Opinion : 10/12/04 - Farmers Weekly

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Opinion : 10/12/04

The foot-and-mouth tragedy is a festering boil on the backside of this government that refuses to fade.

The latest outburst, following FW’s revelations this year linking the outbreak of F&M to government negligence, concerns a new £2bn legal action. The firm Class Law solicitors alleges the government was guilty of gross negligence in its handling of the F&M outbreak.

Acting on behalf of 2000 rural workers, including hoteliers, shopkeepers and farmers, the firm will argue that the government was negligent because it waited two days before banning livestock movements within Britain.

Those two fatal days contributed to the original spread of the disease which cost the economy an estimated £8bn, the loss of nearly 7m animals and untold misery for farmers and rural communities.

As part of its campaign, Class Law will seek the full disclosure of official documents in the High Court next month.

Farmers Weekly wishes all those who are backing this legal action every success. As farmers know well, there was something rotten about the way MAFF/DEFRA and the higher echelons of government mismanaged the disease throughout the 2001 outbreak.

Three years later, denied the public inquiry that FW and others campaigned for, key questions still remain unanswered.

Meanwhile, those who suffered without compensation, including farmers whose businesses were strangled by form D notices and the swill feeders who were put out of business overnight, deserve justice – even if it delivered four years too late.

Government ministers should know F&M will not go away until all the industry’s questions are answered and recompense is made to those who deserve it.

Ministers must lance the boil or tolerate the painful consequences for years to come.

Opinion : 10/12/04

A scheme that’s worth the effort

Official-looking brown envelopes are rarely the bearer of good news. But one will be well worth looking out for early next year.

That’s when DEFRA is expected to announce details of its entry-level scheme, which offers English farmers £30/ha (£12/acre) for undertaking simple environmental management.

It’s a great opportunity for all farmers to boost their single farm payments – and not only in England.

Similar schemes are being set up in other parts of the UK, allowing producers across the UK to recoup thousands of pounds due to be deducted through modulation.

Early indications suggest many farmers will nearly qualify already. Even if more work is needed, the paybacks look worth the effort.

Time for a fresh look at the Lists

Several high-performing winter oilseed rape varieties and a promising winter malting barley. The highlights do little to counter the impression that new varieties in the HGCA’s Recommended Lists for 2005/2006 are a disappointing bunch.

Whether that reflects the plant breeding pipeline drying up or temporary lack of pressure; only time will tell. But it does highlight the rigidity of the selection system conducted for the HGCA by Crop Evaluations.

It must be time for a re-assessment of the judgement criteria in the light of CAP reform.

Take care if you move to heifers

Last week’s Royal Smithfield Show proved heifers can be every bit as good as their male counterparts. But they need careful feeding to ensure they gain size and flesh before they run to fat, experts advise.

Many finishers may be eyeing a switch to heifers from steers once subsidies are removed. If that’s true, buyers should beware that they often need different feeding and grazing regimes to maximise profits.

Reform can boost precision farming

Could cross-compliance and decoupled single farm payments boost precision farming techniques?

By requiring growers to pinpoint the most productive land for cropping it could highlight the contribution of precision techniques towards ensuring farm budgets deliver top profits.

An added bonus would be environmental safeguards in the form of preventing spray and fertiliser pollution, and soil erosion.

Growers have long complained about the cost of such technology. Hopefully the more popular it becomes thanks to cross-compliance, the more economical the price tag.

Don”t let children be stung by tax

Inheritance tax is becoming an increasingly thorny problem as more people find that the rising price of their house could land their children with a big inheritance tax bill.

Farmers have traditionally been cushioned thanks to 100% relief under agricultural property relief. But as farming changes, so many more farmers are likely to appear in the Inland Revenue’s tax radar, as our Features Section explains.

It will be your children”s problem rather than yours, but why not grasp the inheritance tax nettle now – rather than leave the sting for them.

Identifying stock ID potential

Farmers Weekly pages are full of advice to co-operate. So we put that advice into practice by forging a strategic alliance between FW’s sister company Farmplan Computer Solutions and Shearwell Data.

Our aim is to develop new electronic systems of stock identification, record keeping and farm management programs to help UK livestock farmers take on the challenge of CAP reform and a new era of global trading.

At the heart of this new venture will be the National Livestock Management Database developed by Shearwell’s Richard Webber. If you’d like to know more about the potential on offer, turn to our Livestock Section.

Join the club for rural friendship

Thanks to every one of more than 300 farmers weekly Farm Women’s Club members, from seven counties, who gathered at Wells Cathedral, Somerset, last Friday for a carol service.

Now is the ideal time to join this friendly group. With 62 branches in the UK, there’s bound to be one near you. An annual subscription of 12, due on Jan 1, will open the door to wealth of enjoyable local and national events held throughout the year.

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