Following a number of negative items in the BBC recently on farming, especially an interview featuring NFU President Minette Batters by Evan Davis, the BBC have decided to run a #BBCFarmingFocus week. Tweets about the week are already building up, with stories across local radio and on BBC Breakfast.
The way that the media portray farming is incredibly important today, with the potential for ‘fake news’ highly significant. Farming in the UK seems to be at a crossroads with Brexit, technology, the labour market, international trade, risk of animal disease and farm succession all proving to be an issue. On top of this there is the need to tackle the biodiversity crisis and climate change, both of which are linked to farming. It is a very difficult environment to work in and certainly to make a living in. On my own family’s farm in Essex we have been bedding ourselves down for the next rocky few years ahead. Our arable enterprise is contracted out so we don’t have lots of expensive kit on hire purchase about the place; I have sold my interest in my sheep business; we are focused on building our diversified income and specialist crops that will hopefully carry us through the hard times. A lot of farmers would say this is a defeatist attitude but ultimately our farm is still running, will still grow crops and provide grazing for livestock. It is about making the place more resilient in the long term and carrying us through the short term.
I am hopeful that the BBC will provide a platform for many farmers this week to air their views – for me that is partly what media should be about. It will be about raising awareness of farming issues in the way that BBC Countryfile, the flagship BBC programme that is aired to millions each week, only really touches on. If the BBC looks at farming in a fully exposed way through the week, that exposure should be significant enough for people to take note of farming issues and hopefully remember more and be more understanding. It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s a start.
Header Image ©Pam Brophy