Opinion: There's more uncertainty in farming than ever before

It may just be my age, but I feel that there is more uncertainty in the future of farming than at any time since I came into this industry in the mid 1970s, over 45 years ago, writes farmer Richard Barlow.

Brexit means the end of the support system that has allowed the majority of farms to be profitable for the last 20 years. It looks like cheap food imports are going to be allowed in, so that exporting industries can gain access to non-EU countries.

We will have to get used to being paid to look after bees, newts and badgers, and not worry about providing food for our fellow countrymen.

With the phasing out of the Basic Farm Scheme and the acreage payments that went with it, land rents should drop, as most landlords have expected their tenants to hand over a significant proportion of the +/-£90/ac. payment.

The experts – land agents – think Agricultural Holding Act tenancies may drop, but that there is enough competition between farmers for the more short-term Farm Business Tenancies to keep at current levels.

A lot has been said about the shortage of manual labour and that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme doesn’t allow foreign students to work on flower and bulb crops, even if the farm also grows edible crops. Even our local MP seems to have his head buried in a local field on this issue.

The grip of the supermarkets on the supply chain gets ever tighter. As they cut down on the number of packers they purchase from, it means growers have less choice of who we sell to and have to take whatever price they offer. Tesco and Sainsbury are probably the worst culprits in this practice.

With coronavirus having led to government control of our daily lives, I won’t be surprised that they use similar powers going forwards in the name of the Climate Change Emergency.

The phasing out of diesel and petrol cars within eight-and-a-half years is going to have a much more costly effect on rural communities than those metropolitan-based planners, sitting in the centre of London.

When I started out, we had just joined the Common Market and everything looked rosy. For the generation starting out now in farming, you need a “half full” mentality to keep cheerful!

Trying to look on the bright side, during periods of upheaval there are always opportunities, but the skill is to spot them!

Source: Spalding Today