FOR ANYONE who loves agriculture and a living, thriving countryside, post-Brexit Britain has not been kind.

The government at Westminster sees no productive role for agriculture, obsessed as it is with its vision of green outcomes for the English countryside. Even events in Ukraine and inflation driving rises in food prices are not on its radar, stuck as it is in a core belief that agriculture no longer needs to be about food production when you can import cheap food.

That is a dangerous and ill-conceived argument, but understanding that seems to be beyond Westminster politicians in general and government ministers in particular.

Against that depressing background, reading news reports from Europe help restore balances. Many governments there still care about agriculture and see it as an economic priority. Far from the financial tensions from the war in Ukraine weakening the resolve of the EU towards funding for agriculture and food, that case has not been stronger or more widely accepted since the founding of the original EEC in an era of post World War 2 food shortages.

One issue that should be making headlines here, but is not, is the plight of pig farming. This has always been a great industry, producing a product in demand from a sector that is world-class in its efficiency. In most EU member states, governments have accepted that pig production is in deep trouble, caught as it is in a perfect economic storm.

It is coming out of a time when prices fell, and while those have risen, the increase cannot offset the cost increases in fuel, feed and labour costs. On top of that, at farm and processing level, if is suffering post-Brexit labour shortages. Other countries are coming up with ideas to maintain what they see as a key industry. But the only logic discernible at Westminster is that the government wants the UK to become more dependent on food imports. This would play well into its trade policy of offsetting its weakness as a small market by being generous in scrapping tariffs that protect its domestic industry.

The issue in Europe now gaining real traction is food sovereignty or food security. While it is talked about in the UK, the lack of action from politicians is woeful. The European parliament, by a massive majority, recently passed a motion calling for a new priority to be given to the EU having a secure and sustainable food supply. This issue united politicians across parties and from most member states. It will not change anything overnight, but this issue is now firmly on the European agenda. That has to be good for the farming industry and this is as much about respect as profitability. It is always good to see the key and important role of farmers as food producers recognised.

The message from MEPs was simple. The fallout from events in Ukraine will not be resolved quickly; they said that food security must be seen not as a luxury by the EU, but as an issue of strategic importance. As EU member states show greater commitment to NATO and to helping Ukraine, their message was that food security is as strategically important as defence funding.

These are words that, sadly, are unlikely to be heard at Westminster. There politicians are happy to take food security for granted and will continue to do so until there are empty supermarket shelves. Those could flow from those supplying the UK opting to put their own food security, and that those of countries of strategic importance, for example as oil producers, first.

The latest trade figures from the EU also confirm that it makes economic sense to support agriculture and food production. In 2021, despite the fallout from the pandemic, the EU cemented its position as the world's biggest agrifood trader.

This was across the board, but the real successes were in high added value food and drinks, which are economically vital to European economies. Exports were up 7% and the positive balance of trade gap between exports and imports rose by 8% to a record £67 billion.

Interestingly, sales to the UK, after dipping, recovered to their pre-Brexit levels but those from the UK into the EU fell by more than any other country and remained 25% down on where they were before Brexit. That suggests the government in London lacks policies to deliver either food security or export successes in our biggest market.