COLUMN: Opportunities and concerns lie ahead

COLUMN: Opportunities and concerns lie ahead

In the first of a new monthly column, Jenni Bartram, a consultant solicitor at Harrowells Solicitors, looks at what the summer of 2020 holds for farming

IT seems strange this month not to be joining the queues of traffic wending their way into Harrogate for the Great Yorkshire Show, praying that most do not know my annual short cuts to get there.

No bustling around the packaged thoroughfares or watching the cattle parade and showjumping, catching up with friends and neighbours.

Likewise, whilst back on track, the racing world remains rather quiet without its spectators and televised viewing does not quite match having your feet on the turf.

Let us hope next year looks more favourably on the GYS and all the other shows across the county that are so much part of rural life and values.

I also hope that racing and the large industry that it supports will be back to more normal times within a year.

So to the political world of agriculture and the passage of the Agriculture Bill. Even prior to the arrival of Covid-19, concerns were raised that the Agriculture Bill and the related Environment Bill did not strike the right balance between food security and the environmental issues.

Given recent market shocks, this is an aspect that will need to be monitored closely as these Bills progress through Parliament.

The Agriculture Bill, in current form, is the product of much discussion with the various industry bodies and a revised draft version was published in January 2020.

Much criticism had been aimed at its concentration on environmental issues over food production, food chain safety and animal welfare regulation.

So, does the revised Agriculture Bill answer those concerns? Whilst the revised Bill does now acknowledge food production, the focus remains significantly weighted towards environmental, public access, educational and flood management issues.

Food security remains vital and has been underlined in our current difficulties.

Whilst the general public is much more food source aware than 20 years ago, in a food panic are they going to ask if their chicken is chlorinated or not?

In periods of food scarcity or joblessness, concern over food supply and costs are likely to outweigh niceties as to food sources.

The Agriculture Bill is now progressing through the House of Lords where concerns have already been expressed on food security and welfare standards.

There will be a concerted attempt to address these issues. Ms Truss and Mr Eustice have both apparently stated there will be no lowering of these standards, but I sometimes wonder if the masks we will shortly be wearing to go shopping extend over the eyes of some of our representatives in Parliament.

In a Government that thrives on soundbites and seems to think the general public can only cope with short phrases to guide our behaviour, let us add “Natural Capital” and “Public money For Public Goods” to our vocabulary.

There will be opportunities head as well as concerns but, in the words of

a younger generation, it pays to stay woke.

l Jenni Bartram is a consultant solicitor at Harrowells Solicitors. For more information, go to harrowells.co.uk


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