Farming could ditch its subsidy tag and be ‘force for good’
Farming could ditch its subsidy tag and become a contributor to the public purse post-Brexit, the boss of a large commercial dairy farm has said.
Grosvenor Farms, Chester, produces 90,000 litres of milk daily with 2,500 cows, as well as growing 2,428 hectares of crops.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference Bitesize series on Thursday, August 6, about the opportunities a favourable Brexit could bring, managing director of Grosvenor Farms, Mark Roach, said: “If we get the framework right and favourable terms of trade, I am quite confident agriculture can be a force for good.
“We can increase our market share domestically and further ahead internationally, and if we can do that, we can create wealth and employment.
“We can therefore pay more taxes, reduce the balance of payments deficit on food, and become more food sufficient with greater food security.
“I think that is the opportunity which lies ahead.”
Mr Roach added the Irish dairy industry was a success story the UK should learn from.
“The abolition of its milk quotas in 2015 saw Ireland double its milk output, while delivering a higher real price to its dairy farmers,” he said.
“Their stakeholder alignment is impressively strong, creating a strong combined industry. I hope that is the trade and commercial environment we will find ourselves in post-Brexit.”
But he warned a trade and regulatory framework which goes against the sector could see the UK struggle to be globally competitive, and the case for expansion within agriculture will diminish.
Talking about the importance of future-proofing and resource efficient farming techniques, Mr Roach shared how Grosvenor Farms began consolidating four dairy units into one in 2014 and was impressed by how quickly the cows adapted.
“Within months our milk yields increased by 15 per cent and our fixed costs went down 20 to 30 per cent,” he said.
Charlie Steer, arable manager at Grosvenor Farms, added having specialised units, such as a calving and maternity site, offered structured staff training and career progression, and the circular farming model, through the expansion of the dairy, improved the farms’ environmental credentials.
Mr Steer said: “We have made better use of flood meadows and now up to 30 per cent of the farm can flood.
“Our manure handling facilities have also been utilised and we now have a fleet of machinery to apply it in a timely manner, helping us save up to £184,000 a year in annual fertiliser costs.”
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