Finding the time to put pen to paper, or should I say fingers to the keyboard, is becoming increasingly difficult. Lockdown* seems in the dim and distant past as life seems to go by in a flash at 100mph! Half term has come and gone and we now find ourselves focusing on the Christmas holidays and staff rotas… We really are truly fortunate to have amazing staff and two incredibly hardworking boys who both love farming.
Christmas will be incredibly quiet in our household this year as we are “a bubble of six”. I say quiet; with an over-exuberant nearly four year-old in the house it will never be quiet. Facetime and Zoom calls from around the world will have to suffice. With my brother and his family in America and my sister and her family in Belgium, it is amazing to link up and play games etc via the internet. The only inconvenience is the time difference.
Tina turkey is now residing in the freezer. Amazon will be my new best friend, although some would comment that it is already, with or without Christmas. Ted has decided that a new battery for his Gator is all he needs for Christmas; it apparently doesn’t go fast enough now and a new battery will make all the difference. Oh to be three again. He has become rather useful with his driving skills in rounding up the sheep, although racing the dog up the drive is a challenge too far.
Winter is now upon us and I secretly find myself wishing for a cold frosty winter rather than a wet one. I love to see the dung steaming out in the cattle yards on a frosty morning. Unfortunately, as I write this rain is falling in copious amounts – again.
By the time you sit down to read this, the race to the “White House” will be a distant memory. For the UK it would appear that we have a lot riding on these results. If Trump is returned, then my feeling is that this will give Boris and his gang much needed encouragement to pursue a no-deal Brexit. They will be confident that they have an ally across the pond to help in obtaining some kind of trade deal that is so desperately needed.
Whether this is good for the UK or our industry remains unanswered. If there is a change in leadership in the US then I think we could see some rapid negotiations with the EU. Biden has a very different view of the UK leaving the EU, has a close affinity with the Good Friday agreement and does not want anything that in his view would damage that; a no-deal Brexit cannot give the assurances he seeks. Indeed there are some in the Democratic party who would place a deal with the EU ahead of the UK, figuratively leaving Boris with his trousers around his ankles.
After sitting down and studying the voting strategy for the amendments to the Agriculture Bill, I find myself disgusted at our local MPs. One of these amendments was a condition designed to ensure that the food imported into the UK would have to meet the standards applied to food produced in the UK following Brexit. The amendment was voted down. The majority of our local MPs voted against it. This has led to widespread criticism from some people that the move will open the flood gates for poor standard food coming into the country. This will also affect the livelihood of farmers.
UK farmers have to adhere to exceedingly high production standards. Could this lead to lower quality meat products coming into the UK? This includes chlorinated chicken, which is currently not allowed into the UK. Some MPs have broken promises to farmers by not upholding high food standards. George Eustice MP was quoted as saying: “We already have the legal powers to protect our food standards and animal welfare, so the amendment tabled was not necessary. As farming minister I ensured that our manifesto had a clear commitment to protect and uphold animal welfare standards in future trade deals and to ensure our farmers are not undermined by unfair competition.” So where does that leave UK farmers?
Not that this ‘say one thing, do another’ scenario is confined to the House of Commons. We also find it in the House of Lords, where Baroness Neville Rolfe also voted against the amendment. This good lady, who I criticised in one of my very first articles for taking out of the industry far more than she puts in, is head of the Assured Food standards (owners of Red Tractor), and there she is voting to potentially lower food standards. The hypocrisy in her action I find overwhelming, a classic example of fat cat thoughtlessness; take the wad of money that comes with the job, do nothing to help the people she is supposed to represent and then retire on the pension, leaving the guys on the front line shafted… thanks very much. I for one will not be sorry to see the back of her, although unfortunately that just leaves the seat vacant for the next parasite to start feeding off our industry.
The government assures us that it has our best interests at heart. I am not sure whether to laugh or cry at this statement. I just don’t believe it. One can only hope that it is all part of the brinkmanship that goes into trade negotiations at this level; my fear, though, is that as an industry our numbers are now so small that we are effectively an irrelevance. Time will tell how we fare.
*Editor’s note – column submitted before the second ‘lockdown’ was announced.