Opinion 25/03/05

Gold-plated nonsense

When promoting British food, it”s acceptable to be a bit British, but not too British. That was DEFRA”s topsy-turvey logic for rejecting a 300,000 grant application to help fund a magazine dedicated to promoting British food. Department officials feared a photograph of rolling green fields behind a farmer with doe-eyed Jersey cows would contravene EU competition rules designed to prevent illegal state subsidies. The ruling reveals the ludicrous lengths British officials are prepared to go in order to enforce the letter of EU law. Such a decision would be unthinkable in Paris, Berlin or Rome. So why should British producers alone carry the burden of over zealous bureaucrats? News, p19

Producers lost without a map

Entry Level Stewardship is a new era for farming and the environment, according to DEFRA. Fine – but only if you are able to apply. DEFRA confusion means thousands of farmers will not receive the required Rural Land Registry maps in time for the scheme”s first deadline. They face a choice of delaying their applications or using earlier maps that do not include all of their land. Either way they will lose – thousands of pounds in some cases. To their credit many farmers have embraced ELS enthusiastically. It would be a shame if that enthusiasm was dented so soon through no fault of their own. *Business, p22

Help to make the best use of inputs

Tailoring crop inputs to local need is more important than ever. Buyers and consumers are demanding less pesticide use, lower residues and greater environmental protection. At the same time growers know they must fine-tune input use to achieve the best returns at least cost. That”s why farmers weekly is launching a new regional agronomy service. Every week leading agronomists will paint the local picture in farmers weekly”s Arable Section, with added detail on farmers weekly Interactive (www.fwi.co.uk/arable). If you want help with making the right input decisions, turn to p48 and keep an eye on www.fwi.co.uk/arable through the week. Arable, p48

Heavy-handed scrapie salvation

Forcing breeders to test all rams in high genetic-merit flocks for scrapie resistance seems heavy-handed. But, like it or not, this disease prevention measure will come into force next year. Under DEFRA”s Compulsory Ram Genotyping Scheme all rams must be genotyped, but for what benefit? According to DEFRA, it will result in 58% fewer scrapie cases by 2010. It”s a reduction of 188 cases on last year – and that”s only the reported cases. Although the restrictions that compulsory genotyping imposes may worry many flockmasters, anything which has such a significant impact on animal health must be worthwhile. Livestock, p38

An end to the unkempt farm?

Ever since the first nomads settled with a few goats and a smelly tent in 10,000BC, there have been tidy farms and scruffy farms. But could the arrival of the Environment Agency”s farm waste regulations later this year signal an end to all unkempt farms? Although the agency”s main aim is to cut pollution from leaking waste oil and pesticide contamination, it has also pledged to target discarded and mouldering machinery. Should this be welcomed? Yes – provided legislators and enforcers temper their toughness with reason. Features, p74

See more