Today marks the beginning of the Royal Cornwall Show. Perhaps more than any other county in Britain, the Royal Cornwall Show is the annual event that brings the whole community together. "See you at Royal Cornwall, if not before" is a much used phrase in the six months leading up to the event.
Some agricultural shows have had mixed fortunes in recent years but the Royal Cornwall Show has managed to strike the right balance. Farming is still very much at the heart of events with strong entries in the livestock classes but it has managed to develop a broader appeal.
I have many childhood memories of the Royal Cornwall. When I was growing up my father was one of the many volunteer stewards who gave up his time each year to make the event possible with an early start at 5 am for days in a row to get to the show and manage the gates before any of the traffic started to arrive. For many years we used to show our South Devon Cattle there and my brother and father will be there again this year with the family's prize winning Lop Eared Pigs, which is a rare breed native to Cornwall.
This year I will also be attending in my capacity as farming minister and it comes at a time when we have some major challenges ahead in terms of implementing the new Common Agricultural Policy. The government has long argued for a CAP that was simpler. Despite the best endeavours of my predecessors the CAP changes feel like a backwards step in some ways and will be very complicated to implement. In recent months I have been trying to work out how we can implement the changes in a way that creates minimum disruption for farmers but can also be delivered administratively.
Under the new rules, any farm over 30 hectares will need to grow at least three crops in order to qualify for 30 percent of their subsidy payment. Winter barley and spring barley will be treated as different crops for the purposes of the EU rules but cabbages and cauliflowers will be regarded as the same crop. In addition to the many "cross compliance" rules, farmers will now have to set aside around 5 percent of their land to an "Environment Focus Area" If we could map eery hedge in the country they could count for more towards the 5 percent than their actual area. Confused? I could go on.
One good thing is that we have a new CAP IT system that could make it easier for farmers to make mapping changes to their holding records via an iPad and we are trying to remove the paperwork from the system. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the CAP has just become more complex.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.