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The Effects of Brexit on our Livestock Farmers
as seen from the viewpoint of one of the younger generation of farmers in the Redlake Valley.
The following article from John Phillips should have been in this month’s edition of The Redlake, however we did not have room to put it all in and it needed to be seen and read.
The Boys from the Blackstuff.
It was good of BT to finally get around to sending two likely lads from Liverpool down to paint our phone box. Only one problem, though; once the paint dried, the door was stuck fast!
"Gissa job. I can do that."
What a lovely evening we had last Saturday! Known now as ‘Food and Flicks’, it involves providing a meal for 50 people, then showing a film; we try to serve topical food relating to the film being shown.
Saturday night we showed the latest Dad’s Army film and served food suitable for 1944 -
The film was as funny as Dad’s Army should be, but I for one missed the old characters and felt they had let me down a bit! The only person who really was either as good or maybe even a bit better than the original, I thought was the character ‘Godfrey’ played by Michael Gambon. The others were all nearly right, but not quite ‘right’ enough. It was fun having the ladies introduced though and it was a good film!
Well, Christmas has been and gone and Happy New Year to you all! 2016 was generally a good year for farming with relatively normal weather conditions, which allowed jobs to get done without being under any real pressure. Ewes are generally looking well apart from the odd few that always seem to drop off at this time of year. I have started giving my yearlings some corn every morning even though they do not start lambing until April. Past experience has taught me not to try and save money on feed, so the extra cost of feeding our young ewes a few weeks earlier is a few quid that I do not grudge spending.
Now I could go on about my farming escapades over the last year and my hopes and plans for the next in this column, but I feel there is a massive topic that has come about in the farming world and the rural community that deserves priority -
On the 23rd June the UK voted to leave the EU, a morning I will certainly never forget and as time passes on I grow more apprehensive for the prospects of farming in the uplands especially as Theresa May has now stated that we will be leaving the single market and the Customs Union. Farmers should be under no illusion as to how big a deal this is for the future. I make no secret in the fact that I voted to stay in Europe and could not understand why any farmer wanted to come out. I suspect it was a case of sticking two fingers up to the EU with all their darn rules without thinking about farming subsidy arrangements and the massive market on our doorstep that Europe has provided to our benefit over the last 40 years. Remember a great deal of our beef and most of our lamb ends up across the water, as the consumption, particularly of lamb in our home market dies a slow death.
Now I know the EU was far from perfect but with the back bone of the union being the Germans and the French we would always have received some form of direct support which whether you agree with or not, I believe is vital. It may be a slight contradiction but I see direct farming subsidies as a necessary evil and wish we could make a good living on what we sell off the farm, but in the real world I just can’t see that upland farming is profitable without it. It’s a complicated situation but I can’t imagine that people will suddenly agree to start paying twice as much for their food. With that in mind do you think the UK government will continue to support farming, bearing in mind it was the only country who has openly supported cuts to direct farm subsidies in all previous reforms of the common agricultural policy? Did it look after its primary industries in years gone by? Not at all and now we import most of our goods and have far too many people in suits when they used to be in boiler suits making things. Will the government worry about a few livestock farmers when it comes to negotiating trade deals or will we be down the queue? This all remains to be seen, but still it seemed that 70% of farmers were willing to gamble on this by voting out. All I know is, that after seeing some AHDB figures on consumer’ eating habits, red meat and particularly lamb needs all the help it can get in a dwindling market as consumers both at home and abroad switch to white meat. Maybe we can tap into some of those exciting new markets that everyone keeps going on about -
I do think however the next 2/3 years will be profitable for farming as the exchange rate should remain in our favour as markets remain volatile with all the uncertainty from Brexit and the triggering of Article 50. This makes our produce cheaper to buy in the European markets as well as getting more pounds when our Subsidy is converted from euros. Being only 33 means I am probably not qualified to give out advice, but if I were, my message would be… take advantage in the advances of technology and breeding that is currently out there to maximise the full potential of your farm, invest in your farming infrastructure to become as efficient as you can be so whatever you sell has been raised to the point of sale with the minimum of cost without compromising on quality. However that may be is up to the individual to see fit. It’s as the outgoing chairman of McCartney’s, John Uffold says “fix the roof while the sun shines in these better times as there may be a storm coming round the corner”. Let’s hope it’s not the perfect one.
Best wishes to you all John Phillips, Treverward.
Village Hall Entrance Improvements
12/5/17 Work has now been completed on the first stage of improvements to the entrance to the Village Hall. A couple of weeks ago, the site was levelled and prepared by a dedicated team of workmen; Sean, Paddy and… no, sorry; I mean Jim, Peter, James and Dave. Tarmac took a little longer to arrive than anticipated, but it has been done this morning just in time for the Big Breakfasts tomorrow (Saturday). No more little annoying bits of gravel scratching the wooden floor.
The next stage will be to dress the area with fresh paint on the exterior hall wall, a bench, a plaque to remember Michael Macturk whose donation to the Hall started all this off and perhaps some plants.
Thank you to everyone who has helped get this done (and anyone who is willing to volunteer in the future to look after plants!)