Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Countryside is one big doormat

I concur with much of what Neil Datson wrote about the Labour government (Talking Point, Oct 20).

Political issues are being driven by arrogance and vanity because those attributes are essential in todays politicians. In farming, there are two further factors that affect the picture.

First, ignorance. We have a farm minister who openly and unashamedly displays a stunning lack of knowledge of his subject and he is the best the government has on offer. Second, the failure to learn from history. If we do not maintain an indigenous food industry, we become dependent on third party supplies, or imports. We would not exist as an independent nation today if past governments had made such a profound error of judgement. History will repeat itself, it always does.

As a consequence of this abuse of political authority, we are seeing the emergence of something which is essentially un-British. That is a willingness to complain and to do so loudly if no notice is taken. This is probably a healthy development because if one is constantly affable and accommodating, one rapidly becomes used as a doormat. The countryside and all who live in it have, in recent years, begun to take on all the characteristics of the nations biggest and most well-used doormat.

We demand too little from politics. We grant access to the levers of power to people with negligible experience and so should not be unduly surprised when they fail. They have never been trained to succeed. Even running the Dome with unlimited resources and an army of spin doctors to mask the horrors has not avoided a fiasco. How could the same people be expected to run a nation?

A J T Carter

Kings Farm, Foxes Lane, West Wellow, Romsey, Hants.

More positive virtues of milk

The suggestion (Letters, Oct 20) that the way to promote milk sales is to concentrate on its fat freedom is disturbing. That it should be made by a responsible person in the milk industry is, Ibelieve, almost beyond belief.

Although it has been said that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the public, that is unlikely to be so when food is under ever-increasing scrutiny. How long would it take for someone to recognise that if the water faction is excluded, milk is about 30% fat? Surely the industry and its advertising agents can come up with more positive virtues of milk than the spurious negative point suggested by your correspondent.

What about the proteins, the vitamins, calcium, the readily absorbed energy from the lactose? When so-called isotonic drinks are a big seller for firms such as the manufacturers of Lucozade, do we need to sink to the level of Arthur Daley to sell a wholesome product?

Edward Bromwell

Police avoid private trespass

There was a suggestion from one of your readers some time ago, that if there is another fuel tax demonstration, it should be directed to government office car parks and the like.

I presume that since this is all private land and not public highway, the police would have no powers to remove protesters. That is in the same way that they avoid getting involved with trespassers, travellers, gipsies, etc, on farm land.

John Williamson

Appleton, Warrington, Cheshire.

No wonder UK farms on knees

Having just watched Beef Encounter on Channel 4, its no wonder British agriculture is on its knees. The programme showed how the problem of BSE stemmed from political ignorance and the greed of slaughter houses. It showed that the farmer was faultless but carried the blame.

But the closing statement said that cows are still being fed a ration which contains cows blood, fat and GM maize. Does the public not realise they have been eating modified maize for years? Are there TV programmes which show the good side of farming including countryside management, village shows and young farmers?

Its about time we started to show what farming is all about – how much people put into it for such little return.

Mr &#42 Sumner

Bottlehouse Farm, Shenly Road, Whaddon.

Blair leading us the wrong way

Like many, I voted for Tony Blair during the last election. He was elected because we wanted change and someone who represented the wishes of the electorate. Sadly, he quickly forgot about that. His cronyism is now taking people down a road they do not want to go and the brake should be applied.

Parents, farmers, British pensioners and the Countryside Alliance should join forces to ensure we are listened to. We have common concerns about housing, transport, pensions, education, post offices, banks, hospitals and health care. But, more important, we have cultural links that have bound us together for centuries, links that are being eroded.

Perhaps we can find a way of buying British, eating British and being British still.

Dave James

Parents in Power, 7 Beachcroft Avenue, Kirby Cross, Essex.

CAP has failed on every count

Accountants Deloitte and Touche reported recently that farm incomes have fallen by 90% and are likely to fall further next year (Business, Oct 20).

As that could lead to the imminent collapse of much of UK agriculture, what can be done? Not much, provided we stay in the Common Agricultural Policy. You wouldnt think any rational government would knowingly jeopardise the nations ability to feed itself but that is what is happening.

Agriculture is run as a collective in Europe. Under the terms of the European treaties, decisions have to be made by the collective in Brussels. In the Russian republics, collectivisation of agriculture failed; in North Korea, to this day, people starve because of the failure of agricultural collectivisation.

CAP has failed on every count and has done so comprehensively. It has failed producers, consumers, taxpayers and the nation. We must repatriate control over agricultural policy urgently. If that also means we withdraw from the EU, so much the better. We pay about £11,000m annually to the EU from which it gives us back about half. So theres no such thing as EU aid. Some of this money would be better spent ensuring the nation can feed itself.

John S Pearson

Adderstone Mains, Belford, Northumberland.

Tesco director patronises us

I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I read about Tesco chilled food director, Jacqueline ONeills address to the dairy industry dinner at Shepton Mallet. Comments like "weve listened" and "supermarkets need suppliers to be profitable" will stick in the gullet of all dairy farmers. Such patronising comments are most offensive.

The supermarkets offer of a 2p/litre increase to processors (equating to, at most, a 1.5 p/litre increase in the ex-farm price) has nothing to do with farmer group pressure and "listening supermarkets". It has everything to do with the fact that, on the strength of the commodity market alone, the supermarkets know that the ex-farm price of milk should currently be 20p/litre. Given that the average dairy farmer has production costs of 22p/litre, recent price increases will still fail to halt the exodus of dairy farmers from the industry.

And milk processors have shown themselves in their true colours. The only real pressure that can be brought to bear on the likes of Express and Dairy Crest are for those farmers which supply them directly with milk, to hand their notice in immediately. That would be my understanding of Farmers For Action. What we currently have is Farmers For Talking Shops. Pickets outside dairy gates are nothing more than a minor irritation to the

dairies. Lets make the dairies source their milk from the real market.

N J & S. Smith

Breach Farm, Walton by Kimcote, Lutterworth,

When the truth is twisted

I have developed evidence over four years which contradicts the alleged "evidence" supporting the established view of both the BSE/CJD crisis and sheep dip syndrome.

The power of pseudo-scientific establishments with money misdirecting research to silence the truth and substitute interpretations that transfer liabilities to others is disturbing. Also it kills. Meanwhile, the political input is simply to treat the issues in terms of boys games. They blame the opposition and by implication rubbish the scientific issues. Moreover, the media pundits are Machiavellian simpletons. They fancy they can see through subterfuge, but in reality are incapable of independent thought.

Lord Walsingham

The Hassocks, Merton, Thetford, Norfolk.

Please, come and join NPA

Elections to the National Pig Association are taking place. I believe that not enough pig farmers have joined the NPA to make it financially sound or to convince the government or the supermarkets that it speaks for a majority. If the NPA fails, the NFU will once again speak for pig farmers after, of course, it has considered all other interests first.

Recently two big supermarkets have been seen to use misleading packets and labels on bacon. Asda had almost identical packets except for small indications of country of origin for British and Dutch bacon. Tesco (News, Oct 13) stated that Danish bacon: "Meets British and Tesco welfare codes of practice."

The NPA is doing its best with swine fever but it needs every pig farmers backing to get a fair deal for everyone affected. The government must take full financial responsibility to eradicate any notifiable disease or risk it becoming endemic.

If pig farmers do not support the NPA, supermarkets will continue to get away with their deceptions and the government will walk away from its responsibilities. Pig farmers if you have any get up and go left in you join the NPA and make a difference to your industry.

Fred Henley

Green Farm, Southfield Lane, Seaton Ross, Yorks.

Liquid-fed pigs look good bet

I read with interest the Easton Lodge pig unit cost review of liquid feeding (On Our Farms, Sept 29). In this day and age I am surprised to learn that anyone in agriculture can afford to reject a capital investment with a two-year pay back period.

I believe the projected savings are understated. Jasper Renold pointed out, rightly, there might well be a feed conversion rate improvement arising out of liquid feeding. Improved FCR from liquid feeding is well documented both here and within Europe. Mr Renold stated that he might save a further £7000/year bringing the total saving to £30,500 on the 8000 pigs fattened a year at saving of £4.38/pig sold.

Liquid fed pigs are generally healthier; due in part to the lack of dust and reduced respiratory problems.

Liquid diets utilising co-products are acidic and it is well known that the addition of organic acid to pig diets has a beneficial effect and with liquid feeding those benefits come for free.

With good quality, properly formulated diets I see little risk if any of poor gradings. However, there is a learning curve and feeding scales will have to be adjusted to allow for the healthier, faster growing pigs.

MLC recently stated that savings of up to 7p/kglwg were being made by liquid feeders; thats about £4.90/pig.

Higher savings could come from higher inclusion rates of the co-products than was envisaged at Easton Lodge.

Our European competitors and indeed some liquid feeders in the UK are getting more than 70% of the dry matter from co-products compared with the 30-45% envisaged at Easton Lodge.

Our European competitors clearly have the edge with a much higher percentage of their pig benefiting from being liquid feed.

Nigel Handscombe,

Woodview House, The Square, Ryhall, Stamford, Lincs.Nigel.Handscombe@Farmline.coml We also found the two-year pay back not unattractive, but there are too many ifs to risk the investment at present. Would the liquid fraction of this slurry flow readily to our dirty water lagoons for final land disposal leaving a stackable solid portion? Theres little evidence of the risks of poor carcass grading, particularly when using sensor controlled short troughs. Would the saving from making our own balancer rations, outweigh the loss of £15,000/year from milling seed quality cereal premiums? FWs Easton Lodge pig unit manager, Jasper Renold

Shotgun law is plain crazy

I recently received a letter from the Governments Home Office Firearms and Explosives Unit. The letter states that the government intends to apply the criteria required by law to licence a firearm to that of a shotgun. To the non-informed that may seem reasonable but in reality it is a nonsense like so much in todays British law which unfortunately has the exact opposite effect to what is intended. The trouble with gun licensing is that it has in everyday terms become an incitement to hold guns illegally.

The conditions required to hold and use a firearm have been altered during the past five years. When my firearm licence became due for renewal on September 26 this year I could not meet the criteria now required. Not only would I have to lose my shotguns if the goal-posts are moved to the same place that the firearms licence has been moved.

The police licensing dept. has left me holding and using a shotgun for nearly a month now due to, quite simply, its incompetence at reviewing my shotgun certificate. I have sent recorded delivery letters to police, home secretary and the home office but still have had no response from any department.

What a way to run a country and they intend to "Make Britain a Safer Place" according to Home Office notepaper.

Sam Millward

c/o Arbour Hill Pig Unit, Lincoln Hill, Hom Green Ross-on-Wye.

Taking issue on lime sourcing

I refer to the comment (Opinion, Oct 13) about sourcing of lime in high magnesium areas. Protagonists of cation exchange soil analysis appear to be claiming that this method of analysis is necessary to determine whether dolomitic lime is the most suitable product or whether obtaining supplies from further afield would be better.

That could involve paying more for lime and expensive soil analysis.

It is relatively simple to discover whether magnesium levels are too high. If a simple soil analysis for P, K and Mg indicates levels of magnesium of Index 4 or above, it is possible that further magnesium dressings will create a nutrient imbalance.

That is particularly so if soil potassium levels are Index 1 or below.

There is a further issue relating to animal nutrition if sodium or calcium levels are low.

Replicated trials carried out by our company 15 years ago, and monitored by ADAS scientific staff, showed that the application of dolomitic limestone had a very modest effect on measured soil magnesium concentration, and 12 months after application, no measurable increase in plant tissue magnesium content.

In other words, dolomitic limestone is a slowly available source of magnesium, and is unlikely to engender major plant nutrient imbalances unless existing soil levels are excessive.

Farmers should beware anecdotal evidence put forward to justify some of the claims being made as to expensive cation exchange analysis techniques.

Independent scientific evidence of the benefits of such techniques is hard to find.

Times are hard, and clutching at straws to try to turn round farm fortunes may be tempting. This country has a fine tradition of sound agricultural research that is relevant to our soils, our crops and our climate.

Most of the answers that farmers need about soil science are already provided in the libraries and archives of our scientific establishments. Before swallowing a new theory, hook, line and sinker, check it out with somebody who doesnt stand to make a killing from it.

Mark Gillingham

The Courtyard

National Trust bad for farming

With reference to the comments by a Cornish farmer about the National Trust (Letters, Oct 13), tenant farmers are not the only ones to criticise the National Trusts policy on the countryside and those who live in it.

It makes a bad neighbour, is predatory, arrogant and rides roughshod over neighbouring farmers, to expand its own interests.

In Pembrokeshire, it appears determined to acquire all coastland in the beautiful National Park, at any cost.

Its overall farming policy dictates to farmers the way they should live, a policy which destroys the way of life and the natural farming progression.

I will definitely not become a member of this less-than-charitable institution.

Pembrokeshire farmers wife

Name and address supplied.

See more