Category Archives: Agriculture

LEFT WINGERS AND GREENS OF THE WORLD UNITE: Paul Halas

Over the past few years we’ve seen a trend in which the Labour Party has become Greener and the Green Party has become “Leftier”. I fervently wish for further rapprochement.

While feeling despair at the head-in-sand attitudes and empty rhetoric in much of Westminster, Whitehall and the City – especially the City – I was enthralled by a presentation given in my constituency of Stroud last month by Alan Simpson, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s advisor on climate change and sustainable economics. If anyone is unfamiliar with his policy ideas, I urge them to look him up and read these essays.

A future Labour government will do its utmost to adopt Simpson’s plans, which include:  

  • local renewal energy cooperatives,
  • an agricultural policy reset to penalise high greenhouse gas emissions,
  • a far more locally-based economy (community wealth building – thriving in many locations and now to be adopted in Stroud),
  • a far more integrated, publicly-owned transport system…
  • and of course real measures to curb tax “avoidance” by the heavyweight national and global corporations, and tackle our hideous income inequality.
  • First and foremost though – greenhouse emissions must be HALVED every ten years.

We should all be taking notice of the wonderful Greta Thunberg’s message

We have to tackle the problems of already having done inestimable damage to the planet right now – but under the Tories there isn’t a hope.

Real change can’t come too soon, and the only way we’re ever going to see real change in the UK is to put a Labour/Green government? into power at the earliest possible opportunity.

I can’t see how diluting the non-Conservative vote at the next general election is going to achieve anything except more Tory-led acceleration to destruction. 

I realise some will find their tribal loyalties tested – but the nightmare we’ve created transcends such petty concerns.

 

 

 

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No Deal Brexit will devastate our food, farming and landscape’: farmer & MEP Phil Bennion

Arable farmer and West Midlands Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion spoke out at a ‘Brexitime’ question and answer session with local farmers in Stratford-upon-Avon on August 6th. 

He said that a particular threat to farming came from the Agriculture Bill which plans to abandon the Single Farm Payment system as used under the CAP, with nothing to replace it. “There are no ifs and buts, the basic payments scheme will be phased out. Michael Gove’s idea was to replace it with extra environmental schemes but he clearly had not read WTO rules. It is very clear that under WTO rules environmental schemes need to compensate for direct costs only, they cannot provide any income.

“If we have no income support. which this draft bill says. while the Americans are getting it, the Europeans are getting it, pretty well all our competitors are getting it, there is absolutely no way we can make farming pay. 

“Emergency funding is within WTO rules – but under the rules you can’t carry on giving emergency funding forever. The Americans are doing this at the moment. Our (Lib Dem) policy keeps a basic payment scheme whether we leave the EU or not. A basic payment scheme is one of the only ways of supporting farm incomes within WTO rules.”

“There is likely to be a lot of land abandonment. Most of the farmland round here, the field sizes are not suitable for agribusiness arable farming and unless the regulations on clearing hedges and cutting trees down are scrapped, I can’t see that changing.”

Former NFU chief economist Sean Rickards, also a panellist at the event, gave a bleak assessment of the effect of the post Brexit trading environment on UK farming: “The government has already made it clear that (after Brexit) they are going to let the rest of the world in without tariffs and large sections of British agriculture couldn’t compete. Beef and sheep sectors will shrink quite severely, horticulture will struggle with labour issues and therefore the only sectors that will continue will be arable farms on an increasing scale to compete.

“The character will change, the size will change and the structure will change. It will be a smaller industry operating on an industrial scale and the remoter parts of the country will see farming almost wiped out.”

The panellists predicted that No Deal due to happen on October 31st would lead to the collapse of the sheep and beef sectors in particular, with prairie style arable agribusiness likely to be the only sector to survive, providing fields were huge without hedgerows. Phil Bennion said: “We export nearly 40% of the lamb we produce, and up to 96% of that goes to the EU. The tariffs under no deal would render this trade non-viable.

“Our lamb, Welsh lamb and English lamb is a premium product eaten fresh over a season, so there has not been a need to cold store it. It is eaten not just here but in France and all over Europe. New Zealand lamb fills our close season. With our lambs coming to market in the autumn it is inevitable that prices will crash if the EU market is closed off. There is nowhere to cold store it to stop this from happening. I believe the trade will collapse, yes, to a fraction of its current size. There will be a lot of mutton around and domestic prices will slump. Farmers won’t be able to get rid of enough of it to stop a price crash.”

After the meeting Phil said it was important to debunk the claims made by the Brexit Party and many Tory MPs that under GATT Article 24 we could just carry on trading with the EU as before.

“This myth keeps being repeated without being challenged. The fact is that the EU cannot choose under WTO rules whether or not to impose tariffs on our exports to ‘punish’ the UK, it has to impose them. It would also be illegal under WTO rules for the UK government to pay the tariffs to bail the farmers out.

“It is a disaster. If Boris does what he is threatening and refuses to go if he loses a vote of no confidence then I think we should walk into Parliament and tell him to go.”

A streamed recording of the whole meeting can be found (temporarily 90 degrees on its side!) here:  https://www.facebook.com/stratford4europe/videos/1054525424743135?s=644926487&v=e&sfns=xmo

 

 

 

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Brexit and climate change: farmers speak out

William Taylor (Farmers for Action, Northern Ireland) draws attention to the next Fairness for Farmers in Europe meeting at which climate change will be the common denominator. 

Pictured (l-r) back row Edmond Phelan, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) Beef Chairman, Pat McCormack, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Deputy President , Michael Clarke, Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) Chairman and Brian Brumby, Manx NFU President. ‘Front row, Samuel Morrison, Farmer For Action UK NI Steering Committee, William Taylor, Farmers For Action UK NI co-ordinator and FFE co-ordinator, Paul Smyth, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) Policy Officer, Susan Atkinson Family Farmers Association (FFA) and Patrick Kent, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) President. Missing from photograph but present at the meeting was Chris Mallon, National Beef Association, National Director and Belinda Leach, General Secretary Manx NFU.

On the agenda is Brexit. By and large FFE members would be in favour of either Theresa May’s deal worst case scenario or stay in the Customs Union and single market – if none of these, then they would support another referendum that would promise remain and fight for reform of the EU by the UK Government.

Other items:

  • legislation on farm gate prices for Northern Ireland,
  • current trade deals ie Mercosur, CETA,
  • the strong possibility of a US Trade deal the day after, if and when we leave the EU.
  • and of importing more food produced by methods increasing climate change

Our objections to these must be focused on the hypocrisy of Westminster and the EU – on the one hand admitting to a climate change emergency and being seen to be adhering to their Paris Climate Change commitments – yet being happy to ‘carry more coal to Newcastle’. 

The main example is beef, the EU is now 102% self-sufficient, yet we are already importing 99,000 tonne per annum mainly from Brazil where corporate beef and grain farming companies are clearing rainforest for fresh productive land whilst not fertilising the waste land they leave behind. The latest Mercosur deal will allow in a further 99,000 tonnes, disadvantaging European beef farmers and offering no advantage to the average family farmer in Mercusor countries.

We ask why is the UK and Southern Ireland trying to force an agenda of planting more trees, reducing the activities of our farmers, whilst being a party to felling them in Brazil

Simple answer – our old friends the food corporates filling their pockets and couldn’t care less about climate change!

William Taylor will also refer to the 2019 Gosling report: “After reading these stats in favour of reducing climate change congestion on the roads, accidents  and the commonsense of transporting heavy bulk goods and other by water, where next day delivery is maybe not an issue, moving more freight to inland waterways would appear to be very much on the table”.

Impending doom?

Phil Bennion (below left), a Liberal Democrat West Midlands MEP, who farms an arable farm of 260 acres near Tamworth, spoke out at a ‘Brexitime’ question and answer session with local farmers in Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday August 6th and reports that former NFU chief economist Sean Rickards, a panellist at the event, gave a bleak assessment of the effect of the post Brexit trading environment on UK farming:

“The government has already made it clear that (after Brexit) they are going to let the rest of the world in without tariffs and large sections of British agriculture couldn’t compete. Beef and sheep sectors will shrink quite severely, horticulture will struggle with labour issues and therefore the only sectors that will continue will be arable farms on an increasing scale to compete.

“The character will change, the size will change and the structure will change. It will be a smaller industry operating on an industrial scale and the remoter parts of the country will see farming almost wiped out.

 

 

 

 

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Farmers For Action NI: PM Johnson must begin to understand climate change

A July press release from Farmers for Action (FFA) says that whilst everyone hopes that a new brush will sweep clean, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm in his maiden speech outside No 10 led him to mention climate change and the relentless pursuit of “Free Trade Deals”.

To FFA NI ‘s steering committee, this indicated that PM Boris Johnson = like 90% of the world’s politicians don’t yet get the fact that we are in a climate change emergency!

Last week saw Paris, London and other places with the highest temperatures ever, plus tinder dry forest fires in the Arctic region started by lightning, all laid bare by the world’s scientists stating, ‘man’s influence on global warming is now indisputable’. This includes the wreckage of lives, animals and crops across the world due to excess heat or flash floods and rising seas levels such as the Marshall Islands.

William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator (right), stated:

“The point is that neither the UK Government, the EU, nor any other Government around the world can justify Free Trade Deals where ships, aeroplanes and lorries are ‘carrying coal to Newcastle’, be that lettuce and other from India by air or Brazilian beef to the EU where we are 102% self sufficient.

“The carbon emissions to build these aeroplanes, ships, lorries etc then fossil fuel and repair them merely to carry out food swaps around the world to suit the corporates, cannot be justified!

“Farm organisations around the world must now hold their politicians to account on climate change and the needless moving of food around the world that cuts farm gate prices in the countries importing and exporting, disadvantaging family farm incomes and filling the pockets of corporate food retailers, corporate food wholesalers, corporate shipping, aviation and transport companies..

“Politicians must immediately rename ‘Free Trade Deals’ to ‘Climate Change Sensitive Free Trade Deals’ and act accordingly if their rhetoric of fairness to all and climate change commitments is to have any credibility whatsoever”.

 

 

 

 

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Shining a spotlight on four government agencies: an educational psychologist, a cook, a farmer and an accountant

 

The relatively powerless are harassed: corporates survive censure unscathed

OFSTED had not inspected more than 1,600 schools that were judged “outstanding” by it for at least six years – and of those, almost 300 had not seen an Ofsted inspector for at least 10 years, according to a report by the National Audit Office – see chart on page 27 of the report.

The case of Waltham Holy Cross is ongoing. Last year the government decreed that Waltham Holy Cross would be handed over to Net, a chain of academy schools in May. As the NAO records, this has already happened to over 7,000 other state schools in England since 2010: public assets built and maintained by generations of taxpayers are being given away. Waltham Holy Cross parents made almost 100 freedom of information requests which revealed errors in the draft Ofsted report and that Net was being sounded out on “their appetite to take on this school” in January, over a month before the Ofsted verdict was published. News of teachers and parents there – and in other parts of the country taking action to prevent this ‘forced academisation’ may be read here.

In an article in the Times Educational Supplement (TES), head teacher Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said “Ofsted and the government are the source of much of the stress and anxiety on staff through an extremely high-pressure accountability system and concluded ‘the accounts above reveal an inspection system that appears in too many cases to be doing great damage. My sense is that it’s time to stop quietly accepting that the way Ofsted is, is the way Ofsted should be”.

This month. four years later, TES readers discussed overhauling Ofsted, a ‘toxic’ system. One letter, whose signatories included Dr Richard House, chartered psychologist, former senior lecturer in education studies, Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Sir Tim Brighouse, former schools commissioner for London, was provoked by a recommendation by Ofsted head Amanda Spielman to shut down what she labelled as “failing Steiner schools”. The signatories are founding a campaign to bring about the replacement of Ofsted with a new inspectorate that is ‘empowering, collaborative, and understanding and respectful of pedagogical difference’.

Unthinking adherence to FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY bureaucracy led to the unjust downgrading of a new small business, damagingly reported in local paper

As the public perception is that businesses with a one rating will give customers food poisoning, a cook-manager has criticised the food hygiene inspection system after her business was given a one rating out of five – though hygiene and food storage was rated highly.

At a (requested) pre-opening inspection by the council in March 2018, no reference had been made to the need for a staff manual and staff training procedures but this ‘one-person’ operation was ‘put on a warning’ for not having a staff training manual – though no staff was employed – and was told that a tick paper exercise (officially a ‘documented food safety management system’) is required for all aspects of work.

The work required to maintain cleanliness and produce wholesome food appeared to be discounted and a paper exercise – easily forged – was prioritised. The District Council inspectors were unhelpfully applying the rules of The Food Standards Agency, a non-ministerial government department, to the letter and not the spirit of those regulations.

Solution found and accepted: a whiteboard was put up in the workplace, a photo taken once a week and an online manual was printed.

On several farms which had passed inspections by the ASSURED FOODS STANDARD (Red Tractor) agency in July 2018 serious cases of animal abuses were reported in the media.

A farmer recently wrote an article in the Western Daily Press foreseeing the advent of similar tick-box regulations:

“What I have been pulled up on is the fact that I do not keep written mobility and condition records. These are not yet enforceable under the scheme – but I have reason to suspect they soon may be.

“The only thing that will be achieved by keeping written records will be the creation of more work for the assessor; more forms for him to sit down and read through and check; one more task to help fill his required nine-to-five working day.

“And let’s suppose I decided to cook up a completely bogus set of records. How would he even know?

“When the Red Tractor scheme was launched the president of the NFU (under whose wing it actually operates) was Ben Gill who told us all how vital it was going to be in supplying the nation with safe, wholesome food which consumers could buy with confidence while, equally, bringing more prosperous times for farmers.

“What I see now is an organisation riddled with pointless bureaucracy (I understand another tier of inspectors is in place to check on the assessors).

“I see, equally, an organisation which appears to operate dual standards: one for the soft-target, small producers like me and another for the industrial giants such as Moy Park, over whose portals the Red Tractor flag proudly flies but where recent footage captured undercover at Moy Park showed stinking, squalid poultry houses where chickens will be lucky to survive their miserably short allotted span”. He ended with two pertinent questions:

  • if Assured Foods was aware of conditions at this plant why did it not intervene?
  • And if it wasn’t aware, why not?

The FINANCIAL REPORTING COUNCIL, the UK’s accounting and auditing regulator, is regrettably funded by the audit profession and its board of directors is appointed by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Its monitoring of out-sourcing firms such as Capita and G4s in several sectors, including health, social, military and prison services has not led to effective disciplinary procedures – in fact they continue to receive lucrative government. The Financial Times reported yesterday that though its auditing of Carillion since 1999 is under investigation by the Financial Reporting Council, the value of new UK public sector contracts awarded to KPMG increased more than fourfold last year. In 2013 seven senior members of the FRC scheduled to investigate KPMG’s role in the collapse of lender HBOS, were current or former employees of KPMG itself.

Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at the University of Sheffield, has posted almost 400 FRC entries on the AABA website (now well hidden by search engines). A recent article adds news of another appointment: Revolving Doors: FRC appoint new member to the Audit and Assurance Council – former PwC and Royal Bank of Scotland  exec .

Professor Sikka has said he is worried that the government is rewarding these firms with valuable contracts when they have been undermining the public purse through their involvement in several tax avoidance scandals (FT: 29.7.19).

 

The ‘soft targets’ are harassed: corporates survive censure unscathed

 

 

 

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Post-Brexit: moving from globalisation towards resilient self-reliance

A call for building strong productive local and regional communities and new trade systems that fulfil human lives without wasting resources and energy  

Today the Financial Times (paywall) reports that the number of foreign investment projects has dropped by 14% to 1,782 in the financial year ending March 2019, since the 2016 Brexit referendum. This is the lowest level in six years, according to a report published on Wednesday by the UK’s Department for International Trade.

As multinational profits continue to fly out of the country and taxes are evaded, we return to the valuable 2017 report by Victor Anderson and Rupert Read entitledBrexit and Trade Moving from Globalisation to Self-reliance’, published and launched by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato. 

Although it regrets leaving the EU and wishes we wouldn’t, the report is written as an alternative approach assuming we are outside the EU. Its Executive Summary states:

This report puts on to the political agenda an option for Brexit which goes with the grain of widespread worries about globalisation, and argues for greater local, regional, and national self-sufficiency, reducing international trade and boosting import substitution”.

Colin Hines comments: It details the need for an environmentally sustainable future involving constraints to trade and the rebuilding of local economies. On page 14, the report calls for ‘Progressive Protectionism’:

“Reducing dependence on international trade implies reducing both imports and exports. It is very different from the traditional protectionism of seeking to limit imports whilst expanding exports. It should therefore meet with less hostility from other countries, as it has a very different aim from simply improving the UK’s balance of payments. It could be described as ‘progressive protectionism’, or ‘green protectionism’“.

The report’s recommendations are summarised under three headings: the environment, globalisation and localisation (below):

  • Change trade agreements to allow governments to promote greater national, regional, and local resilience.
  • Shift taxes, subsidies, and public expenditure on infrastructure, away from unfairly favouring large and global companies, and redirect them to help build up local economies.
  • Link banking directly to local and regional economies rather than to the international financial system.
  • Boost the number of places for skills training in sectors where UK production can substitute for imports.
  • bring in short-term government subsidies to invest in and develop economic sectors where UK production can be expected to substitute for imports as part of the new strategy. These would not necessarily be ‘infant industries’: they might be old sectors being revived and renewed.
  • Introduce or increase tariffs on imports of goods and services, especially those where domestic production is a viable and environmentally sustainable option.
  • Democratise English sub-regional devolution arrangements and reform local government finance, so as to provide for effective decentralisation of power.

The globalisation of recent decades has been very one-sided. There have been enormous benefits for large business corporations, financial institutions, and the super-rich. As smaller companies have found it difficult to compete, the multinationals have used a worldwide network of tax havens to escape from taxation and regulation.

‘Brexit and Trade’ sets put a new option for Britain. Instead of removing protective regulations against environmental threats it advocates establishing high Green standards and practical localisation measures. It would address the very real social, economic and environmental problems of globalisation, serving present and future generations well.

 

 

 

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Conservative, Labour & Greens to serve on EJC

On Tuesday, the Institute for Public Policy Research launches its Environmental Justice Commission (EJC) and people are coming together across Conservative, Labour and Green parties to serve on it – leading figures from business, academia, civil society, trade unions, youth and climate activism.

Ed Miliband, Labour MP for Doncaster North and a former leader of the Labour party; Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and Laura Sandys, a former Conservative MP for South Thanet, have written about this and many readers’ comments are well worth reading. Important points made are summarised below

Too often the issue of climate change seems marginal to the public’s concerns, when it is in fact central.

The task is to ally the issue of climate change with the economic and social transformation that our country needs.

This will be done by committing to a Green New Deal (GND), with an unprecedented mobilisation and deployment of resources to tackle the accelerating climate crisis and transform our economy and society for all. Read more on the Green New Deal website.

Its aims are to:

  • mobilise a carbon army of workers to retrofit and insulate homes, cutting bills, reducing emissions and making people’s lives better
  • move to sustainable forms of transport and zero-carbon vehicles as quickly as possible, saving thousands of lives from air pollution
  • end the opposition to onshore wind power and position ourselves as a global centre of excellence for renewable manufacturing
  • protect and restore threatened habitats and
  • secure major transitions in agriculture and diets that are essential if we are to meet our obligations.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpM9gRDr26I

People have been asking how we can revive communities that have been left out of prosperity. They ask whether they and their children will be able to get work and also what the quality of that work will be and what skills will be needed. ECJ believes GND has the potential to do this.

The areas of policy mentioned above answer the immediate economic concerns of people for jobs and hope. Green jobs must be secure and decently paid, with a central role for trade unions in a just transition for all workers and communities affected.

The commission will aim to help the UK to take a lead, believing that there is economic and societal advantage in doing so. An increasing number of people, young and old, see that the way we run our economy is damaging our climate, our environment and our society, but that, crucially, it is within our power to change it for the better. And change it we must.

 

 

 

 

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Farm Groups: No Deal Brexit reckless in the extreme

PRESS RELEASE, 6th March 2019 from Fairness for Farmers in Europe (FFE), an open door federation of farm organisations across GB, the Isle of Man, Ireland north and south.

After their recent meeting in England, the following FFE members supported this statement: Family Farmers Association, Farmers For Action, Irish Creamery & Milk Suppliers Association, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association, Manx NFU, National Beef Association and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association.

Pictured (l-r ) at Fairness for Farmers in Europe’s recent meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Gatwick– back row  is Andrew Cooper General Secretary Manx NFU, John Enright ICMSA General Secretary, Tim Johnston Manx NFU Vice-President, Sean McAuley NIAPA & FFA and Brian Brumby Manx NFU President.  Front row, Eddie Punch General Secretary ICSA, William Taylor FFA NI and FFE co-ordinator and Patrick Kent ICSA President.

Fairness for Farmers in Europe have delivered the following press release of their agreed statement on the strong possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal to Michael Gove MP, Andrea Leadsom MP, Theresa May PM, Neil Parish MP, Sir Vince Cable MP, Sir Keir Starmer MP and Anna Soubry MP with copies sent to the Irish Government, the Isle of Man Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, Council of Ministers President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. FFE members are copying in their MEPs and politicians where appropriate.

The statement 

Fairness for Farmers in Europe (FFE) on behalf of all the family farmer members they represent across these islands, north, south, east and west, must make clear to the UK Government that it would be reckless in the extreme with the impact horrendous for agriculture and food if the UK were to crash out of the EU with no deal on 29th March.

The beef industry, to give one example across these islands is already being devastated due to uncertainty currently with price losses at the farm gate of 10%+, not to mention the add on costs to consumers from the 29th of March.  A no deal on 29th March would by way of UK and EU Customs and Excise administration costs, consequential transport waiting times and WTO tariffs where applicable on lamb, milk, milk products, chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, fruit and other at the UK Northern Irish border with the EU / Southern Ireland Border, UK Dover border point with Calais French EU border and all other food importing/exporting points around and in the UK.

For the sake of commonsense we ask you to draw back from the brink – ask for more time to achieve a successful outcome if a deal cannot be reached by 29th March. 

 

Contact: 56  Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, N Ireland, BT51 4NU

Tel. 07909744624  Email : taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

 

 

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Gove ‘pledges’ cheaper, unlabelled, gene-edited food in his Brave New World

At a time when apprehensions about low-quality food entering the country post Brexit are rising, the Times reports that Michael Gove, the environment secretary has announced that “Britain will lead an agricultural revolution with the use of gene editing”.

In July, after hearing scientific evidence that gene editing “causes many profound mutations and DNA damage”, the European Court of Justice ruled that food resulting from genome editing would be regarded as genetically modified, which is outlawed in Europe.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is underwhelmed

Disregarding this science-based evidence, Gove pledged, at yesterday’s CLA meeting in Westminster, that scientists and farmers would be freed from this European court ruling. The first report seen however, makes no reference to this exciting prospect, whatsoever.

Genome editing, or genome engineering is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in a specific location in the genome (genetic material) of a living organism, unlike early genetic engineering techniques that randomly insert genetic material into a host genome.

Support from vested interests

Scientists in the industry, like the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, funded by the government’s Department of Business believe that the technique will lead to crops and animals with higher yields, resistance to disease and the ability to cope with the effects of climate change.

Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, urged the government to keep the UK aligned with the European court: “Scientific research has long shown that these new gene-editing technologies give rise to similar uncertainties and risks as GM always has. We have always been clear that these new plant breeding techniques are GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and therefore are banned in organic farming and food”.

Bloomberg reports that under the Trump administration, gene-edited foods don’t need to be labelled or regulated and that Zach Luttrell, a principal at industry consultant StraightRow LLC, sees gene-editing as a way to continue lowering costs. 

 

 

 

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Could British farmers build a vote-bank and influence policy?

Originally published on the FDF website

On another website, we read that in India, farmers only appear on the economic radar screen of the country when elections are around the corner (original source: Ground Reality).

Not so in UK. Whereas 43% are employed in Indian agriculture, British farmers and employees registered to vote are only 1% of the country’s population according to the World Bank’s interesting list and so are not regarded as politically significant, despite their vital role.

Is building a vote-bank the British farmers’ only chance of a fair deal?

A call, not to back a particular party or candidate but a policy such as the one set out by Farmers for Action (NI) and other farm groups (below), which commissioned the drafting of a parliamentary bill on farmgate prices. If successful it would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples. 

A vote-bank could be built by enlisting the support of the public and those who do business with dairy farmers:

  • feed mills
  • vets
  • contractors
  • hauliers
  • retailers
  • teachers
  • auctioneers
  • merchants
  • tradesmen
  • machinery suppliers 

Juliette Jowit of the Financial Times summarised: “As farm incomes fall thousands of jobs go in allied industries: vets, feed and machinery suppliers”. (Farmers suffer under the yoke of global forces, 2.5.00) 

Douglas Chalmers, when regional director for the Country Land and Business Association [North], said “Agriculture . . . supports jobs and services in the local villages and often the larger towns, especially if there is a market . . . As farming loses critical mass, all the agriculturally dependent businesses become unsustainable, and with no vets, marts, hauliers and merchants, further pressure is felt by those who have continued to farm . . .” He continues:

“We ask for a fair deal: that those who set policies and impose legislation consider the wider and real effects of their actions on individuals, farms and businesses in rural areas”. FG: 9.1.04

  • Some years ago David and Rosemary Jones of Trebersed Farm, Carmarthen, highlighted the importance of farming to the rural economy by presenting their accounts which reveal that in an eight-month period they paid 117 separate rural businesses and companies for work done or goods supplied. The yearly total is estimated at 130 suppliers. Rural economy: Farmers Guardian 19.3.99 
  • Ruth and Richard Burrows, Devonshire farmers, assembled suppliers representing 3000 others whose livelihoods depend on them and other farmers. A photograph was taken with notes giving the names and roles of the people pictured. Mrs Burrows said: “They are living proof of the importance of the spending power of the farmer and how enormously important agriculture is in terms of the entire economic structure around here. The rural communities of Britain tick over on a system of mutual dependency of which the farm often forms the hub. If it goes to the wall, dozens of ancillary trades suffer. The web of rural ruin, Richard Price, Daily Mail, 23.9.99

The problems being faced by dairy farmers do not stop at the farm gate but threaten the thousands of other business and jobs both locally and nationally.

Maintaining viable dairy farms not only protects livelihoods of farming families and others directly involved, it also makes a major contribution to local economies and the future of businesses, jobs, and families in the locality.

That is the key message from dairy farmer’s wife, Kathleen Calvert (left), who asks for a fair deal for dairy farmers who receive a significantly lower share of the retail milk price than they did ten years ago, despite considerably higher costs:

“Payment which covers production costs and overheads must be the norm for British food producers. This money will circulate around individual rural communities through the supply of professional goods and services to the prime producer, helping to provide a diverse range of other employment opportunities that support individual families within rural communities.”

Dugdale Nutrition, one of the 60 local businesses with which she trades, specialises in feeds for ruminant animals, its core market being dairy farming. This means its 49 employees and their families rely heavily in turn on local dairy farms for their livelihood. Matthew Dugdale, managing director of this company which has supplied the Calvert family for three generations, explains: “Dairy farming is like any business, needing a fair and sustainable price for its product to ensure a fair income for the long hours worked and a decent return on the often large amounts of capital employed, and very importantly, surplus profit to reinvest for the future.”

Locally based businesses circulate profits within the communities they serve. In turn they are reliant on viable, widespread and profitable farm businesses adding immense value to local economies. It is in their interests to see that farmers get a fair price for their produce.

 

 

 

 

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