Beware the tractors in town | Farm Tales

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The public perception challenge: how British farmers’ protests could risk alienating the very people whose understanding they need

Farmers in the Netherlands are protesting against forced shrinking of the livestock industry because of CO2 emissions

Despite being borderline Gen Z, I have an admission to make … I have never protested.
It’s not that I lack the passion, or that my art skills don’t convert well onto placards, or even that I don’t want to get glue on my favourite jeans. I simply never had the reason to cause disruption.
It’s safe to say that the Just Stop Oil protesters have the passion, the art skills and charity shop jeans. What they lack now is the support of the public – frankly, their actions just annoy everyone who is trying to go about their day. Some of the footage of European farmers that has made it across the channel has been comical. Call me immanure (see?), but spraying slurry onto government buildings is pretty funny. And I tell you now, a police barricade looks great till a Massey Ferguson tractor ploughs through the middle of it!
Poland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands have all experienced tractors rolling in to their capital cities in an attempt to change government policies that are making it ever harder for farmers to make a profit.

Berlin, Germany December 2023 – tractors at the Brandenburg Gate

On home soil
Farmers here at home have been getting increasingly jealous, wanting to get in on the act and (literally) cause a stink.
This week the Welsh have been the first to openly show their displeasure. The Welsh Parliament has announced that the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) to be introduced next year (to replace EU subsidies) will require farms to have ten per cent of their land planted with trees, and ten per cent of their land treated as wildlife habitat.
How any farm could survive with a fifth of its land given up to non-profitable endeavours is beyond me, but it’s the ridiculousness of these controls that have turned fury into action.
‘Digon yw digon’ was written over hundreds of tractors as they, and an estimated 5,000 farmers, descended on Cardiff on Wednesday. The slogan (‘Enough is enough’ for those whose Welsh is a little rusty) encapsulates the Welsh farmers’ feelings that if actions are not taken there will no longer be a way to make a living for those in the Welsh countryside.
The convoy of tractors shut down a major road in the city, while the talking was done in front of the Senned, the Welsh Parliamentary building. For two hours farmers stood in the rain listening to speeches calling for change.
I will always back my farming brethren … but they must be very careful of the thin line that they walk when protesting. It is all well and good to make a statement and get your voices heard – and if you can annoy the government at the same time, even better. But we British farmers must not overstep the mark and turn the public against us.

The A15 motorway near Paris, where the demonstration by the farmers in their tractors is stopped by the police barricade

Get to work
When you trundle your tractors into the major cities, the vast majority of the people you are disrupting don’t understand how their food really gets to their plates. They think we farmers are standing about in the sunshine throwing corn out of a bucket to a few chickens while we ‘oo-ar’ around a bit of straw.
They literally don’t care that the price the farmer gets for a dozen eggs doesn’t even cover the cost of producing them – but they’ll quickly care when you add an hour onto their commute to work.
Every single month I talk about how little positive coverage there is of farmers in the media. During the COVID pandemic, farmers gained an ounce of recognition for their efforts during lockdown. Unfortunately, that is becoming a distant memory.
The public already presumes that the British farmer causes all global warming, makes the countryside stink at all times and makes all the food in the supermarket expensive … Let us at least not make them late for their meetings.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s fantastic that the many many tractors hooted for an hour on Sunday 17th March 2024 as they trundled along Salisbury Street, Shaftesbury, where I live! And we blame the greed of the supermarkets as well as the disastrous Brexit caused by liars Cameron, Johnson and Farage! Tories out now!!

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