THE country show season opened in splendid style last Sunday with around 20,000 people visiting the Essex Young Farmers’ annual event. The show, organised mostly by members under 26 years old, had almost everything and the weather was perfect. The Grand Ring included motorcycle stunts, lawnmower races and tug-o-war, while other rings had show jumping and various demonstrations.

The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs is a brilliant organisation. The Essex Federation was formed over 60 years ago and although it reached its peak of 16 clubs some years ago, it is still one of the the most successful and vibrant youth societies ever formed. I was very impressed when I visited a recent debate with two expert speakers arguing the pros and cons of the EU Brexit debate. With an audience almost entirely of under-30s there was an interesting question and answer session. The meeting concluded with an indication of voting intentions which, excluding around 20 per cent undecided, showed just under 60 per cent in favour of leaving. That may surprise some readers but it is almost exactly in line with the National Young Farmers’ vote at their annual meeting and with a recent UK poll of farmers by Farmers Weekly magazine.

Farming always has its problems and Europe is only one of them. Certainly a subsidy system designed for 27 countries is unlikely to suit the UK but those payments do form a large part
of total farm income, as much as 117 per cent in Wales and down to a still significant 29 per cent in East Anglia. Would any of the £12 billion or so a year saved by leaving the EU be used to continue to support our farming industry, or would it all go to the NHS and other worthy causes? Much lip service is paid to buying British food but do the public really care?

GM food production is banned here but almost all soya is genetically modified and we import tens of thousands of tonnes. The farmers’ union can point out the dangers of banning pesticides which are essential for farmers to produce reasonable crop yields but do the public care? Some prefer to bury their head in the sand, ban everything here and import it from less safe sources without question.

Or should we all forget about UK farming, create roads, houses and country parks and import all our food? That sounds fine until some nasty dictator starts a war or we have a world food shortage. Who mentioned “back of the queue”?