With Brexit looming closer on the horizon and a new Agriculture Bill still yet to be decided, the future of British farming is as uncertain as ever. What does Brexit mean for our farmers? We went straight to the horse’s mouth to see what they think the future holds. Last month, we talked to arable farmer Oscar Harding. This time, cheesemaker Giel Spierlings of the Cornish Gouda Company shares his forecast.
Cornish Gouda Co., Cornwall
“People want cheap food but without subsidies to help us that would wipe out the small farms” – Giel Spierings
133 acres, plus 45 acres rented. 100 milking cows, 200 animals.
Cornish Gouda cheese.
How does the current Common Agricultural Policy affect you?
Farm subsidies from the EU make the milking side of the farm viable. About 40 per cent of farmers rely on these payments to run a viable business.
How are you planning for Brexit?
We’ve changed our model a bit with Brexit on the horizon. We sell artisan cheese, which we feel will always have a market. The way we care for our cows provides such an amazing flavour. We’ve also started to produce a younger, creamier cheese to retail at a slightly lower price and with a quicker turnaround, which will open up a potential new market.
Dairy cows at Giel’s farm in Cornwall
What do you think the new farm bill will look like?
It’s really hard to find out any concrete facts, even though everyone is shouting about it. We can’t find anything in there about food safety and animal welfare.
What are you worried might happen?
We’re worried that free trade with countries such as Argentina, Asia and the USA will mean lower environmental and health standards in the UK.
EU countries are protected, which means imports into the EU are made artificially expensive to avoid competing with the goods made in those countries. That will make it harder for us to trade with the EU when we no longer belong to it.
Cheap goods coming from outside the EU, such as beef, will infiltrate the UK. The UK Navy, when based outside of the EU, is supplied by cheaper Argentinian beef, which we worry sets a precedent for the UK when we exit.
Are subsidies inevitable post-Brexit?
The real cost of making food doesn’t translate to the price that consumers pay in shops. Therefore, help is needed at the farming end to keep products at a price that consumers deem reasonable. Ideally we would scrap farm subsidies and consumers would pay the real price.
What is the Current Agriculture Policy and what is the government proposing post-Brexit? Read more here.