Archive Article: 2000/01/07

7 January 2000

Grain intervention – some sense at last

Grain intervention has long been regarded as something of a joke on this side of the Channel.

On the Continent, everything is done to ensure it works smoothly to put a floor in the cereals market. But in the UK, excessive costs, a high risk of rejection and delayed payments often mean intervention is more trouble than it is worth.

The result? Our grain price sinks to distressed world values.

But a recent report by a red tape working group, now on farm minister Nick Browns desk, contains plenty of realistic proposals to help make intervention work.

Mr Browns initial reaction suggests he is keen to act and implement change by this harvest. That wont be a moment too soon if world grain values continue to slide.

How costs squeeze the abattoir business

Everyone deserves free choice. Livestock producers are no exception. They want to choose where to sell their stock but crippling Meat Hygiene Service costs could soon reduce that ability.

Small- and medium- sized abattoirs are being forced out of business by such costs. Only the bigger abattoirs will be left. And thats bad news not only for producers but also animal welfare, with stock enduring long lorry journeys. Such journeys increase stress and that harms eating quality.

Its also bad news for local meats, which need small-scale abattoirs for their supply. For a healthy meat industry,we need local meats and local abattoirs – so lets fight to ensure that we retain them.

Crop growth model has exciting potential

Fancy a nice bit of modelling? No, not the catwalk type and you wont need a waif-like figure. Sophisticated modelling of crop growth could help vegetable farmers meet supermarket demands more accurately in future.

Based on long-term weather patterns and crop growth models, the new computer-based decision support system can predict both optimum yield and harvest date. That promises better co-ordinated supplies to meet supermarket needs allowing plant maturity and volume to be matched precisely with demand.

It is a fine example of British technology helping British growers meet the needs of British retailers. Lets hope it boosts demand for home-grown produce rather than imports.

Antique research data is rather old hat…

Who needs antique research? Results from two- or three-year old crop trials are often useful, and five-year old results may still be interesting. But experiments carried out more than a decade ago are of curiosity value only.

Imagine our surprise when the sole paper on sunflowers at a recent agronomists conference concentrated on relaying trials information from as far back as 1988.

Many of the results had apparently never been published before. Just how well are farmers being served? If research is worthwhile all findings, interim or otherwise, need passing on to farmers as soon as possible.

Room for bright youth within farming arena

Life begins at 40 – particularly if youre a farmer. In fact, the average age of British farmers is 58. Not surprisingly many dont encourage their children to follow in their footsteps.

But the certainty of a job for life has disappeared from most industries. And why not encourage talented, optimistic and courageous youngsters to come into agriculture? At least they will have no illusions. And goodness knows the industry needs their help.

As one new entrant points out in our Farmlife section, a willingness to innovate, change and adapt, laced with a large dose of realism, is what young people need to make a successful career in farming. We wish them well.

If you dont know how to play, you cant win

Winning a game of Monopoly without knowing the rules is virtually impossible. The same is true for livestock producers dealing with CAP Agenda 2000 reform.

Less than helpful is the fact that the scheme rules were sent out so late for a regime that started this week. Plus schemes such as extensification are so complicated they take an age to understand.

But the amount of money to be won or lost is so great that no-one can afford to make mistakes or ignore the rules. After all, with all sectors suffering financially, making the most of subsidies on offer is a sure trump card. Read how best to play it in our Livestock Section.

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