Eight billion reasons why farmers need a healthy harvest

An increase in food production of 50 per cent is needed by 2030.
An increase in food production of 50 per cent is needed by 2030.
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Simon Fisher, NFU county adviser for Holland (Lincolnshire) branch, puts the case for a healthy harvest.

One of the dilemmas faced by farmers is that the European Union is reducing our capacity to produce food as it withdraws our crop protection tools just at the time when it should be encouraging innovation, investment and productivity in all sectors of farming and horticulture.

In the last 15 years, the number of crop protection products available to farmers has fallen from over 800 to just over 250. This makes producing food an increasingly difficult job.

To be blunt, without crop protection products (pesticides, in other words) we don’t have a hope of achieving an increase in the level of food production required.

Crop protection products do what they say on the tin – they protect our food crops from damage by pests and diseases and from competition from weeds.

As gardeners know, without protecting crops from these problems, we face devastation from the onslaught of slugs, snails, mildew, aphids and caterpillars, and on a farming scale we need more than egg-shells, washing up liquid or a judicious pinch of the finger and thumb.

And no one likes to find a caterpillar in a cabbage: just look at the boxes of apples at the end of the day in the supermarket – it’s the ones with a slight bruise or blemish that are left after we’ve taken the perfect ones home.

Growing crops for people to eat is a fine art. It takes a mixture of soil, water, sun, fertiliser and, to be cute about it, crop ‘medicines’. Keeping a field of cabbages or carrots or an orchard of apple trees free of the insects and diseases that affect them is not an easy thing to do.

If the EU has its way, farming won’t be able to grow safe, affordable supplies of food. We are starting to see some large scale impacts in the industry because of EU decisions being taken to withdraw crop protection products. These are decisions based on the hazard they’re perceived to be to human health and wildlife, not the risk, based on sound science, strict testing, authorisation and responsible use.

In fact it pushes farmers towards relying on older science that will probably be more damaging to the environment.

If it’s a struggle for our farmers to grow enough food to be able to sustain the population now, how can we expect to achieve the yields needed to feed the world in 2030?

Yet our European masters are making it more and more difficult to grow crops by taking those crop protection tools away from us: it’s like being made to farm with one hand tied behind our backs and facing the possibility that the other hand will be tied, too.

So come on, politicians, make a stand for good quality food and plenty of it. Farmers and growers want to produce food – it’s what we’re here for, but without the right tools, appropriate regulation and a secure future, it won’t happen.

If not addressed seriously and soon many of those eight billion people in 2030 will be wondering where their next meal is coming from.

Read more about the issue, here: http://www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/nfu-responds-to-andersons-report/