Now is the time!
The government has committed itself to continue the same cash level of support to farming until the end of this Parliament in 2022. It is a reassuring scenario but direct payments will not go on forever. The first step towards a brave new world is now being taken as the government is embarking on a period of consultation about the post-Brexit future for farming, food, production and the environment.
The government acknowledges that the present structure of support is “inefficient and inequitable”. That is easily said and something with which most in the industry will agree. Replacing it with something which is both efficient and equitable will be much more difficult and is why the government is happy to listen to views.
The consultation period will finish on 8 May (presumably coincidental that this is a week before the Basic Farm Payment applications need to be in!) but the interim period is vital. All the main industry associations are gearing themselves up for countrywide meetings with members so that views can be properly represented to the government. Even lawyers are doing the same! I will be attending a meeting of the Agricultural Law Association later in the month to make my contribution.
It is no part of my role to be a cheerleader for the NFU, CLA or TFA but I do want to see a new system which is straightforward, fair and actually makes a difference. I am sure that this is a view which will resonate with many but if you are involved in the business as a farmer or grower, it needs to be said to the right people at the right time.
That is why this initial consultation is so important. It is, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help shape a regime which will work not only for farmers but also for the general public who will fund the process. Don’t be one of those who complain in 2023 but didn’t bother in 2018!