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'Farmers have just been betrayed'

The Young Farmer column, by Joe Rabicano, Friday, June 19, 2020

As I write this a thunderstorm lashes down on the windows, lightning strikes in the distance, thunder claps, and it’s almost drowned out by a sigh of relief from farmers everywhere.

Regardless of whether you are growing grass for livestock, or keeps and onions for a supermarket, every farmer has been struggling with the ridiculously small rainfall this spring and summer.

House of Commons (36839917)
House of Commons (36839917)

It’s just another aspect which makes the outlook for farming seem distinctly grim at the moment, as it is combined with continued Brexit uncertainty, reform on subsidies looming, a disastrously wet winter and the impact of coronavirus which of course has hit everyone hard in different ways, some tragically so.

One could argue however that all of the above cannot be helped, they’re simply events of nature and life which happen by chance to be occurring at the same time. The final nail in the coffin though for farmers could easily be helped and shows complete betrayal, I am of course talking about how MPs voted on a recent bill which will now mean food with ridiculously low production and processing standards can be imported freely and easily.

I don’t think I need to explain the significance of this to British farmers. Currently we work within some of the tightest guidelines and rules in the world, each day everyday.

In an environment where it is already hard to turn a profit the tens and hundreds of rules and regulations bare heavy on many farmers' shoulders and time in a busy schedule has to be put aside for loads of paperwork and many inspections.

This of course adds further cost to food production, for the farmers hardly for supermarkets or consumers and even more stress. But of course it is worth it, to produce some of the healthiest and most traceable food in the world, thus ensuring the safety of the people we feed.

In other countries, less regulated farmers can produce foods far cheaper and this has always been a risk for British farmers. All we could do was hope that, as has happened up till now, MPs prevent the mass import of less regulated food. That hope crushed just a couple of weeks ago.

Despite claiming the stand by farmers, MPs from across the board voted overwhelmingly to allow this importing. meaning farmers will be undercut with no doubt devastating consequences, and consumers will get a poorer quality product.

And all at a time when we should be concentrating on people’s health over anything else, having seen how poor standards can escalate into something major. MPs voted online for the first time regarding this bill, naturally media coverage at the time was concentrating on coronavirus which is only right but it does feel like the bill has been pushed through the back door so to speak and received little attention .

Before lockdown vegans were getting widespread media attention, a great opportunity to spread anti-farming propaganda, if only the media could get some farmers on air in a similar way to talk about how people’s health is now actually being put at risk.

Without naming names, or getting more political, farming generally voted for one particular party that have always promised to defend our way of life; now that party has openly let this happen and I along with many others feel betrayed.

Naturally I understand that recently even more world and national issues have been introduced which need dealing with now by the government, and this will take some time.

But I hope this catastrophe will not slip away and only be noticed when either for-sale signs start going up on farms, or worse, sub-standard food causes another health issue.

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