23 October 2001
Have your say, w/e 19 October, 2001

Impact of the CAP

I AM a student researching the impact of the CAP on British farmers.

Would anyone be willing to fill in a short questionnaire please? (It really is short – honest!)

Thanks.
Rachel Shaw
shaw.enough@virgin.net

Old-fashioned

CALL me old-fashioned, but shouldnt cows have tails? (Butter adverts upset British farmers, FWi, 5 October, 2001)

stephen.collett@farmline.com

Tail-docking: Good for the cows

HAVING now retired after 50 years of milking cows, I have time to sit back and watch and listen what is going on around me.

Imagine my surprise when I read a letter from my son in New Zealand. Good on ya!

I have to admit that I do not always agree with him, but never mind that.

I am surprised at some of your correspondents aversion to tail-docking. Although this is not common practice in New Zealand any more,I think it is a good idea (especially when Ive been batted in the eye with a tail).

A cows tail appears to me to be the perfect instrument for splashing muck all over its owners back and flanks, so giving the flies more reason to attack

I well remember when we used to dock horses. Has their welfare improved because of it? I think not.

We still dock lambs for purely welfare reasons.

Most Poms would be horrified at the “muesling” carried out on lambs on Australian sheep stations, when at dagging time a slice of skin is taken off along with the wool, so eventually growing scar tissue to prevent fly strike and a painful, lingering death.

Lets be fair, we even castrate our cattle (a very unkind cut indeed) and who cares?

Every situation requires its own solution particular to its environment, and to understand this and to look and learn is a better solution than mindless criticism.
Harry Moss
hemoss@onetel.co.uk

Where will we get all those extra drivers?

IF we are to only spend 3 hours a day on our tractors, it would be interesting to hear what the absolutely brilliant Euro MPs would like us to do with the rest of the working day (Euro-MPs back tractor hours limit, FWi, 9 October, 2001).

Who is paying these characters to come up with these pathetic ideas? The only good thing to come of it is that has given us several hours of fun on the CB radio discussing how to find all the extra labour that would be required.

I assume it is Europes answer to the refugee problem.

ken@neoils.demon.co.uk

Tractor hours – so stupid

WITH regard to making farmers only drive tractors for three hours a day; it is totally stupid (Euro-MPs back tractor hours limit, FWi, 9 October, 2001).

How that will ever work I do not know.

My husband is a farmer; if the hay, for instance, is ready and the weather is going to change, what are you to do – risk losing the crop?

I have never heard any thing so stupid.

sndfell@aol.com

MEPs are crazy

I LIVE in Kent, my son-in-law is a farm tractor driver, and I cant see the “tractor driving hours” law working in the UK (Euro-MPs back tractor hours limit, FWi, 9 October, 2001).

Euro-MPs are completely crazy!
John White, Whitstable, Kent
whitejr2000000@aol.com

Tractor hours directive impractical

THAT beats all (Euro-MPs back tractor hours limit, FWi, 9 October, 2001)!

I have never heard anything so mind-numbingly stupid.

How on earth could a farm run under such a regime? how many farmers would obey such regulations?
Roy Howitt
roy.howitt@btinternet.com

RSPCA farm-licence ideas

The RSPCA are calling for licences for all livestock farms (RSPCA calls for farming licences, FWi, 8 October, 2001).

What the hell are they doing with their time? Dont they understand that we are all tied up with assurance schemes that are the equivalent of a licence.

If we fail our FABpigs [Farm-assured British Pigs] inspection, I cannot sell any pigs, so I go out of business – unlike those who supply the second-rate and low-welfare produce that is being sucked into this country by the supermarkets.

Now theres something the RSPCA could take on board.

srt@poveyfarm.freeserve.co.uk

New Zealand butter – whats your problem?

WHY are “British farmers incensed” by an advertisment for Anchor butter (Butter adverts upset British farmers, FWi, 5 October, 2001)?

New Zealand is an exporter of dairy products and therefore has to advertise those products. When the UK joined the EEC, the amount of butter that New Zealand was able to export to the UK was reduced.

Instead of whingeing and moaning about it, or expecting government assistance via subsidies, the NZ farmers got off their backsides and looked for alternative markets for their produce – the end result being that New Zealand now has a very efficient (from production through to manufacturing and marketing) and profitable dairy industry.
Stewart Moss, Pongakawa, New Zealand
moss.manoeka@xtra.co.nz

(See also: No Union action over Kiwi butter ads, FWi, 8 October, 2001)

Zimbabwean vet standards

MY packhouse manager is from Zimbabwe. He is certified in Zimbabwe to inspect animals to diagnose whether they have foot-and-mouth disease.

The training for this skilled job involved a group of young farmers having a two-hour lecture and then going to the pub, more a social event rather than scientific training.

Makes you wonder.
Chris Lindley
chrislindley@hotmail.com

An open letter to Margaret Beckett

IS British agriculture to being blessed with a Labour Party who believe that there should be no input from the British government?

In my opinion, the Labour party managed by Tony Blair has made an excellent job of dealing with the foot-and-mouth crisis, we shall never know how long foot-and-mouth was already in the country.

The very nature of sheep management prevents us from being sure when foot-and-mouth first occurred in sheep.

Once Mr Blair understood the extent and danger of the foot-and-mouth crisis, he took control of the situation.

From that time he managed it successfully; no expense was spared in the fight to control the disease.

Mr Blair took on board experts from many fields; obviously he was given a broad range of advice, but from that he took the best possible course of action.

It would have been a total disaster in the long term to British agriculture, if we had initiated a vaccination programme at the beginning of this crisis.

Steps were quickly taken to inhibit the spread of this dangerous disease.

We are now seeing the closing stages of the disease; there may be more outbreaks, but at the moment we are seeing daily totals of new diseases at its lowest ever levels.

From the way in which Mr Blair handled the crisis, farmers can understand and appreciate the fact that he is able to undertake a major project.

We are again seeing Mr Blair handle a world crisis, in the form of retaliation to the terrorist attack on the twin towers in America.

With his steady hand at the wheel, why should we be frightened of the “old Labour” attitude.

In the past, Labour was very co-operative with British farming but for last few years, especially since the Conservative party was in opposition, there developed among MPs of all parties a resistance to subsidising British agriculture.

They seem to hold the belief that they would win the votes by taking this attitude.

MPs have failed to realise that it is of little interest to the general public how much the government has to spend on agricultural subsidies. But it is a matter of immense importance to the British public, that they have a safe and secure food supply.

If we can trust Tony Blair to handle the foot-and-mouth crisis, surely we can trust him to understand the economics which every farmer in Britain fully understands.

We cannot produce food in Britain without a long-term investment – every farmer in Britain hasnt been committed to his job for the entire length of his life for nothing.

They are passionate about their calling.

The farming community has provided from the resources in its hands the very best quality food that it was able to produce. It would be a disaster of immense proportion, to both our agriculture, and for the British public, if British agriculture was not to produce the maximum amount of food.

Why, you may ask?

The first reason would be public welfare.

We already buy half our food from abroad; by producing at home we can ensure that many fresh products are all of the highest quality, and we can ensure that the money needed to provide this food is distributed in our own country.

We do not have to spend money we earned from exports to buy from our own resources.

It is vital that agriculture is given its true place in economic common sense: “Why buy food from a shop of lesser quality when your own garden will produce for free food that tastes better and costs nothing?”

The biggest damage that was done to agriculture within the past few years was a sustained rise in the value of the Pound. No amount of cost-savings could replace the money lost by the 30% reduction in the price of our food against that of Europe.

Eventually, British agriculture will be on a level playing field within Europe. Until that happens, the British government has no other alternative than to protect the British farmer in the short term.

It would be idiocy to allow farming to fall into an economic trap from which it could not escape. It has been battered not only by foot-and-mouth, but by the BSE crisis.

It has been clearly demonstrated that British agriculture does not stand alone.

During this year we have seen disaster in our tourist industry.

No government, of whatever colour, can afford to think, of the United Kingdom in any other way than that of a whole, series of connected businesses, each person dependant on others, each business dependant on others, and indeed each country dependant upon others.

Understanding of this dependence and interdependence makes one fully aware of the cost in both economic, and welfare terms.

In a world of diminishing resources, it is the first duty of any government to protect its own food supplies.

Providing top-quality food from our own resources should be a priority to any government. Not only does it cost less in economic terms; even if it were slightly more expensive, the national pot is preserved; the costs of growing UK food is distributed among our own society.

Products of the United Kingdom inevitably benefit the whole of the United Kingdoms society.

The wages paid to produce our goods provide the resources to pay for those goods.

There are a tropical crops which we cannot buy from our own farmers, but in the long term, there are many temperate goods which will benefit from being produced in the UK – fresh milk, fresh vegetables, top quality beef and pork, our own UK lamb, when it is in season.

The nature of our British countryside does not lend itself to large farming operations. Our countryside is densely populated, our farms by nature are small and medium-sized. They do not lend themselves to being turned into massive holdings.

Villages are closely interspersed within our countryside.

With the gradual breakdown of our large estates, farm ownership has been more widely dispersed, tenants have bought their own farms.

A stable and a strong British agriculture depends upon a sound owner-occupier freeman farmer, and a tenant farmer paying a reasonable rent.

In the last few years farms have become larger, the retirement of older farmers with the farmsteads being sold for residential purposes.

This leaves land available to be purchased to expand farms in those areas.

However, there is very much a limit on how big British farms can become. With the residential market being so strong and farm profits so small, it leaves farmers in difficulty financing larger farms.

Price rises are needed to protect the basic cost levels of production never mind to make a profit.
nchjn@aol.com

Northern Ireland flower business

I AM a student researching the development of co-operatives in Northern Ireland agriculture, with particular reference to the small cut-flower industry.

Does anyone have any experiences, good or bad, of working within a production or marketing co-operative and who would be willing to discuss them?

Thanks.

carsonmccombe@hotmail.com