Archive Article: 2002/02/01

1 February 2002

Fundamental flaw in Curry reasoning

Much within Sir Don Currys Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food deserves consideration and even praise. But at its heart is a fundamental flaw.

How can farmers comply with demands for greener farming, while satisfying similarly strident requests to compete with European colleagues and on the world market? How can farmers near Baldock lavish money on countryside improvements while their counterparts in Burgundy, let alone Brazil focus on maximising profit? And capturing even bigger slices of our domestic and export markets.

Could someone explain to Sir Don and the government that all farmers are struggling to survive at current aid payments. Diverting more support into environmental schemes is either naive or disingenuous.

Separate out the chaff and there are proposals worth welcoming. Recommendations for new controls on illegal meat imports and cutting duty on biofuels should be adopted. A network of demonstration farms is long overdue.

But until policy makers reconcile the twin roles demanded of modern farmers, environmental improvers and tough world traders, their views will find little favour among British farmers. Neither should they.

Breeding index data is under-utilised

The Animal Data Centre receives £400,000 of dairy producers cash each year. So why do only small numbers of producers seem to understand or use the breeding index information it produces?

At the root of the problem is disappointment with the staying power of dairy cows bred using current indexes and lack of communication about how they work. Scientists, consultants, industry bodies and producers should work together to formulate a coherent breeding policy.

We also urgently need the tools to achieve the breeding benefits that policy should offer. Without them theres little chance of dairy breeding success.

Farm show action in the coming year

Last year may have been good for makers of disinfectant and umbrellas, but not for farmers or organisers of farm shows and working demos.

The near total absence of such events meant farmers missed out on their usual opportunity to compare working machines. But this year promises more. For stock farmers theres Grassland 2002 on May 22/23 at the RASE. On one site you will be able to see mowers, foragers, balers, tedders, wrappers and handlers in action.

For arable farmers, there are two Tillage demos, at which every type of cultivations tool will be in action. The first takes place on Sept 12 at Manor Farm, Harlton, Cambs and the second on Oct 8 in Scotland at a venue to be announced. So dont miss your chances to see farm power in action.

Stewardship offer is hardly worth bother

When is government support less than supportive? When it is offered in an Arable Countryside Stewardship Scheme wrapping.

New rates of pay announced for the seven arable options do little more than cover the costs involved. And they bring with them red tape restrictions.

As an incentive to enhance the countryside they are unlikely to encourage great uptake. As a foretaste of the much-vaunted shift from production based aid to cross-compliant payments, it bodes ill for growers.

A future tangled in bureaucracy to achieve minimal financial benefits is unlikely to inspire even wildlife enthusiasts.

Express Dairies bid makes sound sense

If Express Dairies agrees to Arla Foods recent 35p-a-share bid, the Scandinavian farmer-owned co-op will become the UKs biggest processor.

The move makes sense. The UK is suffering from too much capacity in the liquid milk sector. The big four dairies – Express, Dairy Crest, Wiseman and Arla – have ripped margins to shreds in a bid to keep market share. Should Arla succeed, we can expect older, less efficient plant to close. Such rationalisation will help strip costs, which will help to stabilise the market.

The move may be referred to the Competition Commission due to the new outfits share in the liquid milk sector. Given the buying power and the margins that supermarkets enjoy, it should nod the deal through without qualms.

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