26 October 2001

Big units profitable, but face opposition

CAP reform would be welcomed by some producers and the public alike, but the type of livestock systems which could evolve in the aftermath may cause some opponents to think again.

Henry Fell, producer and chairman of the Commercial Farmers Group, told delegates at the National Office of Animal Health conference in Warks this week that agriculture was facing a contradiction. "On the one hand we are told we must be competitive and on the other, we are not allowed to exploit our natural asset – the countryside."

Mr Fell suggested some beef producers – particularly in the hard-hit south west – could generate profits in future by using large-scale techniques. "If you imagine a 1000-acre holding ring-fenced and divided into four equal paddocks, with a building at the centre, carrying 300 suckler cows and 1000-1500 ewes, then that is a unit which could make money. But is it what the public wants?

"Along with those in the ancillary industries we must seriously apply our minds to how this dilemma is to be resolved. How can we influence government policy and even more importantly how can we influence the public via the media?"

"We desperately need a voice for agriculture to operate a small, but highly pro-active PR department that can put our point across. We have a lot of which we can be justly be proud, but we are deplorably bad at promotion," he said. &#42