Monday, September 16, 2019

New farm commissioner from Poland

With Phil Hogan promoted to be trade commissioner, the new agriculture commissioner is from Poland. Janusz Wojciechowski is a 64-year old Polish politician and has 15 years of experience in European politics, having been elected to the European Parliament in 2004, a seat he held until 2016 when he went to the Court of Auditors.

He has specific experience in agri-politics at European level, having served as the vice-chairperson of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for most of that time.

Wojciechowski was nominated as a commissioner by the Polish government after the countries original nominee for this commission, Krzysztof Szczerski, decided to withdraw his candidacy. This was because, as Szczerski explained in the Polish media after it was first mooted that he would be given the agriculture and rural development job, he felt that someone with experience in agriculture would be better suited to the role.

Wojciechowski started his European political career as part of the European People’s Party (EPP), of which his national party, the Polish People’s Party. However, he was dismissed from the Polish People’s Party after leaving the EPP for the Union for Europe and the Nations, a political grouping that is considered more conservative and eurosceptic.

He will face the challenge of dealing with a reduced farm budget after Brexit.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Intergenerational renewal in farming

An interesting report on the challenge of intergenerational renewal in European farming, an important issue given the current age profile: Farm demographics

The report argues, 'farming as occupational choice often becomes a very particular lifestyle choice. Hence, policies to increase the attractiveness of farming as an occupation should consider the fact that it often becomes a lifestyle choice. Several features of this lifestyle choice are considered unattractive, such as the hard work, often isolated occupational activity and the difficult work-life balance. Policies that address these issues can have a positive impact on the attractiveness of farming and thus enable intergenerational renewal.'

The report recognises that the increasing capital intensive nature of farming raises financing issues for those that do not inherit (and inheritance raises often difficult succession issues). In the UK the reduction in county council tenancies has reduced the availability of one entry route.

Farmers back no deal Brexit

A surprising number of farmers back a no deal Brexit given that many of them would suffer financially as a result. At least that is the case if one believes polls from Farmers Weekly. A health warning is always necessary about these polls as respondents select themselves and the Ns are often small. A poll which purported to show that a majority of farmers backed Brexit in the referendum has nevertheless embedded itself in the public mind.

43 per cent of 'about 300' farmers said they would be happy with a no deal Brexit while 57 per cent said they would not. Concern about leaving without a deal was strongest in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Yorkshire and Humberside. Optimism about farm business prospects is at its lowest level since the survey started a year ago.

A snapshot 24 hour poll found that 53 per cent would choose to leave the EU with no deal if they could vote again. 38 per cent said they would vote remain and just 9 per cent said they would back the withdrawal agreement backed by Theresa May.

It is interesting that the first poll is below a story about the impact of a no deal Brexit on the sheepmeat sector. About one-third of the UK's production of lamb is exported and 95 per cent of this goes to the EU. 40 per cent tariffs and regulatory barriers would almost wipe out exports.

The Government has ruled out culling as a response to such a crisis. It looks as if they favour a combination of a headage payment on breeding ewes and a slaughterhouse premium. The UK breeding flock already reduced by about 30 per cent in the 2017-18 breeding season as farmers responded to an uncertain future.

Mike Gooding, director of Farmers' First, one of Britain's biggest lamb exporters, told Farmers Weekly: 'Essentially, Brexit risks excluding UK produce from the EU market. A no-deal Brexit would result in the same outcome - but with that risk greatly increased.'

He predicted a substantial fall in sheep farming in the UK. 'My own personal view is that there will be far fewer farmers managing what sheep there are in larger flocks - possibly across multiple holdings.'