Plumpton College joined a national call to Save British Farming yesterday amid claims that the double-whammy of the government’s agriculture bill and a no-deal Brexit could drive one in three farms out of business by 2025. Local campaigners warned that smaller farms would be worst hit.
Thanking Plumpton College for its support, Save British Farming campaign co-ordinator Gemma Lane warned that the current agriculture bill would allow “cheaply produced food to flood our markets. This will predominantly affect the small, family-run farms, making it even harder for young farmers to reach their dreams of owning or managing their own farm. It’s crucial we educate and encourage young farmers to talk to their MPs, asking for agriculture bill amendments to support high food standards.”
Plumpton College principal Jeremy Kerswell added, “The average age of a farmer in this country is late 50s. It’s absolutely essential that we’re able to attract young people … so we can protect our heritage but also so that the future of farming is sustainable and we are able to compete.”
The event was part of a nationwide campaign to mark the National Farmers’ Union’s Back British Farming Day. “This government promised to uphold our standards and deliver a ready-made deal with the EU which would see Britain boom,” said national Save British Farming organiser Liz Lewis. “I urge all people to rise up and demand their MP does the right thing to protect our farmers and food when the agriculture bill comes back to the House of Commons.”
Supporting the campaign, new Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey said, “As we leave the EU, the government has failed to protect our high environmental and animal welfare standards while seemingly being happy for a no-deal Brexit. This risks destroying our farming industry by allowing imports of cheap, low-quality food produced to far lower standards from the US and elsewhere.”
As news came through from Westminster that the government intends to override the EU withdrawal agreement, a former NFU chief economist warned of the damage that would be done to the farming industry in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Sean Rickard said half of all farms were already unprofitable – and would struggle even more once the government phases out direct payments to growers and livestock producers. With no deal, he added, the situation would deteriorate further.
“It is very, very difficult to be precise, but I would be prepared to say that in the event of no deal, you would lose at least one-third of farmers and probably more,” said Mr Rickard, who was NFU chief economist from 1987 to 1995.
Those concerned about the threats to our food and our farming communities are urged to write to their MP here.