Letters 1/04/05

come clean on cost of paperworkWill the government publish precise figures on how much money is wasted on administering support payments in the past two years? Will it say how much the employees of DEFRA and English Nature received in salaries? Will it cost the wastage and the amount spent on mountains of pamphlets which drop through our letterboxes almost daily? It is a fact that there are more people employed in controlling our farming activities than there are farmers. It is also a fact that these government mandarins, many of whom know relatively little about the countryside or farming, collectively account for far more of taxpayers” money than recipients in the farming industry get in support payments. Scotland and Wales will not be publishing these figures. Will the French and the rest of the EU publish the figures? I think not. Yet again it is the zealots who go one better in our 1984 society. What a brave new world we live in: We have spies in the sky, we have backdoor nationalisation of farm land with outside bodies telling us what to do with our own property. We can no longer simply go out and plough a piece of land which we own without first referring to those who know better. Jane Brock jbrock@fwi.co.uk

TEXT: Your feature on caravan storage (Mar 11) provided potentially misleading advice regarding insurance. The provision of a storage facility for caravans, or any other property, creates at common law a relationship between the owner of the property and the provider of the storage facility. Each party has responsibilities which, for the operator of the storage facility will include in certain circumstances a need to compensate the owner of the property for loss or damage to the property. This unwritten contractual position can be modified by, subject to agreement between the parties, a written contract. We recommend that any farmer contemplating diversification should, as part of the initial investigations, consult with his insurer and seek legal advice in drawing up a written contract which clearly defines each party”s responsibilities and obligations. C I Ridgers The Cornish Mutual Assurance Co. Ltd, CMA House, Newham Road, Newham, Truro, Cornwall

TEXT: Non-farmers like Jon Clatworthy (Letters, Mar 18) would not criticise support payments if they were aware that in each of the 58 years that I”ve been farming, dozens of farmers have migrated to North America, Argentina, South African, Australia and New Zealand. But few of their nationals, despite our support payments, have ever come here to farm. The reason I have stayed is because I have not been conventional – the whole of our 533 acres is devoted to thatching straw. What does make sense is for UK farmers to stop growing food, and to get paid for increasing the numbers of birds, bees and butterflies. Then for our food to be shipped in from across the Atlantic, where American farmers will get more subsidies for growing the extra food and reducing the numbers of their birds, bees and butterflies. The sense it makes is nonsense. The USA is already the world”s biggest polluter with only 4.2% of the world”s population. For the past thousands, or probably millions, of years North America was an enormous grazing ground for millions of buffalo. When that land began to be farmed only 200 years ago, the buffalo were killed. The thick, deep humus, created by the grazing, finishes up in the rivers and sea when it becomes vulnerable to wind blow after ploughing. Today, thousands of acres are non-usable dust bowls. In contrast the UK and much of western Europe is reclaimed forestry which is mainly clay. What topsoil there was derived from farmed grazing. We have no livestock yet every year our straw yield increases. We cannot, therefore, be getting too much wrong. George Scales Cobbler”s Pieces, Abbess Roding, Ongar, Essex

TEXT: No choice with farm payments After the first three months of the single farm payment scheme, it appears business as usual in British agriculture. Commodity prices remain static and input prices show no sign of falling. Landlords of short-term lets appear to require a rent in addition to the flat rate area payment at least equivalent to last year”s rent. Supermarkets stock South American beef in increasing amounts. British farmers are still asking the auctioneer the date of birth of yearling store cattle. Wait and see what happens to the chorus of advice on the SFP. Don Curry must be pleased that his insulting suggestion to invest your single farm payment in the capital structure of your business may not have fallen on deaf ears. He must have missed the overwhelming majority of professionals advising farmers to exclude payments from their farm accounts and to ensure that enterprises and investments in them were self financing. He must also expect farmers to take a drop in their standard of living since the single farm paymentin most cases equates to farmers” income. When the first set of accounts arrive, along with the writing on the wall RDS retraining booklets, farmers will see there is no choice regarding the SFP but decoupling is there to be embraced. If that happens and British food becomes conspicuous by its absence, it will serve Sir Don and this “sustainable agriculture” government right. Richard Carr New Barn Farm, Wilmington, Polegate, East Sussex

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