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Spalding farmer says industry has been let down by the Government

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It's farmer Tony Gent's turn to write the weekly growers' column Word on the Ground.

At the close of another challenging year our industry, like many others, is suffering from being so badly let down by the government with so many conflicting and confusing messages and policies.

On the one hand they are playing lip service to encouraging more home production, less food miles and supporting locally grown food, but the actual reality is very different.

Tony Gent (54015491)
Tony Gent (54015491)

Firstly, and crucially with the ending of free movement and our message of “you are no longer welcome here,” labour resource that so many need for sustained home production and that so many businesses rely on, has gone.

Implementing these changes in such an unnecessarily short time with very little cushioning plans and polices is nothing short of a disaster for some and the country.

On my own farm we are having to mothball half of our free range egg production due to an impossible labour situation. That represents a loss of 30,000 eggs a day to the home market, which will inevitably be replaced by lower welfare/safety standards, high food miles imports that will be fed on foreign produce wheat.

Our arable enterprise is also having to rationalise the crops we grow from maximising production to a rotation to fit the now limited labour resources we have available, with long grass lays and forage energy cropping all on highly fertile soil. Again lost production will be replaced with higher food miles and lower safety standard imports.

Confidence in investment and efforts to overcome all this is being massively undermined by ridiculous trade deals on the other side of the world that lower safety standards and animal welfare protection, accepting many pesticides and policies long banned in this country and the EU, compromising our food security and flying in the face of food miles and climate change.

It’s obvious the present government leadership has no proper policy for food production, as the result of the resent north Shropshire by election has shown.

All we get is confusing spin and more spin. The underlying message to government is – give us labour, security and the tools and we will do the job.

Although costs have dramatically increased this year, thankfully weather and commodity prices have helped somewhat cushion that, but both these aspects are fickle and completely out of our hands and can so easily turn completely against us.

Having said all that, I wish all fellow farmers and producers a happy, productive and prosperous new year – unless we get a dramatic change in the government’s leadership attitude to our industry, I think we will need it.

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