Pride and populism leaves British agriculture floundering in post-Brexit era
Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30
In 2005 I attended a UK Nuffield Farming Scholar event at The Farmers Club in Whitehall, the political heart of London.
The after-dinner speech was given by Baroness Byford, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, who served as opposition parliamentary spokesman for Food, Farming and Rural Affairs from 1997 to 2007.
The Baroness extoled the virtues of British agriculture, extending her praise to those present from afar, particularly those from the Commonwealth countries.
I was familiar with British farming as I had worked in their Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (MAFF) as a dairy advisor from 1997-1989 with their equivalent of Teagasc.
I knew Britain only produced 59pc of the food required to feed its then population of 60.4 million people (65.2million people today). I also knew how proud they are about their colonial history, their winning role in two World Wars and their military involvement in most conflicts around the globe.
However, I was confused as to why they did not support and take better care of their farmers. The farmers I met and advised on a daily basis bemoaned poor profitability due to a cheap food policy and environmental legislation this I might add was UK government policy not EU policy at the time.
In my mind being able to feed your own nation is surely the first line of defence for a military power like Great Britain so I mustered up the courage to ask the Baroness why Britain wasn't self sufficient in food.
Following a brief questioning of my bone fides, the Baroness gave me a clear and concise answer. She stated the United Kingdom is a union of over 60 million people and has just over 200,000 farmers: 'I am a politician - who votes me into power Mr Brady?' I shrank back into my seat - I had gotten my answer.