Category Archives: Agriculture

Admirable politician – 11: working for the common good, Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Following our tenth entry: MP Andrew Gwynne, who successfully introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act and worked long and hard to get justice for those who received contaminated blood through the NHS, we turn to Botswana, after reading an obituary by Emily Langer in the Independent. Her subject was Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’. 

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor and became a successful farmer.

Botswanan cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari Desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  

He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in  Wikipedia..

 

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 3: ‘strong and stable government’: by the rich, for the rich, at the expense of the rest

Government for Britain’s rich: strong and stable; for its 99%: a crumbling NHS and farming sector, expensive public transport, vanishing libraries and cuts for the young, the poor and the frail .

Those who are ‘just about managing’ live in the only ‘big advanced economy’ in which wages contracted (2007-2015) while the economy expanded, the cost of living rose and multinational profits rocketed.

Pett lists the end goals which would benefit the 99% and the wreckers

As Eisenhower said, we need a humane government which would focus on the well-being of all, not the profits of the few and stop being complicit in slaughter . . .

 

and we should strengthen local/regional economies.

 

Close the global casino and the revolving door between big business and government

and offer all, especially superfluous managers and young commodity traders, socially beneficial work

 

 

 

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Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

Will agri-business be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?  

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

https://gmandchemicalindustry9.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/taxpayers-unwittingly-fund-gm-trials-as-the-prospect-of-leaving-wiser-european-counsellors-looms/

 

 

 

Broken Britain – 1

The corporate world continues its vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles. Will increasingly media-sceptical people who seek the common good be affected by them?

In brief, the reference is to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. Examples of the damaging political-corporate nexus are given here – a few of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade: Steve Beauchampé“A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”.

The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Reader Theresa drew our attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. This was when the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news.

Construction

Most construction entries related to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise, whether by Gazprom, OPEC, or a sovereign wealth fund. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”. The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors were already owned by foreign investors.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food supplies and compromising our food security. She sees big business seeking to make a fortune from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are both exploited. These ‘greedy giants’ are exploiting the poor across the world and putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers, their families and their communities. She adds that large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand.

Health-related

Government resistance to funding long-term out of work illness/disability benefits followed the publication of a monograph by the authors funded by America’s ‘corporate giant’ Unum Provident Insurance which influenced the policy of successive governments. After various freedom of information requests, the DWP published the mortality figures of the claimants who had died in 11 months in 2011 whilst claiming Employment and Support Allowance, with 10,600 people dying in total and 1300 people dying after being removed from the guaranteed monthly benefit, placed into the work related activity group regardless of diagnosis, forced to prepare for work and then died trying. Following the public outrage once the figures were published, the DWP have consistently refused to publish updated death totals. Information touched on in this 2015 article has been incorporated into a ResearchGate report identifying the influence of Unum Provident over successive UK governments since 1992, the influence of a former government Chief Medical Officer and the use of the Work Capability Assessments conducted by the private sector – described as state crime by proxy, justified as welfare reform.

Air pollution

The powerful transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. They emit some common air pollutants that have serious effects on human health and the environment. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma.

Victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door 

  • A recent whistleblower report records that Dr Raj Mattu is one of very few to be vindicated and compensated after years of suffering. The government does not implement its own allegedly strengthened whistleblower legislation to protect those who make ‘disclosures in the public interest’.
  • This media article relates to the mis-reporting of the Obama-Corbyn meeting: there are 57 others on this site.
  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances: Serco and G4S were bidding for a MoD £400m 10-year deal, though they had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on electronic monitoring contracts. Another contender, Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government had contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel. Paul Gosling describes how the Big Four accountancy firms have PFI ‘under their thumbs’ and gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

Steve Beauchampé asks if the barrage of criticism apparently aimed at Jeremy Corbyn is more about undermining the politics he stands for which are probably less far to the left than those of many in the current government are to the right. Most political commentators and opponents aren’t worried that Labour will win a General Election under him, but they are alarmed that the movement his leadership has created might one day lead to an electable left winger.

 

 

 

 

Media 73: “Why has the BBC focussed on past tensions and scandals in NI election coverage?”

Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers For Action ask why the BBC ignores constructive legislation proposals – is their sole aim to gain ratings?

They point out that the BBC should be playing its part in informing its viewers and listeners and questioning the politicians ahead of the election on what could be the biggest ever turnaround in prosperity for Northern Ireland.

One such proposal for Stormont on farm gate prices for staples would return to Northern Ireland farmers a minimum of the cost of production inflation-linked plus a margin which would lead to an estimated 20,000 jobs+ across Northern Ireland and an annual welfare saving of £280million+, much needed by the NHS, but to no avail so far.

wt4A copy of the leaflets being handed out may be seen here or by scrolling down

In the run to last year’s election and again this year NI farm groups tried to get the BBC to report the proposal with no success.

As a result the committees of both NIAPA and FFA have concluded that whilst the vast majority of political parties and independents are very supportive of this idea, rather than play their part in trying to build a prosperous future for all in Northern Ireland the BBC would rather ignore the fact that the foundations of its largest industry are crumbling and just hype up NI tensions of the past and exaggerate scandals to gain ratings.

The food supply across the world versus an increasing population is dwindling, yet NI is well placed to have a buoyant food industry. However that position is fading along with the 4-7 jobs down the line that every person working on a farm creates.  In fact, the situation is so serious that 25% of farming families are living below the poverty line and can ill afford the license fee due to the majority receiving little over half the cost of production for their produce.

The BBC is a cost to everyone in NI and has a duty to report the news good and bad: what it does not have is a licence to manipulate the news at election time to suit the ratings.

Rural poverty is on the increase and seriously impacting virtually the whole of Northern Ireland according to the recent Rural Support Report and The Gosling Report. Both reports tell how bad the situation is but go on to explain how good it could be if Stormont would implement legislation on farm gate prices.

Have the BBC lost touch of what really matters?

 

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 For more information, contact William Taylor, NI Farm Groups

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624  Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

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NI Farm Groups’ campaign leaflet

 Many Northern Ireland farming families

are in unmanageable debt

to banks, suppliers & services

 

  • Over 25% of farming families are living below the poverty line whilst trying to run their businesses
  • Many are losing their farms and homes
  • Many of NI’s banks are starting to run scared of agriculture
  • This has been caused by decades of relentless increasing financial pressure from large corporate food supermarkets, large corporate food outlets, large corporate food wholesalers, large corporate food processors and large co-op processors back to the farm gate to bloat their profits
  • Lowland and some upland subsidies do not work, the food corporates highjack the money through poor farmgate prices

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The solution to the above and prosperity for all in Northern Ireland

A Northern Ireland version of US President Roosevelt’s 1930’s New Deal as follows:-

  • Legislation on farm gate prices through Stormont stating that farmers must be paid a minimum of the cost of production inflation linked plus a margin across the staples
  • This would not increase the cost of food to consumers, but would force the food corporates to lower their profits
  • According to the Gosling Report it would save Stormont £280million+ PER ANNUM in welfare savings – much needed for the Health Service
  • Would create 20,000+ new jobs initially with four times this to follow
  • Like Roosevelt’s success in the USA – when the farmers did well, the USA did well thus the aim for Northern Ireland
  • Farmers don’t want unnecessary subsidies – they just want properly paid for what they produce!

 

Please ask your BBC why this was not put to the politicians and the people of Northern Ireland ahead of the election

Check out Facebook page for information:

Farmers For Action (Northern Ireland)

 

 

 

Sharma and the Agri-Brigade: bureaucrats and white collar workers lacking all essential survival skills, undermine food producers

In England, many organisations ostensibly concerned with the prosperity of farmers hold endless conferences. Analyst Devinder Sharma notes that, in India, agricultural universities, research institutes, public sector units, and other organisations also frequently gather to talk about ways to improve farmers’ income.

india-seminar

He comments sardonically that while the number of seminars/conferences on doubling the farmers’ income have doubled in the past few months, farmers increasingly sink into a cycle of deprivation.

As he points out, in both countries those who talk of allowing markets to provide higher farm incomes are the ones who get assured salary packets every month – we add that in England some are even paid from a levy on farmers.

The British farming press is now pointing out that large numbers of the UK’s 86,000+ family farmers are facing a threat from the government’s new universal credit (UC). If administered as currently designed, it will have a devastating impact on many of the UK’s most economically vulnerable family farms.

Universal credit will be ‘rolled out’ regionally by the DWP to cover the whole of UK by 2022 – calculated on monthly rather than annual income and it will assume that farmers have a “minimum income floor” which assumes that all applicants earn a wage equivalent to the national minimum wage of about £230 a week which is not the case. Private Eye (The Agri Brigade column) comments:

“None of this is remotely appropriate for farmers, and it shows the folly of trying to introduce a single universal form of income support for all.

On many family farms, where one or two people may work up to 250 acres, there is often no income for up to 10 or even 1 I months in a typical trading year. The sale of a crop of lambs, cattle or grain (or receipt of an EU subsidy) means revenue is raised in just one or two months of the year so the DWP’s assumption of a “basic income floor” each month doesn’t apply. There are also fears that receipts by claimants that rake their income above the basic floor in some months will disrupt entitlement to UC in subsequent months. (And farming losses in some months cannot be offset against a profit in others)”

Shades of the I, Daniel Blake experience:

When the UC administered by the DWP comes into force, skilled hard-working farmers will have to visit unfamiliar Job Centres to register for the benefit. ln addition. They will have to undergo face-to-face interviews over their eligibility for UC and be allocated a work coach to advise them on how to improve their access to better paid employment. Given the difficulties it seems certain many family farms currently claiming tax credits (administered by HMRC) will not apply for universal credit despite their poverty.

An unworkable system

Farming UK reports that a spokesman for the Ulster Farmers Union said: “UC makes it impossible to use prospective incomes or losses, which is often what farmers depend on. The fact that farming is seasonal where there will be long periods of time when a farmer will make a loss in expectation of more profitable times at some other stage during the year. In addition, having to do monthly real-time accounts is an extra burden upon farmers, in an already hard-pressed industry, and to hire someone to prepare these accounts would be an extra expense”.

As the title has it:bureaucrats and white collar workers lacking all essential survival skills, undermine food producers”.

 

 

 

Is British milk doomed because the government is in hock to the supermarkets and the global exim casino?

When will government turn away from wealthy supermarkets and the exim casino traders and play fair with struggling food producers?

ian-potterIan Potter, a milk quota trader and administrator of the National Fallen Stock Scheme received the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ Princess Royal Award in 2011, for his outstanding services to the industry and unique role as a disseminator of up-to-date information through his website and regular press articles.

At least once a month, Ian Potter releases news about the dairy industry. February’s account, which has not yet reached the website, is summarised here.

Ian learned from a couple of prominent dairy cow auctioneers that the majority of farmers wanting or needing to exit accept that volatility (aka roller coaster milk prices) is here to stay, and that many are now seriously considering getting out now cow values are higher.

The feeling is that significantly increased herd values will result in some going into early retirement, especially those with no one following on. That last price slump went beyond the feeling among many farmers that quitting was in some way letting the family down.

Many sons and daughters witnessed what their parents went through, and they don’t want to go through it themselves.

At least the farmers involved currently have control of the situation and their destination, rather than waiting for crippling prices to force a decision on them.

Ian urges farmers to think twice as prices rise, ‘knocking on the door of 30ppl’, before bringing in extra cows to their herds. Most dairy farmers have ruthlessly reduced cost and maximised milk from grass and that knowledge and experience should be used to regain lost income and start to build a war chest for the next big downturn.

Ian forecasts, “It will come sooner than you expect, it will hurt, and it could easily be another three-year slump”.

black-top-milk-2

One idea to restore a liquid premium is the recent launch of free range milk and its intriguing idea of a ‘Black Top promise’.  An online search revealed video news of the launch of this ‘branding campaign’

Nick Hiscox, the founder of the Free Range Milk Marketing Board, has come up with the idea to tackle plummeting milk prices: putting milk on the shelf that bears the “Enjoy Milk” logo, capped with a black top.

The key feature of the milk is that it is supplied from cows that graze on grass, outside in the summer and housed inside in the winter. The alternative set-up, known as “zero grazing”, is when cows are kept indoors, all year round. This method is used by around 20% of dairy farms in the UK. 700 dairy farmers have joined the scheme and others will do so.

Two of many questions are raised here:

Will this campaign improve the fortunes of the British dairy industry?

When will government take the issue of food security seriously?

 

 

 

Seeking food supplies from Turkey and Morocco?  Time for change!

On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

veg-2shortage

A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/seeking-food-supplies-from-turkey-time-for-change/

 

 

 

EFRA Minister: at least 36,000 farms have vanished

Alice Thomson continues: after Brexit there is a chance to redefine our relationship with the countryside. The system is skewed to the largest farms. Khalid Abdullah al-Saud received £400,000 last year in subsidies for his vast Juddmonte Farms, which breed racehorses. Such wealthy landowners are already benefiting from the inheritance tax exemption on farming land, and most don’t need the nearly £3 billion in direct subsidies from Brussels – mere pocket money.

Andrea Leadsom, the new environment secretary, said before the referendum that “it would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep and those with the hill farms do the butterflies”. But Britain should be going the other way, tapering payments so they promote small, innovative, often part-time farms to keep the countryside alive.

With the weak pound, supermarkets should be trying harder to champion local producers

food-trucks-importMore than 40% of food is imported. Environmentally it makes sense to cut down on transport by buying from British farms.

In return farmers should be expected to become true custodians of the countryside – as many already are – planting more trees and hedgerows, helping with flood management, promoting good animal husbandry and richer soils.

Government’s penchant for relying on imported food involves increasing traffic flows, more congestion, more pollution, more road accidents, more calls for more motorway widening and more HGVs doing local deliveries clogging up roads.

Relying on imported food also reduces self-provisioning and self-reliance as impacts of climate change and overpopulation outstrip our ability to feed ourselves.