Opinion: Get behind the NFU and protect farming’s interests

As we prepare to enter another new year there seems to be a dichotomy of opinion in British society.

On the one hand there are those who believe we should rewild the UK and “give nature a chance”.

Conversely, as food prices rise and availability falls, others believe we should maximise production at all costs to achieve better food security.

See also: Food security is easier to preserve than to fix

About the author

David Richardson
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
David Richardson farms about 400ha of arable land near Norwich, Norfolk, in partnership with his son Rob.
Read more articles by David Richardson

In between, and almost certainly the majority, are the people who do not care where their food comes from or how it is produced, just so long as it is cheap.

What a pity our nation has descended into such binary divisions and that so many seem unable to recognise that a balance can be achieved between the extremes; that it is possible and can be profitable to combine caring for nature and producing food, at the same time and on the same farms.

The “tree huggers”, who claim the moral high ground, have little regard for the price of food. Presumably they either have well paid jobs or, more likely, expect the government (in other words taxpayers and charities) to keep them fed.

Those who advocate maximum production – and there are many farmers in this group – think we should revert to conditions like those imposed during wartime.

And yes, if you count the conflict in Ukraine, we are, vicariously, in a war and suffering the indirect consequences.

But believe me, it is nothing like our own country being at war. I was there as a child during the 1939-45 war and, despite current high costs, conditions are nothing like as severe as they were then.

Our choices were limited and ration books ruled. My personal ration of sweets was eight ounces (227g) a week.

That said, we must be concerned that the standards of living to which we have more recently become accustomed are not eroded.

To do that, we need to shake the government out of its apparent complacency and make our political leaders aware of the dangers Britain faces.

The past year has been characterised by politicians trying to feather their own financial nests rather than improving the lives of citizens. Lists of broken promises litter Westminster’s halls.

Those who made those promises must be reminded they are there to represent all the people, not just the clique of which they are members.

And farmers must play their part in the shake-up. Most of us rely on the NFU to do this and, in my view, they do a good job. But they need our active support and our subscriptions to continue their work.

I have been disappointed, not to say appalled, to hear recently that some farmers, who ought to know better, are leaving the union while others refuse to join.

The cynical reasons most give are that they receive all the benefits of membership without paying for them, and farm costs are too high anyway.

I sympathise with the cost issue, but remind them that there are some professions in which you can’t get a job unless you belong to a union and pay its sub.

This is no time for freeloaders. If you are one, get your cheque book out or open your online banking, and pay your share. For we have never needed a strong union more than we do now.

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