Archive Article: 2001/09/28

28 September 2001

Act on food rationingor else?

Does the UK government have a contingency plan for the introduction of food rationing in this country? If there is nuclear contamination in Europe by accident or by deliberate intent, our cheap food tap would be turned off overnight and this country would be short of food.

This government should have a contingency plan for food rationing or else it should recognise the strategic importance of UK agriculture and halt its rapid decline. The world has changed.

Robert Persey

Upcott Farm, Broadhembury, Honiton, Devon.

Cut out the F&M truth

With reference to Stuart Pattisons excellent letter about the governments spinning of the truth with regard to foot-and-mouth, I urge all your readers to cut it out and stick it on the office notice board or kitchen door. It should be posted anywhere it may be seen and read. Then, when the F&M dust has finally settled and all the questions have been answered, we can all look at it and say: He told us so.

Chris Stokes

Wood Farm, Carbis, Roche, St Austell, Cornwall.

Vaccination is the only way

As foot-and-mouth continues out of control, vaccination will have to be introduced to save the situation. The government and the NFU will not like it because it will mean losing face and admitting defeat. But the appalling waste of good livestock and the enormous cost to the taxpayer cannot continue.

It is understandable the government does not want a public inquiry. There are rumours that there was a plan two years ago to take out 6m sheep; that forms and signs to be used in the epidemic were printed last October and that the delay in bringing in the army and spreading of infection via pyre smoke was planned.

I am told slaughter compensation cheques are labelled EU livestock reduction fund. The money comes from the EU but it was UK money in the first place.

The asian O virus pandemic is now all over the world except for north America, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and western and northern Europe. Imports from countries other than those could re-infect the UK at any time if we do not vaccinate.

A Swiss publication Current Concerns reported that under a secret EU plan, the UK would be for grain growing in the east and tourism in the west. Government laxity on import control suggests there may be a secret agenda to reduce UK farm subsidy and allow imports from the projected new EU members in eastern Europe.

Since we have a balance of payments problem looming in the UK – June saw a £3bn deficit, the highest ever for one month, and manufacturing in recession due to the low k – promises made at the election on public services cannot be funded if the UK stays in the EU.

In the past, during a sustained adverse balance of payments situation, farmers have been needed. This time it will be too late – many will have gone.

Edwin Bateman

Oakbank, Pirbank, Sedbergh, Cumbria.

DEFRA bumf is eye-opener

Two items of bumf have recently dropped through the letterbox from DEFRA (the Department for the Extermination of Farming and Rural Affairs). The first begs the countrys sheep farmers not to put ewes to the ram this year.

That shows the enormous confidence the government has in ridding the country of foot-and-mouth. When this disease reappears, and it will if border controls are not tightened and vaccination is not undertaken, the government of the day and the NFU hierarchy would be slung out if mass slaughter was reintroduced.

The second refers to the disposal of dip. I am told it is unobtainable. Maybe there would be a lot less scab about if DEFRA found a good way of disposing of sheep instead, short of grazing them on the local motorway.

Chris Velten

Churchsettle Farm, Wadhurst, East Sussex.

African beef on Aldis shelves

Why is the low-cost supermarket chain Aldi being allowed to sell Zimbabwean frozen beef in its stores? According to a student from Zimbabwe who has been working with my husband, the country is riddled with foot-and-mouth. So why should its beef be on sale here?

Sarah Giles

Contract delay unacceptable

At the time of writing, I am no nearer knowing the state of play regarding cleaning and disinfecting Bridgefield Farm, Lowick, Nr Ulverston. The farm was affected by foot-and-mouth on 27 April 2001.

Although I appreciate there are a vast numbers of farms that require contracts issuing, the unacceptable delay on behalf of ADAS/DEFRA is causing grave concern and anguish among farmers.

As of Sept 12, we will all have been on hold for seven weeks with the exception of those lucky enough to have been recently issued contracts. And those farmers are in the minority.

DEFRA and politicians are playing with peoples lives and livelihoods. They are compounding the trauma of F&M with bureaucratic bungling and political dictatorship. It is time to put farmers and their families first.

John Sutcliffe

Chairman PENWAC Aberdeen Angus Club, Lowrick House, Lowick, Near Ulverston, Cumbria.

Can pet foods spread F&M?

I have witnessed and learnt of some extremely costly precautions that have been instigated to prevent foot-and-mouth spreading.

Has anyone ever investigated the possibility of this disease being spread via pet foods such as those fed to dogs, cats and fish? Are there any restrictions on the type of origin of the included raw materials?

John Bowler (Agriculture) Ltd

Ivy Court, Etwall, Derby, Derbyshire.

Too late for the NFU Mutual

I have long advocated that the NFU Mutual should become a farmers bank. It would now appear to be too late (Business, Sept 14). Predators have appeared and are knocking at the door. If the figure of £25,000 proved to be accurate for policyholders, I, for one, would agree wholeheartedly to demutualising.

Gordon Ascroft

Church Farm, Yelling, St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

Ministers shirk responsibility

The media and politicians seem to be engaged in another round of that popular television newstime game of disappearing minister. I cannot be alone in noting how often the ministry of something-or-other is sadly unable to find a minister when awkward questions require answering.

We are not short of ministers, as there seems to be two for every public function and at least one each for several others that most of us did not know existed. Their inability to defend their corner in public when trouble brews is not through a lack of manpower.

On the farming front, ministers have much to apologise for. So it is little surprise that the ministry formerly known as MAFF is keen to focus as much attention as possible on the raft of non-farming issues it has so recently embraced to avoid having to confront other, less palatable, subjects. Farming instead seems to have become a source of political capital, via the time-honoured route of rubbishing soft targets that have little chance to reply.

This is all very distasteful. When the cause of foot-and-mouth is the systemic, sustained and well-flagged failure of government officers to do their jobs, we are told that we have received too much government assistance and that we should have been insured. Against something that has not existed in this country for nearly 35 years and was only permitted to gain its foothold through the failure to police import controls?

The other aspect that infuriates me is the continuing failure to tackle the problem properly. As was pointed out by Richard Smith (Letters, Aug 17), it was first realised that burning carcases spread disease as early as 1714 and that once lime-pits were introduced the outbreak quickly disappeared. This knowledge was re-confirmed in the report into the 1967 outbreak. It has been demonstrated yet again by the West Country vet showing the correlation between wind direction and disease outbreaks during the present crisis.

Blaming farmers is a good, soft option. It is politically safe and appeals to an essentially ignorant and uncaring media. Then, when the inconsistencies in government policy become blindingly obvious to all and a target for informed criticism, we hear: "The minister is not available tonight."

Anthony Carter

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

Rodenticides not restricted

I write regarding your article entitled "Bait now, to prevent bringing in F&M" (Livestock, Sept 7). The article refers to legislation covering the sale of rat bait in agricultural merchants.

We would like to point out that there is no legal requirement under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 (as amended) for any form of certification for the sale/selling/supply or purchase of rodenticides. Nor are there any restrictions on over-the-counter sales of rodenticides.

Sorex do, of course, support any and all training in the use of rodenticides but not for the purposes stated in the article.

Martina Flynn

Product manager, UK Rodenticides and Professional Products Sorex Ltd, St Michaels Industrial Estate, Widnes, Cheshire.

A price to pay for turbines

You may think that £5000/year rental income for three wind turbines, on offer from National Wind Power, is too attractive to ignore and represents easy money (News, Aug 31). There are disadvantages, however.

Talk to any local estate agent about the affects on property prices of proximity to wind turbines and the subsequent planning blight. You may want to sell up in a few years time, but the contract for the turbines will run for 25 years. Prospective purchasers may not be so keen. Think about relationships with your neighbours if you take them and they cant stand them.

What about the affects of noise and vibration? Local experience here in Mid-Wales (where we have the greatest concentration of land-based turbines in the UK) demonstrates that you need to be at least three miles away if downwind.

Residents in proximity to wind farms have suffered ill health and even nervous breakdowns from the continual hum and drone. How will the electricity be taken off to the national grid? It will mean more pylons and overhead cables despoiling the countryside.

Far from the public sympathising with you as struggling farmers, once they see the impact on the landscapes of thousands of hilltop turbines, you will become hate figures. The sympathy generated by the foot-and-mouth crisis will evaporate and be replaced by the perception of greedy farmers destroying the countryside.

The cynicism of the energy companies in using farmers as local ambassadors to allay public concerns and planning difficulties is breathtaking. You are being used to do their public relations and dirty business, so that you take the flak – not them.

If you are tempted, please take great care as to terms of contract, turbine siting and the environmental impacts. Also dont expect to be popular.

Dr Kaye Little

8 Belle-Vue Terrace, Aberaeron, Ceredigion.

Biomass energy system flawed

I was interested to read David Richardsons comments (Sept 14) concerning the use of land for the production of bio-fuels; particularly short rotation coppice and straw-combustion. Mr Richardson correctly pointed out the industrys reluctance to fund the conversion technology.

However, it should be remembered that the Kielda Group/Yorkshire Water invested in Project ARBRE near Selby by planting 1100ha (2700 acres) of SRC. The aim was to supplement the fuel supply to the power station currently fuelled by timber processing waste. Also the Elean power station in Cambridgeshire is designed to run on straw and miscanthus, and is expected to consume about 210,000t/year.

The government introduced the £30m Energy Crops Scheme to support planting of energy crops on farm land. Electricity generators are now under an obligation to supply a proportion of their output from renewable resources. But the generation of electricity from biomass alone is neither economic nor efficient and explains why more attention is given to electricity from wind-power. There may be a future for biomass energy to supply large-scale industrial or shared community heating schemes but our planning system will need to change to allow such schemes.

Growers of biomass will encounter practical, agronomic problems. Under the ECS they must have a contract with an end-user before they can plant the crops, which have a potential life of up to 19 years. They are long-term ventures and need to grow for several years before they make a positive financial return. They are harvested during winter, when the crops contain least moisture yet when soils are likely to be at field capacity and would bear harvesting machinery with difficulty.

Consumers also encounter problems. Conversion technology is often more expensive than equivalent boilers operating from gas or oil.

There is an additional workload to remove ash. The fuel occupies more storage space per unit of energy than conventional fuels, and quality control of the fuel is difficult.

There are human problems too. A local woodchip plant may provide an ideal opportunity for a weekend gardener to dump leylandii chippings, possibly resulting in a breakdown of the plant and repair costs.

Biomass fuels could provide positive returns to growers over the long-term, and environmental benefits to society.

But given the list of problems that the systems entail, there is little enthusiasm for them by commercial organisations.

Richard Inman

Refuse to obey F&M rulings

At the end of July the D restrictions for foot-and-mouth were lifted from our county of Montgomeryshire. But one and a half months later, to the disbelief of many people, Montgomeryshire is to be classified as a high risk area. That means animals cannot be moved for sale, or to their wintering ground, without a blood test.

DEFRA ministers either have no sense at all or they have cooked up another plot to cause further paralysis in a county that has endured so much for months. Nowhere in the 1981 Animal Health Act, the 1983 Foot and Mouth Disease Order or EU directives is there mention of ministers being able to re-impose restrictions when an area has been declared free from F&M. Farmers, supported by the farming unions, should refuse to comply; not simply plead with DEFRA. If ministers actions are seen to be unlawful, as this action is, compliance is not the way forward.

Carwyn Jones stated recently that Wales is free from F&M and that all areas, apart from the Brecon Becons, are open to hikers. I fail to comprehend the rationale behind that logic.

If a country is open to hikers and is declared free from F&M by the minister for rural affairs in Wales, why are farmers in Wales not allowed to go about their business?

Everyone should lobby the MPs for both Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire, which is facing the same problem, and force a reversal of forthcoming controls. Ministers must adhere to the law and not be allowed to impose ludicrous systems that will cause further damage our rural way of life.

Janet Hughes

Laurels Cottage, Churchstoke, Montgomery, Powys.

Analyse grass on F&M farms

The grasses on the farms affected by foot-and-mouth disease should be analysed. They may have been contaminated by poisonous gases and ash from chemical factories.

I understand there are 12 chemical factories in Consett, Co Durham. The latest outbreak started in that part of the country. I think some diseases in plants may be caused by impure air.

Cattle that eat contaminated grass are at risk from developing infectious diseases. An investigation should be carried out to find out whether or not grass treated with seaweed prevents cattle from developing F&M.

Miss P V Kennion

19 Richmond Court, High Road, Boxbourne, Herts.

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