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Sun, 14 April 2024

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The government simply isn’t doing enough for farmers

(Plank PR)

4 min read

As a farmer, there’s nothing I’d like more than to grow lovely, high-standard food for Britain, which is so important at a time when our food security is at risk.

But we currently have a situation where the government is actually paying farmers to rewild their fields instead of farming them.

Fields that could be used to grow food are being planted with wild flowers. And who can blame farmers for taking government grants to do it? They’ve been beaten down for 40 years, told they’re doing the wrong thing and harming the environment.

Rewilding is having an impact right across rural communities and could affect our ability to feed the country. As a contractor myself, if a farmer is rewilding their fields they don’t need me, or thousands like me, to drill the fields and harvest their crops. If ever we have a sudden need to increase our food production – which could happen as a result of war, climate change or even another pandemic – we’d face a real issue.

Since we’ve left the EU I spend two days a week just filling out forms

In the 1930s Britain started importing cheaper food. With the fields left fallowed and farmers hit badly, what happened? The Second World War happened and we couldn’t feed the nation. If a global crisis breaks out tomorrow, we could be in the same position again. 

The success of Clarkson’s Farm has made the public much more aware about the realities of farming and there’s a huge appetite for this subject. Teaching children in schools where their food comes from should be an everyday lesson like English, maths and science.

The average age of a farmer in Britain is 62. But with so much turmoil and uncertainty in the sector, we desperately need to encourage younger generations to get into the industry to secure its future. This is exactly the aim of the Kaleb Cooper Bursary for young farmers at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester: to help get young blood into agriculture.
Last summer I was lucky enough to meet Rishi Sunak in No 10 and share with him my concerns face to face, but since our meeting I’ve not seen much action to reassure me there’s a bright future for Britain’s farming industry.

The government should be doing so much more. As well as educating us about what goes into producing the food in our supermarkets, it could start by cutting some of the red tape. 
Since we’ve left the EU I spend two days a week just filling out forms. Farmers have been on their knees for a decade – with too many operating at a loss. The government needs to secure a fairer deal for farmers in what they earn for their produce. Most people have no idea what a pint of milk costs and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind spending 10p more if it went directly to the dairy farmers. 

In fact, people are choosing to go to farm shops and local butchers much more now. I’d rather spend 60 per cent of my wage on food than on an Xbox or car because what we put in our body is going to keep us alive and healthy.

Farming saved me. I went through a tricky time in my life when my parents got divorced and farming grabbed hold of me. At 12 years old it allowed me to earn money and help my mum pay the bills. But farming is more than a job. I wake up excited about what I’m doing every day. It’s a way of life. But one that might disappear if the government doesn’t do more to support the nation’s farmers.

Our country wouldn’t work without agriculture. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what car you’re driving or which street you’re living on. What matters most is what’s coming across your table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. More people are starting to realise that. 
Time to plough on and make farming work for everyone. 

 

Kaleb Cooper, farming contractor and star of Clarkson’s Farm 

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