Farming talk: We must address this crisis together

Apologies in advance for this piece, but serious times call for serious columns.

CLA Midlands director Mark Riches
CLA Midlands director Mark Riches

A combination of recent events including rising energy and fuel costs, the cost and availability of nitrogen fertiliser, Russian sanctions on grain exports and the added risk to Ukrainian grain and oilseed have all put food security into sharp focus.

Just to be clear, food security is the ability to feed the population at reasonable cost even in the face of disruption, distinct from self-sufficiency, which is of the extent to which a nation produces its own food.

Despite all this, Government does not seem to recognise the, very real, immediate and medium-term impacts on farming and food production, with no sign yet of any significant policy action. Official statements take a blinkered view that there are no immediate supply issues in the UK, but this does not reflect the potentially significant impacts on farm production given the likelihood of increasing input costs, individual cashflow problems, and the very real possibility of restricted availability that could continue for years.

At the CLA we’re working with members and other industry organisations to raise the issue with politicians and Defra officials, stressing that robust short-term crisis management is needed to address food security risks, in particular the cost and availability of nitrogen fertiliser.

In the medium term, farming and land use will remain at the centre of the current food and energy crisis, but the market shocks should not obscure the need to address climate change and nature loss in the long-term and food, energy and the environment must all be considered together with coherent policies.

Shropshire farmers might, understandably, feel out on a limb, but it’s important you share experiences with your membership associations, trade bodies and local MPS, all of which will help us in our discussions with government.

I’d also remind farmers that much specific information is available through Fertiliser Accredited Scheme advisers and the AHDB can provide regularly updated information on prices and economic optimum application rates.

With such a changing situation, it is vital you stay on top of developments, and equally important you share your experiences, so we can better fight for your future.

Mark Riches is CLA Midlands director

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