West Sussex Gazette

Agricultur­e is facing a perfect storm...

- By Gwyn Jones

Amixture of warm stormy weather last week, with warm temperatur­es for October and a few very nice sunny days which were much colder. Take your pick but I go for the dry weather every time and if it’s sunny a real bonus at this time of the year. There were some heavy downpours, but at the moment the ground is still holding up in Plaistow, but the clay will only go one way from now on. The trees are only beginning to change colour as the greens fade away and slowly turn brown on the oaks; not much colour on any trees just yet.

I see the vineyards at Tillington are still waiting before harvesting, but it must be getting close? My untrained eye tells me that it looks like a good crop, I do hope so as the spring was not the kindest and has resulted in some real problems in mainland Europe. It’s not the end of October yet and it seems that most if not almost all the drilling has been done. Forty years ago we would still have the bulk of it to do, but early varieties and speed of operation have changed everything these days. They are forecastin­g a very good grain harvest in 2022 as a result.

As COP26 gets very close the Prime Minister becomes ever more excited by the day and has built this up into something so big and so important that he cannot now afford to fail. He has some challenges and possible disappoint­ments to deal with unless China turns up; responsibl­e for highest emissions. If President Xi does not turn up, will the 80 per cent of countries who have net-zero targets be in the mood to make drastic changes if China is not there? Many in this country will feel that as we contribute less than one per cent of emissions, why should we put our economy at risk and make our lives more uncomforta­ble and probably be poorer if the ones that matter will not play their part? Figures banded around say it will cost £1.4trillion (!) to meet net zero here in the UK. If China, India, South America, Russia, and the USA, all big emitters do not set such targets, it makes our effort irrelevant? The rush to do big things such as tell people to exchange their boilers for heat pumps is unlikely to work and we need to take a different approach, perhaps?

It’s a healthy economy driving innovation which will provide the solutions for climate change and whilst you need a healthy planet to deliver such economic performanc­e, it is that economic drive coupled with science and innovation which will prevail. Most climate activists seem to dislike capitalism and don’t like science or innovation and their answer is to turn the clock back which will in effect switch the lights off. They need to be clear about this as they must be held to account.

The government itself is split on this issue and whilst the Prime Minister leads the charge to a green and promise land, as usual it is rather different in reality. His rhetoric on this is not different to his rhetoric on most things, a great deal of bluster, some fireworks and a big show or launch and then reality kicks in. Rushing to meet much lower emissions will be costly, uncomforta­ble and difficult for all of us and given that our economy is already struggling thanks to Covid and our labour, power and transport and so on is suffering ( just like many other countries), but with the added problems of Brexit in the UK; now is not a good time to go mad on vivid green!

I suspect the large emitters will take a pragmatic view and their own domestic politics will be to the fore, no leader deliberate­ly commits suicide over global issues and I don’t see President Xi closing all the coal mines any more than oilproduci­ng nations will cease oil production and these are the biggest issues by far. Will South America stop or reduce growing beef and producing soya? Will Australia cut back on its coal and beef production? Will the USA cut back on fracking and pumping oil, beef production and the consumeris­m which drives everything? Will Russia change and can we prove it has? The list goes on and when you look at the scale of all this, one has to ask how this very real problem can be effectivel­y dealt with. Certainly rhetoric from Greta and other enthusiast­s/fanatics will change nothing as they just demand and shout and tell us all whatever we do; it’s not enough. Everyone is working on emissions to a degree and they all say they are doing their best or what they can. We also know that it’s not enough, but some encouragem­ent rather than constant criticism goes a long way.

I mention that because climate change suits those who want agricultur­e to go back to the

1940s and we live in a country which now has little tolerance and is increasing­ly ruled by minorities. We have general elections where most, by and large, accept the results. It is infuriatin­g to then find that we are ruled by minorities who are not interested in the democratic process or in any of our (majority) views.

This is social media in charge; you agree with me or you are wrong. The majority is then pushed around, inconvenie­nced, pay the bills for damage (real damage or to the economy) whilst minorities seem to rule. Couple this with a pandemic and the disruption of leaving the EU and certain sectors suffer greatly and agricultur­e is one. I don’t hear any environmen­talist groups telling anyone we do not need HGV drivers and that it’s a good thing for the planet that there are fewer trucks on the road and fewer goods to buy.

They all pile in on agricultur­e though and livestock production in particular. They want all this changed and they want it changed now. It is now normal for people to agree that we should have less meat in our diets, some want less dairy, others no artificial fertiliser or any crop protection, whilst the extreme want re-wilding, beavers and wolves. They don’t comment on what we might eat and therefore one has to assume they are happy to import.

Agricultur­e is facing a perfect storm and the pig industry is already in such a bad place that within industry we now know that a fair percentage of pig farmers are going to leave the industry and that shortfall will be imported; produced to different standards. Other sectors are cutting back due to labour shortages and there will likely be less fruit and veg grown next year and this at a time when EU border controls will intensify.

It does seem with the recent New Zealand deal that agricultur­e is to be sacrificed on the altar of cheap imports; higher standards here plus the pressure to plant trees and switch from producing food to producing public goods (environmen­t and high animal welfare) but with a fraction of the farm payments. Something will have to give.

Picture: Getty Images

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