Jacob Anthony: Now’s our chance to build hope for new entrants

What’s your definition of a farmer? In my opinion, first and foremost, a farmer is someone who produces food by using the land.

This can come either from growing crops or by rearing livestock in order to produce meat or by-products for human consumption, while also helping to maintain the environment.

I would imagine this is also the image that resonates in your mind when asked what constitutes a farmer.

See also: Read more of Jacob Anthony’s columns

It’s all well and good us having this view, but it’s fundamental that the important and high-powered individuals within society, including our politicians, need to share this opinion – or one very similar at least.

Over the next couple of months, these decision-makers will be sitting down at their desks in Westminster, Cardiff and all the other devolved governments.

They will have crucial discussions, the outcomes of which will dictate the implementation of a new agricultural framework of support payments after 29 March.

Food price increases

I call these payment schemes support payments because that’s what they really are. They are in place to support British farmers who supply food for consumers for well below its true financial value.

Subsidised food is a definite public good – Michael Gove and Lesley Griffiths, please take note. 

There will be many questioning the necessity of us as an industry receiving any support at all. The truth is the price that we get for our product is not viable.

Without slapping that price onto consumers’ bills, which would inevitably increase supermarket costs, there’s only one way we, as farmers, would be able to help those margins look significantly better without the benefit of support payments.

I’m afraid that this would be to farm in a way that would challenge our moral conscience and cause a PR storm.

We, as British farmers, pride ourselves on animal welfare and environmental standards and this is not something anyone wants to see change.

Vultures are circling

It’s looking increasingly likely that agriculture will have a fight on its hands. I’m specifically talking about those who are actively farming rather than simply owning vast areas of farmland.

The vultures have already begun to circle. The National Trust, the RSPB and of course the tax-evading, land-grabbing multimillionaires, to name but a few.

Active farmers are the backbone of many rural communities across the country, not only creating jobs within their own businesses, but also investing money back into local companies – tractor dealerships and agricultural merchants.

They create an abundance of jobs in parts of the country that, to be quite frank, would not have anything else.

These farmers are constantly looking to improve and invest in the long-term viability of their farm businesses and in doing so, help to keep rural economies afloat.

This is something that can’t often be said for some of these so-called charitable organisations that are already flooded with an abundance of cash.

I really do believe there is a golden opportunity to reform the long-term payment structure to not only help to create stability for established active farmers, but also generate opportunities for new entrants to get a foothold onto the farming ladder in terms of potential land availability.

Sensible and pragmatic decisions need to be made. We all need to engage with our unions and our local MPs to press home what we think should be done.

There has never been a better chance for us to to voice our opinion on the future direction of support payments, lets make sure the importance of the active farmer is heard.