We need to see changes to make farming work
There was something darkly satisfying about the fact that August 14, the day when the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said the food would have run out had we been relying solely on home production, was also the day when the Government published its latest ideas on implementing Common Agricultural Policy reform.
For the two are intimately linked.
Back in the days of the butter and beef mountains, the CAP drove food production. Prices were fixed at levels that guaranteed a reasonably efficient farmer a profit, so the more you grew, the more money you made.
It should come as no surprise that the year in which UK self-sufficiency in indigenous foods reached a peak of 94 per cent, 1984, was the last year before first milk quotas, and then set-aside, began to cut the surpluses down to size.
Even so, through the 1990s and on into the new century, there was no shortage of incentives, in livestock farming especially, to maximise production.
Headage payments on cattle and sheep performed much the same function as intervention prices had done in the previous decade, with the result that the hills, especially, were stocked as never before.
In 1995, the year before the BSE crisis erupted, self-sufficiency in beef reached a remarkable 114 per cent, as against 84 per cent today.
It was the de-coupling of support from production in the 2005 CAP reforms that changed everything.
In part, this was a good thing, as the volume and nature of production came to be driven by the market, rather than by the subsidy system, allowing prices to rise as supply came into balance with demand.
But there was more to it than that.
It soon became apparent that the conditions attached to the new Single Farm Payments, and the penalties which farmers faced if they were found to be in breach of them, were acting as a clear disincentive to productive activity, in livestock farming especially.
Put simply, the fewer sheep and cattle you have on your farm, the easier it is to keep your paperwork, your ear-tags and your environmental requirements in order – and so avoid losing large chunks of your Single Farm Payment.
A farmer friend in Wiltshire, on a large arable and livestock holding, has just endured a five-day RPA inspection, and faces a fine of several thousand pounds, even though his management and records are, by normal standards, first class.
"I don't know why I bother", he told me. "The more you try to produce, the more scope there is for them to penalise you".
None of this is going to change when the "reformed" CAP comes into effect next year. In fact, it will probably get worse.
The Government says that it doesn't intend to gold-plate what Brussels has decreed, but that seems to be precisely what it has in mind, judging by last week's CAP Status report.
The plan is to introduce a national certification scheme to satisfy the EU's greening requirements, not least because, we are told: "this would give the possibility of providing some options which are more challenging for farmers but would provide a higher level of environmental benefit".
In his call to action on self-sufficiency, NFU President Peter Kendall said that farmers: "are ready to rise to the challenge of producing more food, more sustainably".
And so, no doubt, they would be, if they weren't being side-tracked, bamboozled and disincentivised by a crackpot policy regime.
There is nothing wrong with consumers' attitudes to British farming and food.
What needs to change, if the UK farming industry is to be put back on the road to expansion, is the wretched CAP.
And of that I can see no real prospect at all.
Anthony Gibson is a freelance writer and may be contacted at email@example.com