Nabbing the farming vote


Andrew Livingston found some unexpected optimism in May, but the General Election introduces new complexities and decisions for farmers

May was a slightly odd month – I actually felt like things were starting to turn around. Was it just me, or could you see the light at the end of the tunnel? News broke that inflation rates dropped to their lowest point in three years and then Rishi Sunak, at his UK Farm to Fork summit, declared a raft of announcements to bolster the farming sector, including funding for research on environmentally resilient farming, reviews into the pig, poultry and dairy sectors, and a five-year extension to the seasonal workers visa scheme.
‘Wow’, I thought. ‘The Tories are on the right side of the news for once.’
And then they announced the General Election. I think farmers will be glad for any handouts at the moment – even if they have to sell their souls, let alone their political vote.

Potato skills camp
In Dorset, seasonal workers aren’t such a big deal, but for the larger horticultural counties such as Yorkshire, Norfolk, Kent and Herefordshire, there is a huge reliance on workers from abroad flying in to help with the harvest of vegetables, fruits and flowers. So the news of the extension of the seasonal workers scheme will be a big shot in the arm for farm managers over the coming years.
With the announcement of the extension, DEFRA also pledged to ‘turbo-charge’ investment into automation, with £50 million of funding for new technology such as improving robotic pickers and automating pack houses. The hope is that in five years we can replace the need for foreign workers with automation and technology.
Ideally, the British workers would be out there getting their hands dirty, of course. But frankly, as a nation, we aren’t skilled or resilient enough to do the hard work – a point I have laboured many times before (excuse the pun).
In the same week, Mel Stride, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced a rollout to encourage the UK’s unemployed population to join ‘skilled boot camps’ to fill the gap left by foreign workers. It’s a grand idea … that unfortunately won’t ever amount to anything.
Former Tory and now Reform UK MP, Lee Anderson, took it one step further and stated in an interview with GB News: ‘Let’s be clear, bone-idle dole scroungers should be made to go to work, and if they do not go to work, they should have their benefits stopped.
‘Let’s stop being ridiculous. We need fruit picking in the fields, we need vegetables picking. We need stuff packing in factories. You don’t need a skills boot camp to teach people how to pick potatoes out of the field.’
I like his commitment to the cause, however fascist it may seem. But to make out that picking potatoes out of a field isn’t a skilled job is laughable. I would love to see Mr Anderson go out picking for a day – could he keep up to target yield to make his day’s pay worth it?
I’m unsure how I am going to vote in the upcoming election on 4th July. If I’m honest I don’t think any of the options are entirely inspiring, but I know for a fact that my vote will sway to whoever backs British farming the best.
The tunnel is starting to look a little brighter.
I may be naive. I may be stupid.
And with the current political and economic landscape I may be proved completely wrong in just a few weeks.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

More like this

Crops and care at Rawston Farm

June at Rawston Farm: with crops finally growing well,...

The farmer who fly tipped

Andrew Livingston calls for action on the relentless litter...

FCN – always there to walk with you

Barrie Cooper, a Blandford dairy and beef farmer, shares...

The forgotten art of hedgerow life cycles

With new incentives for sustainable farming, hedgerows are crucial...