Minette Batters, the first female president of the National Farmers Union, said she had been disappointed in Health and Harmony, a new strategy published by Michael Gove’s DEFRA.
“It didn’t really mention food at all, and we are farmers, that’s what we do. I think that was a glaring oversight,” she said.
The NFU urged farmers to vote ‘Remain’ in the referendum of 2016, but she said she accepted the results and thought there were significant opportunities for Britain in a post-EU existence. Nonetheless, she said it was important to avoid giving into some of the ideas being floated that Britain should get rid of payments of farmers when it leaves the Common Agricultural Policy.
“You can’t just shut your eyes and say the market will run itself because the market is a savage beast,” she said. “There’s a lot of false talk about New Zealand, and how they scrapped subsidies: ‘it transformed the sector’. Yes, and a lot of people went out with a shotgun and finished it all off.”
At the moment, she said farmers were responding cautiously to Gove’s suggestions that they diversify, and waiting to see what the country’s trade relations were going to be. “No farmer I know wants to be supported. If they could make a profitable living out of what they produce, they would be delighted have that support taken away,” she said.