New Brexit landscape will kill off UK farms
GEORGE Eustace, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, recently appeared on Question Time and pointed out that the UK labour shortage didn’t just affect HGV drivers.
He didn’t state, however, that the shortage was due to a damaging Government ideological immigration policy and was affecting his remit: the farming and the food sector.
The President of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Minette Batters, said there is a 43% shortage of staff in the food processing sector and a 35% shortage of seasonal workers in the farming sector.
She said this is such a crisis that within the next few days a cull of 150,000 pigs may be necessary – and, indeed, it has already begun. She said that she had been unsuccessfully trying to arrange a meeting with Priti Patel and other Government ministers for more than two years.
Of course, this is not the only policy affecting Mr Eustace’s area. The mountains of red tape caused by a hard Brexit have devastated trade with Europe. The Food and Drink Federation has reported that exports to Europe in the first half of 2021 have plummeted by more than a quarter compared to 2019, with cheese and beef exports particularly hit, with losses of 34% and 37% respectively.
The damage to the farming industry will pale into insignificance with the effects of the future Australian Trade Deal. This will allow in cheap meat imports which have been injected with hormones and antibiotics which are banned here, from animals reared to welfare standards not allowed here.
The NFU has said the deal ‘will jeopardise our own farming industry and could cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK’. How can importing food from 10,000 miles away be environmentally sustainable when it is growing on our own doorstep and in, buying it, we still support local farmers?
All this is taking place when the EU’s direct subsidy system is to be replaced by a new, complex system which the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board says is very unlikely to offset previous payments.
Farming is facing a precarious future under this Government. It is a Government of political ideology and incompetence which is set to cause lasting damage to farmers and in turn, the whole economy.
Mike Baldwin, by email