The director of Yorkshire’s premier countryside show has stated his unerring belief in the farming community to cope with any “storms” that may lie ahead as Whitehall shapes its new agricultural policy.
In just under a month from now, the 160th Great Yorkshire Show will be in full swing and the grand spectacle will not only showcase rural life to about 130,000 visitors, it will cast the state of British farming into the national spotlight as industry leaders use the occasion to address pressing issues.
Charles Mills, who farms near York, is looking forward to his third Great Yorkshire Show as the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s honorary show director and his first to feature visiting royalty.
Princess Anne is set to call in on day two and the show boss expects her appearance to be a personal highlight of the 2018 event.
But it is the sector’s post-Brexit future that will dominate discussions held by farming organisations over the show’s three days, and Mr Mills believes the huge platform that the event provides for agriculture’s big topical issues is of “massive importance”.
With only weeks to go before the showground gates open, Mr Mills said he hoped farmers would come away from the event feeling invigorated about what the future holds.
He said: “One thing we are very much trying to do is reflect the state of the industry and to help encourage farmers to keep being positive and pushing forward, and to look for whatever opportunities are available to them because whatever changes are put before them, they are incredibly adaptable people.
“We’ve invited ministers to the show and I’m hopeful we will have Michael Gove visit. He came last year and was very well received and I look forward to having him here again.
“It’s very important to have a ministerial visit because agriculture will have a lot of challenges over the next five or six years, but as ever people in the countryside are always very optimistic and we will weather any storms that are put in front of us.”
Towards the end of a long, hard winter with wet and cold conditions that extended into the spring and severely hindered early season farm work, the Government consulted the industry about its post-Brexit policy plans.
The content of its consultation paper saw some industry commentators express concerns over whether Environment Secretary Mr Gove and his department was giving undue weight to incentivising on-farm environmental gains over profitable food production.
Nonetheless, Mr Mills believes the mood among farmers is buoyant right now.
“I’ve just been to market (with his first lambs of the season) and people were as positive as they have been for a lot of years, and I think that is reflected in the show’s livestock entries.
“We have more livestock than we have had at the show before, there are three national livestock shows being held here and there has been an increase in dairy animals, which I’m delighted with.”
As there is a waiting list for cattle exhibitors, the showground’s stalls have been reworked to make room for an extra 22 animals, he said, while a marquee will be erected to accommodate more commercial lamb entries.
The Great Yorkshire Show takes place at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Harrogate Showground on July 10 to July 12.