The consultation into the farming policy of the next 20 years is underway; we have until 8 May to respond to the Health and Harmony command document from the ministry.

I have spent a lot of time reading transcripts of Mr Gove’s speeches, I’ve read all 64 pages of the consultation document several times and have also read through the supporting information and statements from the EU representation on the future of the CAP. Make all the jokes you like about how much sleep I can get as a consequence, it’s been illuminating.

I have also attended a number of consultation briefing sessions by the NFU and other organisations and have briefed a couple of groups myself and the one thing that is abundantly clear is that not enough people have woken up to what a fundamental change is about to happen to the face of British farming. We are in very real danger of not doing enough to state the importance of our industry and that of home grown food. The minister has had pointed out to him that the word food doesn’t actually appear in the command document. They are so bound in environmental, Green Brexit, future career positioning that they forgot that the countryside is a place of business; that of the production of healthy, home grown, essential food.

So, there have been a number of versions of responses produced, each particular to the sector it relates to. They have made brilliant reading – in the main clear and concise, supportive documents designed to show a clear path to a healthy, sustainable, profitable British horticultural sector. The EAP consultation was delivered to members’ email accounts last Monday, they were given seven days in which to comment on the document and return it for a final version to be submitted on behalf of the sector and circulated for all to use for individual submission. One response from the whole of top fruit won’t be enough, we need every grower to make their voice heard – every single farmer must send their calm and reasoned opinion on what the future policy for our industry must look like. We cannot afford to be ignored.

We are a successful sector; top fruit production has invested and improved enormously in the last decade. British Horticulture is a success story which needs to be built upon in any future policy. UK horticultural production uses 4% of the land, delivering 24% of the farm gate value. Fruit growing uses 0.6% of the land and delivers 10% of the farm gate value.

The British Apple and Pear industry represents a significant proportion of the turnover of British fruit production. (Source: DEFRA) Eating apples have seen phenomenal 40% growth from 67,139 tonnes sold in 2008/9 to 112,285 tonnes sold in 2016/17. Pears have seen a growth of 27% from 15,540 tonnes sold in 2008/9 to 21,220 tonnes sold in 2016/17. This has been made possible by investment and funding – the work of POs giving small growers strength in numbers, investment in research and development, changes in our orchard management strategies and a rapid adoption of new varieties that thrive in our climate. We face a rapid stall in the industry, we are by no means as dependent on support. Indeed this consultation is actually far more about protecting what plant protection products we have left, eliciting a more common sense approach to approvals, bio-security, crop assurance schemes, access to the countryside, ensuring that land-based education is fit for purpose, making sure that we are not disadvantaged by trade tariffs, and the removal of access to seasonal labour.

There is much to be gained and everything to be lost by remaining silent, please respond, please let EAP know what you want to see in the future policy. Help build a policy that benefits food production in the UK.