This week in farming, conservation and the countryside (9th March 2018)

This is the first post of a brand new section on thinkingcountry. Each Friday I will focus on a few of the events and things of interest that have happened during the previous week in farming, conservation and the countryside. It is something that I have been meaning to do for a while, but haven’t got round to acting on it – but there’s nothing like the present!

So, here’s my roundup for the week Saturday 3rd – Friday 9th March.

1) Farmers reflect on Brexit 

In terms of Brexit news last week of course ended with Theresa May’s Mansion House speech in which she said that access to the single market would be ‘less than it is now’ and reminded us that we will be leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (as if we didn’t know…). Farmers, along with the rest of the country, are still unsure however as what the future will bring in terms of trade. This puts them in a difficult position for planning ahead. They know that subsidy support will be changing in future, but are unsure of what they will be expected to do. NFU President Minette Batters responded to the Prime Minister’s speech by saying:

“The future of our trading relationship is up there with the most critical issues facing the British farming industry. We absolutely need to get this right if farming is to keep delivering for Britain’s economy, environment and food security.”

Minette Batters, NFU President.

Farmers and others involved in food, farming, conservation and the countryside have also started sending their responses this week to the government’s consultation document.

I am yet to send my response (been a busy week) but will certainly make time for it soon!

2) Simon Phelps’ article on Monbiot and rewilding

Also in the last week Simon Phelps wrote an article that received a significant response on social media. Examining the rewilding movement and in particular the ways of engagement relating to rewilding carried out by people like George Monbiot, Phelps called for a ‘more mature, measured and considered debate’ regarding rewilding. There were certainly strong views expressed on twitter and much agreement that the debate relating to rewilding has become rather toxic at times. You can read the article here.

3) The Beast from the East relents but Pest from the West pushes in.

The last remnants of the drifts can still be seen on verges here in Essex but the Beast from the East is now nothing but a memory and life can move on. However, this week people in the north of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had to contend with the ‘Pest from the West’ (why the need for these names?!)

4) International Women’s Day happened 

The 8th March was International Women’s Day which was marked in many ways, and social media covered in posts with the hashtag #InternationalWomensDay. It was an opportunity to celebrate women involved in countryside industries and support services and raise awareness of issues of inequality which persist. To read about the work of some amazing women working in agriculture (including my friends Abby Rose and Kate Yells)  and Fiona Provan who appeared on episode 10 of Meet the Farmers, see this in Pebble Mag.

5) Millionaire environmental campaigner and Tory donor Ben Goldsmith was appointed as a non-executive member of Defra’s departmental board

This actually happened last Friday, but is worth a mention. Also appointed were Henry Dimbleby, Elizabeth Buchanan, Colin Day and Lizzie Noel. Mr Goldsmith co-founded the UK Environmental Funders’ Network and also chairs the Goldsmith family’s philanthropic foundation – the JMG Foundation – which has a focus on the environment.

6) Christine Middlemiss becomes the new UK chief veterinary officer at Defra

Dr Middlemiss grew up on a family farm and has a background in beef cattle and sheep. She replaces Nigel Gibbens who was in the role for ten years. She was formerly the Chief Veterinary Officer for New South Wales in Australia. The British Veterinary Association has welcomed her appointment. 


These are just a few of the things that have happened this week. If you know of something critical that I have missed, or something that would be of interest to other readers that has happened in the last week, please comment below. 

Next week I don’t expect to be blogging much as I’ll be on the road for most of the week. On Monday I’ll be speaking to National Trust staff and volunteers in the south-west at their Spring Conference at Bridgwater and Taunton College and then I’ll be in Norfolk for the rest of the week on a food safety course. Wishing you all a good weekend.




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