Farmer Focus: Less than perfect policies are not helping Andrew Charlton

A couple of examples of less than perfect policy-making are not helping my business.

First, there is the unfortunate “I told you so” stance being taken by a minority of people in the organic lobby regarding the EU pesticide ban.

I think most organic farmers would take the same view as me, namely that UK agriculture to a very large degree produces superb quality food at very competitive prices, serving some of the most demanding and highly profitable customers in the world in an industry where regulators have been allowed to go beserk.

I think we should celebrate not only our ability to do this but our strengths in being able to offer a highly diverse range of produce in line with what consumers want – be it organic, conventional or whatever.

To drive even greater division within the industry just diminishes our ability to combat ill-thought legislation.

In addition the proposed, and unfortunately worded “feed holiday”, whereby organic livestock producers may be allowed to temporarily deregister to allow the market to cope with a short-term organic red meat production spike is causing lack of confidence in planning.

I understand the spike has been caused by some very enthusiastic promotion of conversion schemes. While this may seem an admirable aim, the whole saga underlines the two critical rules of developing any farm business. Always start with the needs of the market and then work back, and never do anything just for the brown envelopes – because if you fail to incorporate the market in your plans it will surely fail you.

Happily all 2008 harvest feed grain from Poplar Farm is now sold although the difference in price between crop sold in June and January is 38%. So let’s hope this kind of reduction gets passed on to livestock producers.


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