The scheme to rewild Britain is wildly off the mark
Professor Chris Elliott offers his thoughts on the rewild scheme, which will see £800 million go to landowners to plant trees and restore wetlands, but there are fears that this will cause serious food security issues and even put small farms out of business.
We have become accustomed to (in my opinion, poor) policy from the current Government, but the announcement to spend over £2 billion to decrease food production in the UK must rank among their most ludicrous.
This latest plan comes courtesy of George Eustice and will cost UK taxpayers close to one billion a year by the end of this decade. And it’s not just me who is shocked by this state of affairs; when the front pages of the Daily Mail and the Guardian agree on a subject there must be a blue moon in the sky! Furthermore, when many farmers and their organisations cry foul; and the influential, cross-party, Public Accounts Committee has openly identified a crippling lack of detail around how such environmental schemes will ever deliver value for money, surely the penny will drop that we are looking at a disastrous policy.
DEFRA has long been considered as no particular friend of the UK food and farming sector, largely due to several anti-farming, anti-livestock strategists being at the helm. George Eustice has clearly listened carefully to these voices within Nobel House (the HQ of DEFRA) rather than those with a true understanding of the importance of having an economic and environmentally sound farming ecosystem. This is clearly part of the post-Brexit era wherein we are taking back control; in the same way that a computer hacker may, at some stage, take control of pressing nuclear triggers.
So, let’s look at the motives and consequences of Plan Eustice (or Plain Useless as I prefer to call it). It is obviously being sold around the green agenda of promoting rewilding to drive biodiversity. But ask the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), who have been developing and implementing impressive plans to drive environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture, what they think. They are bewildered and have huge fears that such actions will only serve to drive many farmers out of business. And the impact will not only be felt in farms up and down the country; consumers will all feel this in their pockets as it will most likely lead to further increases in taxation to pay for the folly and increased food prices in our shops and supermarkets.
And what will it do for our national food security? This is a subject I think I can claim to know something about. We currently import around 50 percent by value of the food we consume, up from a level of 30 percent in the 1970s (following an initiative that was set after WWII to prevent food shortages). So Plain Useless will only serve to reduce levels of food production in the UK, increase our food imports from Europe, among others, and decrease our national food security. Perhaps Mr Eustice doesn’t have to shop for groceries these days and has others do this instead, but is he not aware that we face massive food shortages because of global issues and that all factors point to many more of these in the future?
What is clear to me – and many observers – is that this is nothing more than window dressing around the Government’s green agenda. While they may claim they are decreasing the carbon footprint of farming in the UK, they most certainly are not in terms of food consumed in the country. The trade deal with Australia is a clear sign that the offshoring of climate responsibilities is the hidden agenda; apparently it’s now fine to import food from regions who have woeful sustainability credentials. When I give evidence to the UK’s Trade and Agriculture Commission in the coming weeks, this is the message I will deliver – very loudly and very clearly.