The first female president of the National Farmers Union on why all is not well in the British countryside.

Minette Batters could not have chosen a more difficult time to become the first female president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). “Things could go massively wrong and it could decimate the industry,” she tells me at the NFU’s London headquarters. “It could destroy lives and livelihoods and families, and that is in the back of my mind at all times.”

The threat comes from a chaotic Brexit, which she has been fighting from the moment of her election in February last year. Her warning is grave: “If the government does forget about agriculture, if they do flood us with cheap ingredients that would be illegal for us to produce here, it would make what happened to coal and steel look like a walk in the park.”

Batters says Brexit has been “a face-slapping moment” for farming. Along with the climate emergency, it has forced the industry to think hard about sustainable agriculture. Batters’s approach has changed the NFU from a table-thumping defender of what farmers want to an organisation that is prepared to challenge what its members think is in their best interests.

This is clear from the NFU’s position on Brexit, which a majority of farmers supported. Although Batters says that the NFU “never campaigned to remain”, it did maintain “that it was in agriculture’s best interests if we remained under the European structure”. She adds that farmers “were lied to” and that “no deal was never supported by farmers”. Now the referendum is lost, “it’s not about cancelling Brexit, it’s about leaving in an orderly manner and making sure that our food values are valued”.

Batters’s handling of Brexit reflects her leadership style and strengths. She is careful to bring …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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