What do you know about farming, a friend asked? The answer is … not much. But I have a passion for locally produced food and worry about the looming threat of Brexit. The more I’ve looked into it, the more it has made me an ardent campaigner to lessen the impact of leaving the EU – and the risk to our farming and food standards. I believe we should all have an interest in this topic, as we all eat, and basically farmers exist in the main to provide for that need.
The farming community has come together with the Back British Farming Campaign garnering support from high profile chefs such as Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver.
A petition they organised attracted 1m signatures and the government has now agreed to establish a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission. Following the National Farmers Union’s pleas to write to individual MPs, 78,000 of us have put virtual pen to paper and done so. We have also lobbied and generally pestered our local supermarkets and their head offices. This has prompted people like James Bailey, executive director of Waitrose, to make an encouraging video statement on its website. He has subsequently added his support for the new commission. Most of the other major supermarkets have followed suit with positive statements.
I don’t believe we can rest on our laurels yet. We need the commission to be heard properly; we also need to ensure that the food labelling standards which we are used to having under EU Law enshrined in our laws moving forward. This I believe is the only way to be assured of the provenance of the food we buy.
We all need to keep the pressure up, and it was great to see that on July 8 the campaign group Save British Farming organised a tractor convoy to converge on Westminster. They wanted to make a noise in order for their concerns to be well and truly heard. They believe the government is “selling British farmers down the river” with a bill that reverses many of the promises made by the Vote Leave campaign during the referendum, as well as Conservative Party promises. The group says: “This July they want to pass an agriculture bill that will ditch UK animal welfare and environmental standards for farm imports, flood the market with cheap, low-quality food and destroy Britain’s world-class farming industry”. Check out their Twitter feed to see more about them.
How can we keep the pressure up? One way is to keep writing to our MPs: after all, it is a numbers game – they ignore us at their peril. Write also to the people of influence who can lobby at a more senior level. This activity really does bear fruit.
If you’re still not convinced, check out what local farmers Stephen and Fizz Carr, had to say on the BBC’s Countryfile programme. Their words say more than I ever could.