Opinion : 12/11/04

Relying on food imports too risky

The world is awash with cheap food – for those with the money to buy. So why bother with the inconvenience, expense and, for some, embarrassment of domestic food production?

It has proved a compelling argument for this generation of politicians and some key-opinion formers. The result has been policies that consistently undermine UK producers in world markets and favour low-cost imports sometimes of dubious quality. In response food imports have rocketed by nearly 25% since the early ’90s.

Previous generations, who knew real hunger, would recognise the folly of successive governments’ failure to safeguard UK farming.

Food is a strategic resource and its production must be nurtured in these islands for the benefit of our people, our countryside and our economy.

Politicians should awake to the terrible danger of relying on imported food – while there’s still time.

Precision in use can save IPUs

The future of IPU herbicide seems more precarious. Water company Thames Water Utilities is targeting the widely used cereal herbicide and plans to ask the Pesticides Safety Directorate to ban it.

Although claims that levels in water are not environmentally damaging may be true, it’s far from a convincing defence. So the more growers can do to prevent IPU, and other pesticides, from contaminating water supplies, whether from farmyard or field, the better.

Evidence of a precise approach in field and farmyard could be the evidence the Pesticide Safety Directorate needs to rebut TWU’s request and safeguard the future of this valuable herbicide.

EID: Early days but promising

Electronic identification of sheep is to be introduced across the EU in 2008.

Although the technology is being developed rapidly, thanks to the ingenuity of some UK companies, it could take several years to be perfected.

Anyone who’s managed sheep, particularly in less favoured areas, knows the difficulty of effective monitoring.

More important, DEFRA must accept, that despite EID, it will never have a precise knowledge of the location of every sheep in the country.

Increased knowledge of sheep movements will provide disease control benefits. But knowing exactly which three ewes have been lost in a bog on Dartmoor or the North York Moors will never be easy.

More on offer at Smithfield

There’s something for everyone at this year’s Royal Smithfield Show. Whether it’s the latest in machinery designs, or information on livestock and deadstock trends, there’s no better place to gather key independent advice to help shape your farming business in response to the challenges of CAP reform.

Even more is on offer at this year’s event. The new Farm Options area will offer practical information on diversifying farm income and the farmers weekly Farmer Forums are the UK’s largest free farming conference packed with useful business information.

Plus you can benefit from cut-price tickets to the event, which takes place at London’s Earl’s Court between Thurs, Dec 2 and Sun, Dec 5, by turning to page 68. See you at Smithfield.

Pedigree beasts – genes in store

Pampered prima-donnas or profitable performers: What’s your view of pedigree livestock?

Although many pedigree animals receive more loving care than some of their commercial counterparts, they are also the genetic resource on which much of the UK livestock industry is based. Using good quality pedigree genetics can boost commercial flock and herd profits through improving carcass quality and milk production.

So before dismissing pedigree stock as a hobby or luxury, let’s consider what they have given the industry in the past and the bright future they offer now.

Thinking about Christmas giving

It’s early to start thinking about Christmas shopping. But farmers weekly is offering the chance to give a gift with a difference this year.

We’ve teamed up with the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution for our Christmas campaign. Your donation could provide a hamper full of essentials for one of the charity’s 1600 beneficiaries who are helped every year at this time.

Details of this, plus a host of other gifts ideas for country people, are featured in our Farmlife Section.

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