Attending Oxford Farming Conference gave student confidence in farming’s post-Brexit future

07 Feb 2019

Alex Neason's take-away message is that our industry ‘shouldn’t be scared of change’ despite the uncertainty of Brexit.

Alex from Wellington, Somerset studies Agriculture with Applied Farm Management at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and won the 2018 John Innes bursary for students from non-farming backgrounds.  He attended the OFC for the first time in 2019 and writes:

Having recently attended the 2019 Oxford Farming Conference, I can safely say that it has truly opened my eyes to the world of opportunity that sits in front of UK agriculture.  

“Obviously there was much conversation over Brexit, a word that we are all getting very sick of as negotiations draw out.  However speakers like Sir Lockwood-Smith, talking of New-Zealand’s industry success after the loss of their agricultural subsidy in the mid 1980’s brought cautious optimism.

“Amongst the turmoil that is currently occurring in the Houses of Parliament, it is important to recognise that the nation is debating and talking about a situation that needs to benefit us all in the long term. It is very difficult to restructure an industry without creating initial turbulence. Whilst this might seem concerning in the short term, relative to the long term benefits it’s very minimal.  

One of the biggest points I took home was the real possibility of a bilateral trade deal with the EU post exiting with a no-deal, considering the UK and the EU have mutual recognition over regulation, I feel as though a leap of faith would pay off, especially when considering the other options.

“Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke of sustainability and profitability within agriculture, with emphasis surrounding accessible payments for providing ‘public good’ which would benefit farming. For farmers, schemes arising from the previous CAP policy including Countryside Stewardship were getting increasingly difficult to manage in relation to the red tape, and time consuming paper work surrounding it.

“Overall, I came away with the impression that we shouldn’t be scared of change; we should embrace it, especially given the technologies that are becoming part of every-day farming.  Although the immediate future looks turbulent and indeed the next few years, the industry will benefit from this long-term reformation. After all, through necessity comes invention.”