Tom Chanter: MPs hell-bent on wasting reform opportunity

Let’s start with the weather.

Extraordinary that it has been one of the wettest winters on record, and now Mother Nature is playing her final card, the ace also known as a drought.

The heavier land seems to be bearing up, but things look a bit frazzled on our lighter sandy soil. Typical. Are we gearing up for another summer like 1976 (alright Grandpa, we’ve heard about that a million times before). Or is Mother Nature just teasing? Time will tell.

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Meanwhile, we’ve been given a good kicking in the Crown Jewels with the House of Commons voting against the amendment to the Agriculture Bill in favour of keeping food trade more open with nations that don’t adhere to our standards of welfare, traceability and food quality – even remotely.

So when I got my letter from Red Tractor about an update on doing farm audits, I did find myself thinking “what’s the point”?

Why do we have to adhere to these standards, yet those exporting food to be sold side-by-side with our home-grown produce do not?

This hugely devalues all the great work that the likes of Red Tractor has achieved over the years.

This, together with having very few firm facts about the new Environmental Land Management scheme, makes me a bit concerned for the future.

It seems the government wants us to keep the countryside looking picture postcard pretty, but don’t want us producing food from it – or perhaps even earning a decent living out of it.

We’re going to face a situation where imports will be coming in freely and our own farming systems will be under scrutiny for not being good enough.

We now have a couple of options. We could tax imported food and hope that the public don’t go for it because it’s so expensive, or we could rely on the House of Lords to overturn the Agriculture Bill and tell everyone to go back to the drawing board.

The second seems the better option. Hopefully there are still enough landowners and farmers in the House of Lords to explain to all the others why this bill is going to hit farmers so badly. We live in hope.

It’s frustrating, because coming out of the CAP is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get some decent legislation to support farming for years to come. Instead, MPs seem hell-bent on throwing the opportunity away with poor deals.

Perhaps we should get our politicians to perform a rain dance. At least that would be one helpful thing they could do for us this year.