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  • Ellie Burgess

Farmer's Weekly's Transition Live

Last Thursday, Clare and I attended Farmer's Weekly's Transition Live Event at Park Farm in Cambridgeshire. The sun was beating down on us from the start, with next to zero wind (spraying weather!). This meant many farmers decided to crack on with land work rather than attend, leaving the space predominantly occupied by agri-professionals and reps.


Despite the formidable heat, the event offered the perfect opportunity to catch up with clients and friends in the industry. It is always great to hear about new ideas and projects people are working on and even better when we feel we can lend a hand!


The most significant part of my day was Steve Barclay's speech.The DEFRA minister's discussion centered on the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), which he claimed was the most successful of DEFRA's initiatives, boasting a commendable uptake among farmers. However, the gumbles this comment induced in the room, confirmed my suspisions that I was not the only one who felt this remark was biased and required context.


The questions that followed Barclay's speech were predominantly directed towards the allocation of funds and the long-term viability of SFI payments amidst potential political transitions (an ever-looming change in administration). The transition from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to the SFI has left many farmers feeling financially vulnerable, compelled to seek alternative revenue streams. As such, the questions posed to Barclay urged him to accept that any money that the government is claiming they have allocated to the farming community, was already farmer's money to have, as it comes from the BPS 'pot'.


While Barclay continued to reiterate the virtues of the SFI (whilst reassuring the room of his commitment to food security), it became apparent that the room agreed that its uptake may be more of a consequence of necessity than enthusiastic endorsement. It is a little early to be congratulating themselves on success in terms of speed of uptake…which was in fairness unsurprising, but the figures of those claiming SFI fall short of those who are losing the BPS payments, which is concerning as there is still a gap in income for many farmers.


The Defra minister demonstrated his political credentials and managed to avoid answering any question directly. He instead opted to reinterate that Mark Spencer is a farmer and Labour's offering to the role is from North London. Is that enough to get farmers to vote Conservative?

 

We aren’t supposed to be biased as researchers, but when so many of us have grown up in this industry at Grounded Research and we speak to farmers every day as part of our work – it gets harder to sit on the fence when it comes to how we feel about the expectation for farmers to be the answer to so many problems…though they haven’t covered world peace yet, so that’s something!


If you have opinions on topics such as the goverment's agricultural schemes and funding, why not sign up to the Five Bar Gate Farmer Panel?


Together, we can leverage our collective voice to improve British agriculture. Check out the link here to find out more: https://www.groundedresearch.co.uk/five-bar-gate-farming-research-panel



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