Don’t dare take the UK’s 220,000 farming family businesses for granted, that was the message coming from Farmers For Action’s NI co-ordinator William Taylor after Government Minister Chris Grayling MP’s comments on the recent Andrew Marr Show.
Grayling commented that the UK’s farmers would simply produce more food to keep food prices down in the unlikely event that Brexit discussions result in a no deal situation. This will thereby, William Taylor says, push farmers into a World Trade Organisation tariff situation.
William Taylor continued, “The fact is that the UK government is at a crossroads with EU negotiations on Brexit and the UK’s farmers are also at a crossroads, whether Brexit succeeds or fails, they still face the food corporates in relation to poor farm gate prices.”
He added, “That crossroads for the UK’s farmers is that since the second world war they have got super efficient and embraced new technology continuously and supplied the lion's’ share of the food to feed the nation 24/7 to date, only now to receive farm gate prices equivalent to 30 years ago in many cases while the food corporate retailers, food corporate wholesalers and to a lesser extent food corporate processors fill their pockets.”
Mr. Taylor said the government needs to now treat farm gate prices with the same level of seriousness as Brexit. He said young farmers and their families are discouraged from entering the industry, due to recent farm losses and the long working hours. He says the average age for UK farmers now stands at close to 60.
Taylor says the only solution for UK farmers is for the government to introduce legislation on farm gate prices, such as the ones being imposed in NI. He said this should be done to ensure the same level of food production is maintained.
“If this does not happen then the food corporates will continue to force cheap food, including subsidy money from our farmers, at ever decreasing values leaving more of our farmers bankrupt or quitting the industry.”, he stated.
Mr. Taylor said the only alternative for those who wish to continue farming, is to switch to organic of produce less produce.
“For those remaining and wishing to continue farming, the alternative would be to go traditional or organic farming, in short, produce less,”, he said.
This will secure farms, he says, by keeping them off “the intensive treadmill spiral of debt and receive a better price by producing less”.
He concluded, “ To (the) Government we say the choice is yours on an equally as serious issue as Brexit!”