Currently farmers receive direct payments based on the amount of land farmed but in a post-Brexit world things will be very different.
Michael Gove has made his vision clear: in future, payments will relate to so-called ‘public goods’ – such as environmental protection and animal welfare.
The ‘Golden Standard’ that Michael Gove has his sights set upon certainly has the potential to enable British farmers to lead the world; but at what cost?
With other countries eschewing such concerns to a greater or lesser degree what will this initiative do to the competitiveness of British farming?
And if British farming is less competitive that has a major effect on the competitiveness of the British food industry.
Mr Thomson talks of a country with fewer farms, ‘operating as highly efficient, technology-savvy and innovative businesses.’ These farms are most likely to ‘weather the storm’ but to do so effectively will require, according to Mr Thomson, ‘the support of the rest of the food supply chain.’
He’s absolutely correct.
Very few major food companies responded to the recent Defra ‘Health & Harmony’ future farming consultation. This is of major concern given the potential repercussions.
One such concern is the ability to source British. According to a poll by Mr Thomson’s company, over 80% of companies that responded thought they would be sourcing more from British farmers.
The question Mr Thomson poses is how easy will it be to secure their supply?
Some food businesses have ‘invested in building stronger ties and supply chains with their farmers.’
According to Mr Thomson, they have ‘the advantage of strong, productive supply chains, ‘back to the farm’ that deliver more certainty of supply, brand protection, the ability to manage volatile commodity markets and deliver on many aspects of sustainability at the farm level.’
We applaud Mr Thomson’s views, not least because we’ve been saying very much the same for a long time now. It’s not just a post-Brexit issue although Brexit, and Mr Gove’s strategy, have brought things into even sharper relief.
The simple fact is that when food companies work closely with their farmer suppliers the results benefit both parties and the consumer too. Which is not just good for British farming and the British Food Industry; it’s good for everyone.
Managing Director of Fourayes, vice-chairman of English Apples & Pears, Fruitician and Mad Scientist.