The recent report on Crop Protection Technology has been attacked as "special pleading" by those opposed to the use of pesticides and genetic engineering because it was commissioned by the National Farmers Union, the Crop Protection Association and the Agricultural Industries, but what if the research undertaken to inform the report is even half right?
The list of plant protection products that may not be available or be subject to restrictions on use, due to EU policies and the resulting commercial disincentive to the suppliers of the products to market them in the EU or develop new ones, is long, 40 in total. The consequences are already being felt by the growers of oil seed rape, and may go far further. The control of weeds, disease and pests will be more difficult, and because fewer products will be available, the risk of resistance will increase. Yields will fall.
It is suggested that 22% less oil seed rape will be grown, 50% less carrots, 40% less onions, 30% less apples and no peas for processing at all. The future for the smaller, family owned farms will be challenging, and larger businesses that can cope with the changes may be less willing to spend on maintenance of the landscape or improving biodiversity – a perverse outcome for the "greening" required by the reformed Common Agricultural Policy.
The demand for labour may increase, especially in the horticultural sector which will have to resort to increased hand weeding and grading.
Given the difficulties the farmers face in finding labour, their need to rely on workers from outside the UK and the increasingly fraught social and political consequences, this is not a happy prospect.
Shortfalls will be made up with increased imports. If there are enough commodities available in European or world markets to make them up, there will be little public concern about the reduction in self-sufficiency in the UK, and farmers will not be able to mobilise support for a less restrictive pesticide policy.
The price of some crops might increase; if the EU grown crop represents a significant proportion of a world crop, overall availability will decrease and the price will rise.
There would be consequences too for the biofuel industry which is becoming an important customer for UK oil seed rape, sugar beet and wheat.
If there are less of these available, the price goes up, as do imports, with unfortunate consequences for the cost of the fuel compared with coal and for the credibility of national energy policy.
And yet the demand for good land in the UK continues unabated, and not just from those taking advantage of the benign Inheritance Tax regime for farmland.