We must be at the table with the government or risk losing everything

Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s quip that a week is a long time in politics resonates with me today as I write this on a momentous day in history as we bury our beloved Queen Elizabeth II.

The transition from old to new monarch was swift and with much pomp and ceremony – and rightly so. From Heads of State and Armed Forces to the humblest among us, quietly paying tribute in so many ways – and hats off to Rodney Blackhall who organized the tractor salute as the motorcade passed through Deeside. A beautiful tribute to agriculture and the countryside that she so clearly loved.

My thoughts turned to the extent to which we could get a “green king” (I don’t mean that disrespectfully, as he has proven himself right on many climate and environmental issues) and how he does. will express?

He will no doubt have to temper his thoughts and ideas which he has championed as Prince of Wales. Maybe the new prince will take them to a new and maybe different level, time will tell.

Moving from Elizabeth to Liz – now head of HRH Government at Westminster – one can only wonder where her head was when the inevitable but still surprising and tragic news of our Queen’s death was brought to her.

Despite the near-closure of politics, we are getting reports of the direction of travel, which seems to be diametrically opposed to the Bold Boris certainly on issues that concern us. The sacking of Zac Goldsmith as environment minister and stripped of the domestic animal welfare record may be welcomed in some quarters, but NGOs and Carrie may well spit fire.

A new environment secretary in Ranil Jayawardena has signaled another possible course change for Defra? But the trade agreements reached are already weighing heavily on food and agricultural programs.

The possibility of removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses is unpopular to say the least, but will the ideological commitment of this new Prime Minister be his downfall? I would defer to my esteemed fellow columnist Jim Brown on the possibility of a revolving door at #10, as he has repeatedly been right to predict this outcome!

Coming out the back door the other day I was greeted by a harsh northerly wind that signaled a rapid change from mild temperatures to more normal rain and wind and a distinct autumnal feel, and an about-face quick to dive into the ‘wellie closet’ for a beanie, a jumper and a change from shorts to jeans. This icy wind will find an echo at our next ARIOB meeting as the Ministerial meeting before the consultation for the new Farm Bill infers that (ARIOB members) played a pivotal role in the development of the consultation document. Not so.

Government officials clearly believe that presenting us with material with little opportunity for comment or input was seen as supportive. We have been denied the opportunity for debate and discussion despite repeated requests and expressions of frustration.

Industry assumed in the absence of information that ARIOB was filling the void in the discussion. Can’t blame them, because the communications around this have been absolutely insubstantial from the start, despite hiring a team of specialists who may be communicating effectively with the officials, who will most certainly sign the big bill but certainly not for the industry at large!

That’s why the ARD Stirling stakeholder group was called in (which I couldn’t attend) to vent some of the industry frustrations and have a constructive dialogue and let me be perfectly clear here – we have to be at the table with the government or risk losing everything. Simply throwing the toys or, worse, throwing our NFUS President under a bus will not yield a good result.

I spoke to the two co-chairs to explain that it is the prerogative of the chairs to drive the agendas, not the officials, and it has to happen very soon or the frustrations will turn into more than an icy wind, but a harsh and relentless frost that will consume us without hope of seeing the day of spring.

Hiding behind consultations and committees has been the mantra so far. Now is the time for action – no more words or hesitation – we’ve had plenty. The answers and solutions are all there in plain sight, all the work has been done, no need to procrastinate any further. The government, in an effort to please everyone, will only deliver a hounds breakfast of good ideas that have been pasteurized into politically correct mush.

Back to more mundane but vitally important work. Our very ‘English Harvest’ and a return to lower temperatures and a complete readjustment from dry to deluge – never pretty if there is still harvest to be done and also if you have freshly sown crops as these can be washed away in a moment.

For me, the harvest started a good week early on July 17th and ruined my dryer attendant’s (Anne) plans, mostly involving grandchildren, as commitments to look after them had to be quickly reassessed.

The pace was relentless and thankfully surprisingly dry crops with minimal and in many cases no need for the dryer to get involved.

For the first time in my career we sent oats straight to the store at 13.5% but keep an eye on that as the temperatures were very high so some electricity to run the fans in cooling was of paramount importance.

Probes telling me they were sitting at 30 degrees Celsius tell their own story, but thankfully we had cooler nights to bring that unsustainable temperature down to single digits and allow for long term storage. If this was not done, the ‘dry and sweet’ words of the contract would not be honored and a massive loss would ensue and probably an attic full of sawtooth – those in the know, know.

Sowing for us has also been fast and furious, with OSR enjoying a welcome drizzle early in its life and now more akin to kale, but given some of the horror stories of hundreds of acres reseeded in the North Yorkshire, I will live with my big leaves.

A field of wheat has yet to sow but the tatties are still underground and the winter barley digging is almost done the world should be rosy and I’m trying to look on the positive side but I can’t ignore the geopolitical problems that we will face in the months and years to come.

About Florence L. Silvia

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