The Prime Minister in her re-shuffle will hopefully bring in people who approach Brexit with confidence, experience, and leadership skills. Not as a ‘damage limitation’ exercise.
Michael Gove went to Oxford last week and spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference and the Oxford Real Farming Conference. Depending upon your point of view, it is debatable which is the ‘real’ one. Since when there has been little in the media, or reaction from farming representatives to the minister’s declarations.
Mr Gove’s announcements regarding support payments and his plans for the future have left them baffled, and unsure as how to respond. Most probably as there were few hard facts.
He has been heralded as a hero by some in both camps, but it is clear that he too is confused as to which direction he should be heading.
Anyway, for now he seems to have stunned everyone into silence, and put off the day when support funding will be withdrawn.
There have been suggestions that DEFRA should be split into two departments creating a ministry for the environment, and another for farming, food and business. Following last week’s confusion this suggestion could gain popular support.
I may have missed a paragraph but I noted little mention of food production, business, exports or the principle that agriculture is a vital industry.
Neither did Mr Gove address the matter of rural businesses, and their reliance upon super-fast Broad Band. Our roads, railways and transport infrastructure are inadequate and antiquated, and in many cases impossible to fix.
The rural population is growing as more houses are built on green field sites. Rather than spending wasteful hours travelling into city centres, many could work from home or rural offices, but not without adequate internet connectivity.
This is a priority, a matter which must be addressed immediately and nationally. The daily mass of travelling public impacts grossly upon the environment, so anything which encourages people to work from home or locally is key.
We should spend our money in rural communities, supporting businesses and creating opportunities for jobs, so young people need not migrate to cities to find work, this should be a priority.
According to George Monbiot, the left wing Guardian writer, animal farmers are a dying breed. At a debate entitled “This house proposes that by 2100 meat consumption will be a thing of the past”, he warned farmers that in future years there would be no farm livestock.
At the start of the debate just 20 people voted for his proposal, by the end he had surprisingly persuaded 120 farmers to vote for him.
My fellow columnist Gwyn Jones, opposed Monbiot and spoke robustly for many of us whose families have farmed the same land for hundreds of years, and the majority of farmers who care passionately for the land and their work. He quite rightly believes farming and nature can live as one.
Others painted a picture in which farming is being fingered for environmental disaster and where vegans sprout from every corner. It is suggested one huge company will in future provide cultured meat, instead of thousands of small farmers.
There is concern about the role of farming in producing healthy and nutritious food, in a way that is sustainable for the land and the environment, and it is clear Mr Gove has recognised how tricky a tight rope he must walk. He is right to cap future financial support and to encourage planting trees in the uplands, but he must listen to experienced farmers.
As a wise man has said, farmers almost always win by virtue of knowing more, fighting harder and having the keys to the national larder.