Sussex dairy farmer William Goodwin sees one positive benefit out of the drought – he believes it is a crucial reminder to consumers about the vulnerability of UK food security.
Speaking at the South of England Show in West Sussex, on (9 June) Mr Goodwin said these were worrying times but “European affluence and full stomachs had protected consumers too much”.
“It is good for us to have this drought because it is something tangible for consumers to see how food security applies to them. If prices were to go up and we went short of some things because of weather conditions, then that could influence consumer attitudes.”
Mr Goodwin believes the public take food too much for granted and are poorly informed about UK food production.
In debating the crisis for farmers caused by the lack of rain in the south of England, he said: “Water is the elephant in the room, it is a real issue for everyone.”
The extremely dry spring has left Mr Goodwin’s farm short of 1000 tonnes of grass silage and 3000 tonnes of maize silage. He has a herd of 700 Holstein Friesans to feed at Hill House Farm, Ardingly and is so concerned about the impact of the drought that he has even considered importing Lucerne from the US or reducing cow numbers.
The vice chairman of the South of England Agricultural Society and a member of the Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group favours exploring GM use and sustainable intensification as part of the solution.
He would like the industry to be more proactive in encouraging farmers, retailers, politicians and consumers to pull together to face up to the commercial and environmental challenges.