Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha
(600 acres) as Howe
Estates at Howe, Thirsk,
North Yorks. The medium
sandy loam in the Vale of
York supports potatoes,
winter wheat, rape and
barley, plus grass for sheep
I KNOW that farming at present is like living in the dark, trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it as a sad reflection on society when the BBC achieves a viewing figure of 2.6m for a period of 25 minutes when the transmitters failed and their screens went black at 8pm on a recent Saturday. To put that in perspective, Panorama – broadcast the following Sunday -had 0.5m fewer people watching.
I was one of a handful of farmers invited to the "rural renaissance" launch of our Rural Development Agency – Yorkshire Forward. In the room there were 100 organisations, departments, councils and companies all vying for the allocation of money and furthering their individual causes on how to revitalise the countryside.
However, the total failure to realise that the major agricultural commodities are traded on a volatile global market and that the majority of consumers buy on price was incredible.
Agriculture and rural businesses have to be profitable to provide the environmental, conservation and social benefits that society now demands. Suggestions to replace CAP with nationally determined integrated rural development policies and a process of regional modulation of CAP payments to fund these policies shows that there is a failure to understand how the EU works.
In 2000, the total income for farming fell from £2.5bn to £1.8bn and I dread to think what the 2001 figure will be. Moving to 20% modulation will remove £0.75bn from agricultural compensation direct payments to rural development schemes, of which 86% are environmental schemes for organic farming or the hill farming allowance.
I seriously question whether the commercially unaware do-gooders can spend this awesome amount more effectively on individual chocolate box schemes or give it as area payments to farmers who are already tending and looking after the environment.
On a lighter note, perhaps the slogan to counter the collapse of the lamb market should be: "Eat British lamb, 50,000 foxes cant be wrong". *