The green lobby are an excitable lot, aren’t they? I don’t know what they eat, but it’s given them a serious case of irritable growl syndrome.
After a week squawking, like an ooh-aah bird pushing out its last square egg of the season, over the possibility Defra might be holding a policy review, it’s now safe to conclude we know no more and no less about the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme than we did before the cabinet reshuffle.
If you think some farmers are upset about losing area payments, then never forget: Hell hath no fury like an environmental charity that thinks it’s no longer going to be eligible for government funding.
Picture how cheerful George Eustice is watching this unfold while his phone remains as silent as he was on dairy contract reform.
Now it’s the turn of his successor, Ranil Jayawardena, to be in the hotseat.
Imagine the 14-hour-a-day briefings that weary Defra civil servants are putting him through to bring him up to speed on farming, the environment, food and rural affairs.
I wonder if he’s had a PowerPoint presentation on the miracle of sexed semen yet. Or non-inversion tillage. Or even the difference between an RB209, an AB15 and a LIS-1.
There must be a farm consultant with a pub quiz deck on similar lines he could borrow.
The new environment secretary was briefly dragged away from his task this week after finding himself in the middle of this confected tizzy in a teacup, and was asked to create a video for Twitter to tell everyone to calm down.
In this we learned very little apart from two things. First, he is a fan of short speeches.
At just 140 words, it was even briefer than the Gettysburg address. Long may this continue. If you’re going to say nothing, better to do it quickly.
Second, it’s all change in the fashion department. It’s goodbye to the crumpled linen suits of the Eustice era and hello to a double-breasted grey number that looked like something Jacob Rees-Mogg would relax in.
While this was all unfolding, the Welsh government quietly published the first draft of its own Agriculture Bill.
Just as Labour in England have had their credibility burnished to a gleam this week by simply existing as an alternative to Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous not-a-budget, so Welsh Labour have benefited with the timing of their farm plan update.
Released to mild fanfare and a muted welcome by everyone from WWF Cymru to the Farmers’ Union of Wales, it was a wistful reminder that there have been great periods in our history where most legislative change was incremental, vaguely collegiate and frankly quite dull.
Instead, we have the UK government being told by everyone from market traders to the International Monetary Fund that their spending is out of control and they need to get their house in order before the funding runs out.
If that message sounds awfully familiar, it’s because it is the sort of thing politicians have been telling the agricultural industry ever since they announced the Basic Payment Scheme was being scrapped. So, you’ll forgive farmers for not having much sympathy.
Apparently, the next fiscal event will be in November, where the chancellor will attempt to resuscitate his credibility with new fiscal rules.
I believe that is code for spending cuts – so buckle up everyone, it’s only six weeks until the speculation over the ELM scheme being scrapped reaches a new fever pitch.
As one senior lobbyist said to me this week: “I’d actually just really like a boring six months.”
Wouldn’t we all.