SEEMINGLY innocuous, the appointment of a Minister of Food Supplies (our front page story) should be sending alarm bells throughout the food sector.

This is a hark back to the austerity of food rationing during the war years and their aftermath, and is a further sign that this Government is positioning itself for a hard Brexit. Coupled with the chaos that is forecast for the main export/import ports in the UK due to increased border controls and the fact that Teresa May said this week that only high-value immigrant workers would be welcome, it is all adding up to a frightening scenario for the agricultural industry.

For the fruit and veg sector – and probably dairying too – a lack of short and long-term immigrant labour will definitely hit production. We will then be facing the nightmare of having the ability to produce a substantial proportion of the country's needs, but unable to fulfill it due to limitations on being able to harvest it.

There needs to be joined up thinking on this and if this government is really serious about combatting food shortages as a result of Brexit, then its 'green' farming bill which majors on farmers not producing to the max, is a travesty. Michael Gove's mantra about farmers delivering 'public goods' in terms of environmental impact, seems to forget that the main aim of agriculture is to deliver a strategically safe and environmentally sustainable supply of food for the nation. Is that not a 'public good'?

We can only hope that when it finally produces its own post-Brexit plan, the Scottish Government does not hamstring producers too much with a filigree of environmental objectives, laudable though they may be, and major on the principals of making food production viable and profitable.

A lesson learnt

WHILE there may be huge sighs of relief regarding the easing of a serious shortage of winter fodder for this winter (see our stories on pages 4 and 5), the fact that there was the prospect of such a shortage has actually been a salutory lesson for more than a few livestock farmers.

The sage advice carried several times in this newspaper, that 'passengers' were no longer acceptable to be carried through what will still be an expensive winter for many, seems to have been heeded. A downturn near the end of the drought period in cull cow values was testament to the fact that those cows which had missed the bull were not required for another 'go'. This works in two ways – first, the cow does not need to be fed and two, she will not be there to extend the calving period next spring.

If there is any good to come out of this year's tough and contrasting weather windows, it is the renewed focus on productive animals only. And that's the way it should be.