Hereford Times Article - 24/09/2020

Published on: 17th September 2020

Bishop Richard

Over this COVID crisis we have developed a new appreciation for a variety of key workers who have supported our communities throughout.It seems a long time ago now, but we all remember the empty shelves at the start of lockdown.It bought into focus for us the importance of food security and our supply chains.At the base of this is our farming community.Agriculture in our county is diverse, entrepreneurial, and technically savvy and cares for our natural environment.Farmers produce food to the highest ethical and welfare standards and are able currently to compete globally on that basis.

I was therefore fairly alarmed to read that forthcoming trade and agriculture bills had no provision in their original drafts insisting post Brexit trade deals should maintain those standards for imported food.There are amendments to both bills to get such provision included, but that makes them quite vulnerable.

We all have a sense of fairness.There are regulations in markets to maintain a level playing field, even though they are not adequate in many cases – think High Street competing against online for example.You might be surprised to hear that the Old Testament of The Bible has quite a lot to say about these things. It advocates an agriculture that doesn’t have maximum efficiency as its sole goal, leaving room for care for the natural world. It even suggests a re-distribution of wealth every 50 years, recognising unregulated markets always lead to huge wealth disparities. That is a problem that COVID has made many times worse.History tells us that huge gaps between rich and poor eventually lead to serious social problems.Even pre-COVID it was true that the wealthiest paid a much lower percentage of their total income in tax than those in the bottom income bands. The last few years show us that the trickledown theory of wealth redistribution is just nonsense.

Christians believe justice is the very heartbeat of God and that God has a bias to the poor. There are some huge injustices growing in our society which demean all of us. If our farming friends have to go into the global market with one arm tied behind their back that will add insult to injury.COVID shows us that food security is not something we should take for granted.Our farmers deserve our support.


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