The Importance of Agri-Tech in a Challenging Landscape

By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director

Here in Gloucestershire, many farmers are really on the brink after the wettest year for 150 years which has devastated their business.

It is timely, therefore, that the Prime Minister’s second Farm to Food summit has recently been held at Downing Street. 

The food and farming problem really is serious, and I don’t think we realise just how serious.

Fields in our county have been totally waterlogged to the point where you couldn’t get a tractor on the land-it would just sink in.

As a result, winter wheat was not planted, and an enormous amount of straw has not been produced which provides the feed for dairy farmers’ cattle during the winter.

The  over-riding problem is that farmers have now got  to take about 20 per cent of their land out of production to meet all the government’s Green economies.

And Sir Henry Elwes, our former Lord Lieutenant, who farms 1 500 acres on his Colesbourne estate near Cirencester, tells me:

“This means if you have a 200 acre family farm, you are going to lose a quarter of your production. Your tractor still costs £300 000, and your combine harvester still costs half a million."

“Agricultural policy seems to be on the move all  the time and it is very difficult for farmers to gauge what they can do."

“I don’t think the farmers are going to get money from the government but they need some sort of supervision on the costs of products like fertiliser which has gone through the roof.”

Gloucestershire is primarily a rural county with a high proportion of our land devoted to agriculture in its various forms-not just traditional farms.

And something like 9 000 people are employed in Gloucestershire in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors-that’s equal to 2.9 per cent of the total employment in the county which is higher than England and Wales at 1.4 per cent.

That’s why the investment in and the development of Agri-tech is such an important element of Gloucestershire’s new Economic Strategy.

We must not underestimate the value of our farmers.