The fu­ture is nigh

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

FOOD is Bri­tain’s big­gest pro­duc­tion in­dus­try, con­tribut­ing £113 bil­lion a year to our econ­omy, but it’s not get­ting enough at­ten­tion, ac­cord­ing to NFU pres­i­dent Minette Bat­ters, who said at last week’s Ox­ford Farm­ing Con­fer­ence that the me­dia rel­e­gates it to ‘week­end sup­ple­ments’ rather than main­stream cov­er­age (Agromenes, page 27).

More than ‘warm words’ are needed from the Govern­ment and she sug­gested that pro­tec­tion against cheap food im­ports post-brexit should be en­shrined within the forth­com­ing Agri­cul­ture Bill. ‘We don’t want any­one ly­ing down in front of a bus, we want it in writ­ing,’ she said. ‘If we don’t get this right, we’re fin­ished.’

De­fra Sec­re­tary Michael Gove’s warn­ings of the ‘con­sid­er­able tur­bu­lence’ caused by a no-deal Brexit will have done lit­tle to steady nerves, but he as­sured del­e­gates that his depart­ment had se­cured ‘greater [fi­nan­cial] com­mit­ment from the Trea­sury than for other ar­eas’ and that the £3.2 bil­lion com­mit­ted to the ru­ral econ­omy was safe. ‘We need to im­press on other ar­eas of Govern­ment that food is our big­gest in­dus­try and to max­imise pub­lic sup­port [for farm­ing].’

The en­vi­ron­men­tal lobby has been equally press­ing about what sup­port it will re­ceive after Bri­tain leaves the CAP. Sir Charles Bur­rell, whose talk on the rewil­d­ing of his Knepp Cas­tle es­tate in West Sus­sex vis­i­bly pro­voked in­ter­est, was up­front about the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits to a large land­hold­ing— £190,000 a year in Ba­sic Farm Pay­ments and £200,000 in en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship: ‘We think we know what will hap­pen, that it will dis­ap­pear.’

In con­trast to pre­vi­ous years, there seemed to be more ac­cep­tance among del­e­gates that we should eat less, but bet­ter qual­ity meat. ‘Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion,’ said The Princess Royal in her sum­ming up. ‘Are we go­ing to

re­vert to rewil­d­ing and, if so, does that fit with de­mands for nu­tri­tion?’ she asked. ‘I am struck that we need to be more pre­cise with what and where we farm, so that we can be more ef­fi­cient about what land we leave wild.’ KG

Bad news for lovers of jam and crum­ble: sci­en­tists say black­cur­rants will find it more dif­fi­cult to thrive in Bri­tain as win­ters be­come milder; the crop is worth some £10 mil­lion a year. ‘Black­cur­rants are like the ca­nary in the mine,’ ex­plains Dr Katharine Preedy of the James Hut­ton In­sti­tute in Dundee. ‘If we can un­der­stand what they need in a chang­ing cli­mate, we can ap­ply our knowl­edge to sim­i­lar crops, such as blue­ber­ries, cher­ries, ap­ples and plums’

Sarah Jane Brown’s Emo­tions Run Deep is in­cluded in the an­nual Open Ex­hi­bi­tion at the Royal Cam­brian Acad­emy, Conwy (un­til Fe­bru­ary 9)

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