% drop in their profits as part of the transition from the basic payment scheme to ELM, due to the costs of carrying out environmental works.
England was “indeed for sale” and there was a real danger that “public money for public goods would be for sale to private capital,” Ms Batters said.
She also revealed that she and colleagues at the NFU had attended many meetings where they were told that “the government has no interest in seeing food growing on our land.”
But if the industry gets the right platform for ELM, it believes there is “a huge opportunity to move forward from nature reclamation to landscape reclamation” and to lead a “transformative approach to nature”. public money for public goods, bringing the private and public sectors together. ”.
Ms. Batters highlighted some of the government’s successes in pursuing the path of farmer-led partnership.
In response to over a million people who signed the NFU’s food standards petition, for example, the government created the Trade and Agriculture Commission to review trade agreements.
“These are shark infested waters. They really, really are, ”Ms. Batters said. “And the only future ahead is to make sure this is farmer-led.”
His comments come as the agriculture industry faces enormous challenges, including labor and transport shortages, a growing crisis in the pork sector and huge increases in input costs, in particular. especially fertilizers and chemicals.
Former NFU chief economist delivers verdict
Industry commentator and former NFU chief economist Sean Rickard responded to Ms Batters’ comments.
Dr Rickard said Farmers Weekly: “There are huge opportunities for the agricultural industry, if only someone believed in promoting food production, rather than the environment and tree cultivation. But there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for it.
“This doesn’t mean that climate change and the environment aren’t important. The point is, you can have both. But we seem to say you can’t, and that’s the sad thing.
“We need the industry to receive the science and technology to compete, be sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint.
“Boris [Johnson] promises everyone all kinds of things. But he has no intention of stopping food imports from Australia, New Zealand and others. We are facing an industry [UK farming] which will shrink and become more of a provider of public goods than of food.