The Northern Farmer - NBA calls for agriculture and food production to be prioritised in open letter to George Eustice
27th May 2020
IN AN open letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, the National Beef Association (NBA) has called on Government to prioritise agriculture and food production during the evolving threat of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The letter, sent to Mr Eustice's office on Monday, March 23, by NBA trustee Neil Shand on behalf of NBA members, welcomes the government's designation of farmers as key workers, with their role and that of agriculture in general providing a vital service to the country. However, the NBA has concerns this appears to have been omitted from policy guidelines and popular broadcasting reports.
Referring to the disturbing scenes played out in supermarkets up and down the country, the letter states this is an indication of the public's lack of confidence in the ability of the country to produce its own food. The NBA believes this lack of confidence was inevitable given the Government's own advisors appearing to constantly underestimate the value of UK agriculture to the economy, and the country as a whole.
Calling on Government to support the industry and the entire supply chain at this time of crisis, the NBA has asked for similar priority to be given to agricultural workers as it has been to frontline NHS staff. Food production and processing must be prioritised and protected, and sufficient support must also be provided for families and children of those involved in the agricultural industry.
Mr Shand also highlights the changing public perception of agriculture and food production, with a greater awareness of the food production chain and the process by which food appears on the supermarket shelves.
He therefore asks the government to learn from the current crisis, and make changes to the Agriculture Bill to balance the food security and production sustainability needs of the population, with the environmental concerns already addressed.
Mr Shand also states that, as the last ten days has demonstrated, beef farmers are not the real contributors to global warming. While beef farming has functioned as normal, with the same numbers of ruminant livestock on the ground, the airline industry has not, and it is becoming abundantly clear which has the biggest environmental impact.
The letter highlights the collective change in humanity's basic requirements. People are not rushing out to panic buy holidays or high-end cars. Instead, the public are recognising the reliance on the food chain, and those who work to keep it running.
The NBA states it would welcome the opportunity to meet with Mr Eustice to discuss the issues raised in the letter once the current crisis is