In this day and age, where we now know why farmers have big hands, is because they are always holding them out for one benefit, or another, or waving placards saying "Look at me, how hard done by I am". If we wont tolerate lazy people on the dole, why should we tolerate lazy farmers holding their hands out all day long?
At last, a British politician is telling the farmers the truth.
Lord Haskins refuses to be bullied and bamboozled by Ben Gill or Prince Charles. Correctly, he has said that farmers must be more entrepreneurial and embrace change.
For too long farm unions have got away with blaming everyone but themselves for the farming crises. They have ludicrously exaggerated their own problems. Unchallenged by incompetent and lazy journalists, they repeat the untruths about farm incomes, rural prosperity and farm suicides.
The hapless impressionable Prince Charles has re-parroted all the nonsense preached by the farming lobby. Lord Haskins said that Charles should think for 10 seconds about the claim on farm incomes being £100 a week.
This figure disregards the fact that more than half of all farmers already have a second job. A third of them are hobby farmers independent of farm earnings. Even the sum quoted is really disposable income left over after other farm expenses have been paid. All expenses can be described as agricultural spending. One farmer got away with a claim that his childrens' public schools fees were agricultural spending as training.
Previous ministers have been cowed by farmers denouncing their ignorance of farming. lord haskins is a farmer and has cut an impressive swathe of truth through the myths.
The biggest threat facing Europe's farmers is if they refuse to abandon their "culture of dependence", a key former UK Government adviser has warned. Chris Haskins, who headed Britain's Rural Recovery Task Force in the wake of last year's foot-and-mouth crisis, says Europe's farms will not go into meltdown if they have to compete in an open global market without production subsidies.
Too much attention is given to the views of rural commuters and owners of second homes in the countryside
Lord Haskins And he argues that the troubles of UK farmers have been made worse by their failure to work together, forcing costs up and often making marketing efforts inadequate.
In a new essay, Lord Haskins also says English farmers are too often prevented from converting old buildings because planners take too much notice of people who live in towns and cities.
The essay, entitled 'Is there a future for European farming?', is published by the Foreign Policy Centre and follows Tony Blair's spat with Jacques Chirac over reforming Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Lord Haskins is upbeat about Europe's ability to compete if subsidies are dropped and farmers are instead paid for looking after the countryside.
European agriculture could also cope if protectionist barriers to world food trade are torn down, he argues.
Subsidies reform caused the row between Blair and Chirac
"There will still be a huge demand for European farm products, and European taxpayers seem to be prepared to support the perusal of good environmental practices on farms," he says.
"The greatest threat for the future lies with the farmers themselves.
"If they reject change, including the need to abandon the culture of dependence, then the long term erosion of their position will only accelerate."
Lord Haskins says plans to ban Europe and America from dumping food surpluses on the world market would mean food prices would rise.
Europe's farmers also have a key advantage over their competitors because 400 million wealthy consumers in the EU rely on them for safe, short-shelf-life food, he says.
The higher costs imposed by regulations in Europe can also be turned into a chance to build greater confidence in the quality and safety of their food.
Lord Haskins also argues there are premiums to be won through selling regional foods, such as English stilton.
Lord Haskins warns about the lure of organics
But he warns that the vast majority of shoppers are not prepared to pay more to get organic food unless it can be proven they get better texture, flavour and safety.
"Farmers should assess the business case for organic and avoid being beguiled by encouraging noises from retailers and organic farming evangelists," says Lord Haskins.
Last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic was viewed as a hammer blow to the UK countryside but Lord Haskins says predictions that many farmers would leave the industry have proved ill-founded.
"The vast majority of them have chosen to restock, forcing the price of breeding stock up," he says.
That suggests those farmers are confident about the future, he argues, although acknowledging many of them may not be able to contemplate a future out of farming.
There is a contradiction too that tractor sales remain buoyant while many farmers complain they are bankrupt, says Lord Haskins.
Change efforts thwarted
Many farmers are looking to diversify in what they do, especially by converting old farm buildings.
But Lord Haskins says planning authorities in countries like England and the Netherlands often resist such requests.
"Too much attention is given to the views of rural commuters and owners of second homes in the countryside who care little and understand little about the rural economy," he says.
Lord Haskins views are likely to be carefully examined in government, where he is tipped to get a new role reviewing the spending of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
2007-01-20 05:43:38 EST
Lord Haskins, who is chairman of Northern Foods and a Labour peer, is regarded as a key voice on food and farming policy.
But his forthright views on the future of agriculture, including the belief that many farmers have been mollycoddled and that huge subsidies have encouraged fraud, will alarm many farmers about the government's intentions.
In tune with many ministers, Lord Haskins believes the crisis must lead to shake-out in the industry. A fortnight ago he predicted that "farms will get bigger and that's a good thing".
He went on: "A lot of agricultural reformers, like the Prince of Wales, want farmers to stand around being subsidised and making thatched roofs. Well, that's for the birds. Agriculture has got to strive to be more competitive and more productive."
He was speaking at the launch of an unofficial inquiry backed by the government into how to win political support in Europe for reform of the common agricultural policy.
At the time of the inquiry's launch, he predicted that as many as half of Britain's farms would disappear in the next 20 years, adding that many of them use methods that are less environment-friendly than those used by the big farms. He also called for large cuts in farm subsidies, outside hill farming, claiming many farmers "have been mollycoddled for too long".
He also said that he thought the subsidy system encouraged fraud with sheep being moved around illegally to claim extra grants.
Lord Haskins believes the government has to get away from the "medieval business" of moving animals large distances to markets, one of the causes of the rapid spread of the foot and mouth outbreak.
He will initially help local authorities and other agencies plan for the economic recovery of Cumbria, the worst hit area.
But he will also consider what lessons should be applicable to the other areas that have been been hit by foot and mouth, and he will act as a channel of communication between local task forces and central government.
The peer is known to have strong views on the future shape of the countryside, including the need to introduce an insurance system so that farmers hit by crises need not rely on the state to be bailed out.
Get out and talk to farmers. the FUW tell me. I would as soon as I find out where they hide when a debate is offered.
One Welsh television programme arranged one. I was to spend a day visiting a famous Welsh farmer. On condition that he would be open, in confidence, about his true income. In return, he would visit Newport to meet a hospital porter, a residential home worker and a redundant steelman to tell them why their taxes should subsidise him.
The farmer pulled out of the broadcast. Will any other prominent FUW / NFU official take up the challenge ?
We could discuss why the industry that contributes 0.1% to the Welsh economy should be shored up while the steel industry that contributes 70 times that amount is allowed to collapse. Equal treatment would mean set-aside blast furnaces. Unsellable steel would be bought by the government at top price and stored indefinitely.
Welsh farming needs a dose of reality of the Lord Haskins type. If Wales continues with dependancy farming and England modernises into self -sufficiency, the Welsh economy will spiral into decline. The farming lobby has the the timid Welsh Assembly by the throat. Yet Farming is not even the main industry in rural Wales. Its number four, behind catering, distribution, manufacturing and administration.
The best boost that Rural Wales could have would be to change large tracts of farming land to other uses. Farms of a hundreds of acres often employ two or three people. They could provide work for hundreds in alternative jobs. Wales would be more beautiful. Farmed land could return to its natural unpolluted state. Great for wildlife, the tourist industry, animal welfare and the environment.
The NFU / FUW policy of culling to protect future profits has already dragged down the tourist industry. The other 99.9% of the Welsh economy cannot permanently carry farming on its back. The £million payouts to farmers convinced generous members of the public that theyd been cheated. Donors to church collections and car boot sale for FMD relief were shocked by a farmer with £4 million of taxpayers cash begging for compensation for lost income. That cheque yields £200,000 income a year in interest alone!
I have urged the FUW to campaign for poor farmers not for all farmers. The billionaire Duke of Westminster, the second richest man in the UK gets a £3 million a year subsidy, a third of a million for setaside. 80% of the £5 billion annual farm handout goes to the 20% richest farmers.
The answer to rural poverty is redistribution of wealth from rich farmers to poor. The quoted average farm income ignores the fact that 51% of farmers now have a second income and a third are hobby farmers.
Land values and bankruptcies are accurate measures of rural prosperity. Welsh land roughly doubled in value in 10 years and leapt by 12% in the first quarter of this year. Bankruptcies are running as a record low. About 6% in urban firms but a microscopic 0.1 % of farm businesses - a third of the level that it was in 1994 when farm incomes were the highest in Europe.
This is the unmentionable good news. Farmers are now income poor: most are asset rich. Steelworkers are expected to be grateful for a Son of ISERBS award of £2,500 for a lifetimes work. Yet, farm valuers get more than that for two days FMD work.
Other overcompensation enjoyed by hauliers, vets, slaughtermen and farmers are perverse incentives to spread the disease. It needs only one unscrupulous person to infect more farms. it may have already happened.
Since March,. I have urged vaccination. The NFUs Ben Gills 50 questions obstructed the Government plan to vaccinate in April.
Farms unions seeking culprits for the present waste and misery should look in the mirror.
2007-01-20 06:03:47 EST
Time to scrap EU subsidies FORDYCE MAXWELL AND JIM BUCHAN http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=465&id=83972006 A FORMER leading adviser on UK government rural policy said yesterday that European farm subsidies should be scrapped.
Lord Haskins also told a conference in Glasgow that, after the purely farming parts had been scrapped, what was left of the common agricultural policy (CAP) should be re-nationalised. Abolishing the CAP would be painful short-term, he admitted. But long-term it would produce huge benefits for British farmers.
The former chairman of Northern Foods and a long-serving government adviser before he was thrown out of the Labour party to sit as a Lords cross-bencher, has substantial farming interests in Yorkshire and Ireland with his two sons.
He told a slightly stunned audience at the Semex cattle breeding company conference: "I believe that phasing out subsidies will make farming more efficient and more profitable. On my arable farm this year we will lose money on the three subsidised crops - wheat, barley and oilseed rape.
"But we will more than make up for that on profits from the two unsubsidised crops - potatoes and vining peas. Our pigs are also profitable."
Arable farmers might agree with the bare details, but argue that their problem for some years has been low prices for their crops, not subsidies.
Haskins disagreed: "Subsidies sustain inefficiencies and encourage farmers to grow crops on unsuitable land. Without subsidies, the inefficient will have to pull up their socks or pass production to another grower, almost certainly larger scale.
"Without subsidies, unsuitable land will go out of arable cropping. Either way, with less supply reaching the market, prices should rise."
Haskins supports the World Trade Organisation contention that all export subsidies and import tariffs should be wound down, and quickly. That will lead to a new, much more competitive, era.
He went on: "With no special treatment for European Union farming, there would be no further need for the CAP. What would be left , such as rural development funds and now the single farm payment, should be re-nationalised."
Increasingly, he said, the single annual farm payment, which from last year replaced direct production subsidies for some products, would become a social payment to help vulnerable farmers.
"This would be the responsibility of member states and not the European Commission. It is logical to transfer responsibility for structural reform back to national finance ministries."
The CAP, the backbone of European farming for half a century, takes a disproportionate share of the EU budget, he insisted, and has worked against the long-term interests of farmers.
"Every industry has experienced drastic reform, thanks to scientific and technological innovation and competition. European farmers, who have been protected from change in an unsuccessful attempt to maintain a viable rural status quo, must, in their own long-term interests, change."
He added: "I hope and believe that, in 20 years' time, my two farming sons and their children will still be in business. But only if they are bigger, more efficient, more market-led and more competitive than they are now."
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs http://www.defra.gov.uk/ National Farmers' Union http://www.nfu.org.uk/ NFU Scotland http://www.nfus.org.uk/
2007-01-20 06:13:34 EST
Harvesting the subsidies -farmer slams whingers --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ONCE he grew crops but now he "farms the taxpayer". A Kent farmer has become the first in Britain to get paid for growing nothing but grass and wild plants.
Philip Merricks has turned over his 3,600-acre Kingshill Farm on the Isle of Sheppey to rare birds and insects - swapping the income from crops for government subsidies. About 600 acres have been rented to the RSPB while a series of grants - one alone was worth £1.5m - has enabled him to turn the rest over to wildlife as well.
His success has been praised by conservationists, who say he has shown how farming skills can be used to protect the environment, but many farmers are angered by the fact that Kingshill generates more in subsidies than it could from food production. They have accused him of exploiting taxpayers and turning into a "park-keeper".
Merricks, however, believes that many others will follow his example. "I used to grow just crops but nobody wants that any more. Farmers have a new role, which is not necessarily just about growing food. If the taxpayer will support us, we can turn our skills to producing wild birds, plants and animals."
Eventually he signed a management agreement with the government agency, under which it paid him an initial £1.5m lump sum and £300,000 a year to create and manage the land for wildlife. Cattle and sheep are still grazed, but only to keep the grass at the right height for birdlife.
He has since bought the land outright and won additional subsidies from the agriculture ministry under its Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas schemes.
He refuses to disclose exactly how much he receives, fearing "it could create the wrong impression", but points out that the land is now protected under the new Countryside and Rights of Way Act and can never be farmed again. "It was worth about £2,000 an acre as farmland but now I'd get almost nothing."
Merricks's move to "growing" wildlife has won praise from English Nature and the RSPB but makes many other farmers uneasy. Oliver Walston, who farms 2,000 acres in Cambridgeshire, said farming was about food production, not conservation. "Merricks is farming the system, not the land," he said. Tim Yeo, the Tories' spokesman on agriculture, said it was unacceptable for farmers to become entirely dependent on conservation grants. "The principle of paying farmers to preserve wildlife is fine, but not if it goes to such an extreme. The primary purpose of the countryside and of the rural economy is food production."
Merricks is far from alone in getting taxpayers' money to support environment-friendly farming. Across England, a raft of schemes will pay out more than £180m in 2001-02. The biggest, the Countryside Stewardship scheme, will pay farmers £51m, a £15m increase on the current period, with the next largest, the Environmentally Sensitive Areas scheme, paying £48m. Such schemes currently pale besides the £3.8 billion paid to British farmers to subsidise food production under the European Union's common agricultural policy. Many believe, however, that overproduction and falling farm prices mean the future lies in switching much of this cash to conservation.
Environment groups have mixed feelings. Tony Juniper, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, praised Merricks for promoting wildlife but said that paying grants to farmers in perpetuity was not sustainable.
"What we need is for farming to be integrated with wildlife interests so that all farmers take account of conservation needs while also producing food," he said. "Otherwise we will end up with most of the countryside under intensive agriculture, with wildlife restricted to a few scattered reserves."
Merricks has now bought a second arable farm on the border of Kent and East Sussex, much of which he also plans to turn over to wildlife. "Farmers should stop whingeing and groaning," he said. "The countryside is about wildlife and recreation as well as food. This is the future for so long as the taxpayer is willing to support us."
2007-01-20 06:14:51 EST
Sheep left to die --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The report of widespread over-claiming of sheep headage payments in Novemeber 2000 reinforces the disturbing information in the article below. It exposes vast waste and animal abuse. Why do we pay farmers to let sheep die on a hillside?
On a scale of one to 10 the walk promised to be at least 11. Even on a bad day the Cambrian mountains in west Wales are glorious. When the sun shines, as it did last weekend, they are the next thing to paradise. We walked all day through hills dotted with majestic sessile oaks, remnants of our oldest native woodlands, blazes of bluebells and bright yellow celandine.
After the wettest April for 150 years, small springs bubbled out of the earth to feed the streams cascading down the hillsides. They joined the river at the valley bottom, making it broad and deep, and we stopped to watch dozens of toads engaged in their curious mating rituals in pools protected by rocks. High overhead a red kite - one of only 150 pairs in Britain - rode the thermal currents. We drank ice-cold water from the springs, nibbled the sweet leaves of wood sorrel and picked the tips of new young ferns. They are called fiddle heads and taste good fried with butter and garlic. In a long day's walk we saw not another single living soul. I thought smugly of bank holiday weekends in the Lake District, of traffic jams, of trail bikes crowding the footpaths and the roar of power boats on Windermere. It was the next day, taking a different route home, when things went wrong.
The weather was hotter, and after climbing for hours it was good to descend into the shade of the valley bottom. Then the smell hit us - the stench of a rotting sheep. We skirted the corpse, not unduly surprised; it is fairly common to see the odd dead sheep in Wales. But further on there was another dead sheep and then another and another. In half an hour of walking I counted dozens of carcasses, perhaps 40 or 50. Some had probably died giving birth, others perhaps of old age. But there were dead lambs, too, and occasionally a live one that must have lost its mother - bleating miserably and clearly too weak to survive much longer. The hillsides here were seriously overgrazed. The only wild flowers were in cracks and crevices, too difficult for the sheep to get at. There was an air of desolation about the place, a sense of nature trying desperately to re-emerge but defeated by too many hungry mouths. Let any young sapling or sprig of heather poke too far above the soil and it would be a goner. If you need any proof of the failure of this country's agricultural policy, I recommend a visit. Those dead sheep are a direct result of paying subsidies to farmers for each animal they own to produce food that nobody wants. It is difficult enough to make a living at the best of times rearing sheep on the hills of Wales. When times are hard it is well nigh impossible. So the farmers increase the head count to collect as much subsidy as possible. The number of sheep in Wales increased almost fourfold in the half-century after the last war. The animals themselves are effectively worthless - no more than statistics on a Brussels printout. So instead of concerned shepherds keeping a careful eye on the flocks, you have some farmers who simply abandon the sheep to their fate. At least the red kites can enjoy easy pickings.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) produced a report last week that said more than £1.6 billion is needed if Britain is to meet its wildlife and countryside conservation targets. That is four times as much as the government intends to spend.
The report confirmed what Richard Girling described so graphically in this newspaper last month. The Norfolk county recorder of the British Butterfly Conservation Society told him that if we extrapolate from the current rate of decline "you couldn't reach any other conclusion than that, at some time in the future, there will be no butterflies left". Other species are disappearing, too. The WWF says: "Steep de-clines in bumblebee and farmland specialist bird populations show us that paying for isolated spots of conservation is not enough." So Gordon Brown must somehow be persuaded to cough up a little more cash to save the birds and the bees and all will be well? Sadly no. If we are serious about restoring this country to the green and pleasant land it once was there must be a radical change in our whole attitude to agriculture. There is little sign of that. The emphasis in the latest policy document from the Ministry of Agriculture is, as it has always been, on an "efficient and competitive" farming system. What it fails to do is to define "efficient". Let me help. Efficient in this context means intensive agriculture. It means factory farms. It means killing everything that gets in the way of maximum yields and forcing every last ear of corn from the soil with tons of nitrogen and God knows what long-term damage to the soil itself. Brown might also like to know that it means employing just one or two farm workers on vast acreages where, in less intensive systems, they would employ many more. Perhaps it makes sense to see the countryside stripped of farm workers, or to pay for them to live on the dole or to pay even more to "re-skill" them. I have my doubts. Since Britain's farming policy changed after the war politicians have had only one aim: the maximum yields possible, whatever the cost. It made sense during the war when U-boats threatened us with starvation but I cannot see those days returning - not even if the UK Independence party wins the next election. There are good, sound economic reasons for concentrating on food quality instead of quantity. You can do an awful lot with £4 billion - the cost of BSE alone. It would not have happened had quantity and productivity not been king. Nor can it possibly make sense to import the vast majority of our organic produce.
The reaction of the National Farmers' Union to the WWF report was instructive: "We wholeheartedly agree with the WWF call for more funding to be given to farmers to help them go green." How grotesque that farming should ever have been anything but green. Another report published last week suggested we may have to start inoculating babies with bacteria to encourage resistance to diseases such as asthma, which are spreading alarmingly. We have sterilised everything to within an inch of its life to protect our children and now we have to inject them with a bit of dirt. With agriculture we have destroyed swathes of countryside with food factories and now we talk of helping farmers to "go green". And they say sheep are stupid.
2007-01-20 06:32:35 EST
Fox-killing ban Works --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The first hunting day after the ban proves a l success.
Some foxes were killed and four arrests were made for killing a hare. Hunts claim to be obeying the law by changing to drag hunts. That means no cruelty, no jobs or pageantry lost and no horses or hounds destroyed. One West Wales Hunt sought instructions from Germany on running a drag hunt.
This is exactly what was intended by the ban. All hunters will lose is their cruelty. When I asked the late Michael Colvin MP in a previous bills debate, why he would not change to drag hunting he replied 'That would be like kissing your sister.'
All the hunters have lost is the sordid pleasure gained from killing a living creature. Now, there is no need to breed foxes to be hunted. The excuse of pest control was destroyed by the leaking of plea by the Master of Foxhounds Association to breed more foxes to cope with the current shortage. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): May we have a debate on early-day motion 750?
[That this House hails the success of the ban of hunting with dogs; welcomes the demonstration by 184 hunts that the ban does not destroy jobs or traditional pageantry nor result in the destruction of horses or hounds; notes that the only loss is the gratuitous cruelty of the protracted chase of a small mammal bred for that purpose; congratulates the vigilance of the police in arresting a group of alleged hare coursers; and urges farmers and landowners to disregard the request by Master of Foxhounds Association to counter the current shortage of foxes by breeding more animals for hunting.] Such a debate would enable us to congratulate and thank the 184 hunts that last weekend demonstrated the great success of the ban on hunting by proving that there need be no loss of jobs or traditional pageantry, nor any hounds or horses destroyed, and that all that is being lost is the cruelty of a protracted chase. Can we look forward to the electors deciding that that cruelty will never return?
Mr. Hain: I completely endorse my hon. Friend's point. I think that the electorate will want to maintain a ban on cruelty to animals and will not want to vote Conservative for the Hunting Act to be overturned and cruelty to animals to become widespread again.
SHORTAGE OF FOXES 23.11.04 Flynn/Paul
That this House agrees with Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, that his organisation would be ridiculed in parliament on the publication of a letter sent by the Masters of Fox Hounds Association to 800 hunt masters warning of the nationwide 'shortage of foxes' and urging landowners to breed more foxes to 'solve the problem'; and welcomes this further evidence that foxhunting is unconnected with pest control but is devoted entirely to sadistic pleasure derived from the protracted torment and death of foxes, bred for that purpose.
2007-01-20 06:46:49 EST
In search of a poor farmer -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- http://www.paulflynnmp.co.uk/newsdetail.jsp?id=356
On scale of one to ten of inspiring drives, this one made eleven.
Leaving the Welsh Language centre at Nant Gwrtheyrn at dawn I drove through Snowdonia to the secluded unspoilt village of Pentre Ifan. As the morning mist cleared, the cloud-crowned mountains emerged. Here is natures paradise.
My rendezvous was with tenant farmer Glyn Roberts. He was out to convince me that farming deserves subsidies. My job was to convince him that Welsh manufacturing industry is the backbone of the Welsh Economy which cannot take the strain of perpetually bankrolling loss-making farming.
Steel, aluminium and high-tech firms in Newport have been forced to accept the cruel discipline of the market and have suffered huge loses of jobs and capacity. Farmers takes a handout-out of £10 a week from every family in Wales and still cannot produce food that is worth the costs of production.
Eryri / Snowdon
The views demolished one new myth. Farm unions claim that the countryside would no longer be beautiful if farming declined or ceased. Would rivers and lakes run dry, the mountains fall flat, the clouds no longer garland the high places ? It's nature , not farming that has created the majesty of Welsh scenery. Perhaps the wildest most beautiful landscape in the world is in areas that have never been farmed in Iceland and Scotland. Wales, cleansed of the unsightly litter of the detritus of unplanned farming slums would be more natural and far more attractive.
Dyn ffoddus yn ei elfen- Glyn Roberts - a fortunate man in his element
Glyn farms 200 acres in the village of Ysbyty Ifan that has seen few changes in the past 100 years. He is the Chairperson of the Caernafon Farmers Union of Wales but he is not a typical farmer. Nine of ten Welsh farmers own their land, farms and farm buildings. This provides them with assets of enormous value if they leave the industry. There has been vast inflation and great demand for all these assets. Those who choose to leave the industry and sell up, leave with large sums of money from their sold assets. No steelworkers is given a chunk of a blast furnace to sell off when their industries fold. Redundant Newport steelworkers were given the princely sum of £2,500 for a lifetime's work. That is less that the amount that valuers earned in a day and half during the Foot and Mouth epidemic. It's the average amount of compensation received by farmers for two culled cows. Some had a 1,000 cows. Glyn is one of the tenant farmers who have been neglected and undermined by their own unions that are dominated by rich farmers. Tenant farmers, however, are the ONLY ones that farm unions push before the media . their task is to give a wholly untrue impression of widespread farming poverty. Having spoken with Glyn in the past and knowing him to be a reasonable man, I agreed to do the programme with the caveat that Glyn represents the poorest ten per cent of farmers.
Uwch-tech S4C Hi-Tech
Glyn is far removed from the stumbling-yahoo stereotype of a Welsh farmers described by R S Thomas. As part of the rich Welsh- language rural culture, he talks with knowledge and enthusiasm of Welsh poetry, religion and music. With pride he introduced me to his wonderful family.
Credit must be given to Glyn for deploying the legendary wiles of the Farmers Union of Wales.
It was a two pronged assault. In the morning I faced a verbal battering from half a dozen farmers at Llanrwst market. It was exhilarating. Their arguments were the tired ones of blaming the Government, Europe and the Assembly for all their troubles. My case was at least novel to them. From the 13th February 2001 when the first case of Foot and Mouth occurred in the piggery of a negligent farmer until the 23rd February, infected animals moved around 6 marts - contacting more than a million animals. That was the reason that FMD spread here like wildfire here. It was contained in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Videos and internet sales were successfully used during the epidemic. They are cheap, efficient, remove the risk of infection and cut the cost and stress of animal journeys. The Llanrwst farmers best argument for marts is that they are pleasant social events and their wives can do the shopping. No worry about a future epidemic because the taxpayers will pick up the bill again.
The second prong on their assault was to move from hard men to gentle persuasion of a charm offensive by the children of Ysgol Ysbyty Ifan.
Dear Mr Paul Flynn,
Thank you very much for coming to Ysbyty Ifan School today.
We hope you have enjoyed the sketch and its helped you to understand the importance of agriculture in the countryside. Most of our fathers work in the countryside and so we must get help to develop farming in Wales in order to keep families like our families in the countryside, or our villages and communities will die.
The people of the towns and cities must support us and understand that AGRICULTURE is the HEART OF THE COUNTRYSIDE.
The pupils of Ysgol Ysbyty Ifan.
The children delivered in impeccable Welsh, rarely heard in ones so young, a fluent and persuasive plea for the continuation of subsidies from urban to rural areas. As with most Welsh language schools, the children had been tutored in verbal declamatory skills of a high order. They are already enthusiastic eisteddfodwyr. I expressed my heartfelt admiration for their performance.
Two of Glyn's five children are pupils in the village school. It was joy to hear their easy fluency and pride in the Welsh language. Utterly disarmed by their charm it was impossible´to open up a lively debate. The main theme, demonstrated with a model of the human body from which the heart was dramatically plucked out, was that school would die without farm subsidies. It was not the occasion to point out that the heart had already been torn out of the steel and aluminium communities in my constituency. These days, transplants can be organised.
Glyn Roberts prepared a report on the remarkable history of the village of Ysbyty Ifan. The changes that have taken place over more than a century have been very slight. In 1886 there were 72 pupils in the school, 21 of whom were children from farms. Now there are 36 pupils in the school, and 31 of them have connections with farming. Glyn claims that this proves that without agriculture the school and village life would have collapsed. He presents a picture of a bubbling and busy village life. Some of the activities listed are a little unexpected, such as the Committee for Funeral Food.
The village remains overwhelmingly Welsh speaking and has done better than most other similar villages in Wales in keeping a consistent and continuos Welsh language life. What has disappeared from a self-sufficient village is what was their mini industrial zone. The buildings are still there that once housed a Blacksmith and a Carpenter. Whilst Glyn argues that continuation of agriculture in the way it has been conducted for centuries is the only hope for the village an alternative argument is that local people should be at the forefront of new developments in profitable agriculture rather than relying on the handouts they have had for the last 50 years.
Glyn prepared some accounts of his business which were intended to convince me that his income was of a low level.
He is among the poorest 10% of farmers. He relies on income he doesnt own the major assets of 90% of farmers of a farm house, farm buildings, and very valuable land.
While I have no intention of revealing the bottom figure which was shown as a profit on the farm it is far higher than the figure that is normally given by Farmers Unions as an average for farm income. But even as a tenant Glyn has the very valuable assets of his 1000 sheep and 60 cattle.
Valuers, slaughtermen, vets and farm cleansers made inflated receive inflated fees for their work during the epidemic.
During my trip to the market no-one would tell me what the price was that the animals were fetching that day. The cries of 'devastation and woe' from farmers during the FMD year expressed a transient pain. The suffering of steel and aluminium workers was silent but terminal.
It is absolute certain that those farmers who received compensation for their cattle made huge profits and restocked with healthy bank balances. The industry remains pathologically dependent, subsidy sensitive and market blind.
The impression I had from this lovely school was of a happy group of people whose parents all appeared to be in employment. The case they made was of one a future threat.
It is impossible for me to present a case for my constituents in Newport without increasing the stigma from which they already suffer. The contrast would have been stark. I could have taken them to a ward in my constituency where 81.7% of children are judged to be living in poverty. The majority of these children are from one-parent families. Could I have asked how many chldren had not had breakfast that morning ?
I could have also brought along people who work for the minimum wage as hospital porters or in residential homes for the elderly. Are they happy to pay a substantial part of their disposal incomes to rich farmers ? It is not possible to do this without inflicting cruel exposure of peoples dire poverty. Glyn Roberts family are fortunate in that they are living in an ancient detached property in beautiful countryside. For 99% of my constituents their only hope of living in such circumstances would be if they won the lottery.
The contrast between rural and urban is one of privileged rural and deprived urban. Unfortunately it is not possible to present this without adding to the problems of those in the urban areas whose self-esteem would be further damaged in a programme of this kind.
2007-01-20 11:39:37 EST
Make polluters pay
We need tough legislation to make sure polluters put right any damage they cause to the environment.
The UK Government is implementing a new European law on environmental liability. In theory it will help to prevent environmental harm and shift the cost of putting things right from the taxpayer to the polluter.
Polluters should pay for environmental damage
Unfortunately the Government wants to do the minimum required. This approach would:
fail to protect all threatened species - e.g. 66% of protected species in England including the water vole and red squirrel would not be covered. fail to cover protected sites 25% of SSSIs would not be covered. weaken existing domestic environmental protection regulation. fail to cover damage to the environment from GM crops. For more information about the environmental liability directive see Genewatch's briefing.
Please email the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in response to it's consultation on environmental liability. Demand that the Government takes tough action to protect UK biodiversity. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Email DEFRA http://tinyurl.com/2pzsv8
2007-01-23 13:24:37 EST
On Tue, 23 Jan 2007 18:13:17 -0000, "Jim Webster" <*firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> >"Derek Moody" <email@example.com> wrote in message >news:ant212354b49BxcK@half-
>> Sheep left to die >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- >> >> http://www.paulflynnmp.co.uk/mustreaddetail.jsp?id=211 >> >> >> >> The report of widespread over-claiming of sheep headage payments in >> Novemeber 2000 reinforces the disturbing information in the article >> below. It exposes vast waste and animal abuse. >> Why do we pay farmers to let sheep die on a hillside? >> >> >> >> >> >> On a scale of one to 10 the walk promised to be at least 11. Even on a >> bad day the Cambrian mountains in west Wales are glorious. When the >> sun shines, as it did last weekend, they are the next thing to >> paradise. >> We walked all day through hills dotted with majestic sessile oaks, >> remnants of our oldest native woodlands, blazes of bluebells and >> bright yellow celandine. >> >> After the wettest April for 150 years, small springs bubbled out of >> the earth to feed the streams cascading down the hillsides. They >> joined the river at the valley bottom, making it broad and deep, and >> we stopped to watch dozens of toads engaged in their curious mating >> rituals in pools protected by rocks. High overhead a red kite - one of >> only 150 pairs in Britain - rode the thermal currents. >> We drank ice-cold water from the springs, nibbled the sweet leaves of >> wood sorrel and picked the tips of new young ferns. They are called >> fiddle heads and taste good fried with butter and garlic. In a long >> day's walk we saw not another single living soul. I thought smugly of >> bank holiday weekends in the Lake District, of traffic jams, of trail >> bikes crowding the footpaths and the roar of power boats on >> Windermere. It was the next day, taking a different route home, when >> things went wrong. >> >> The weather was hotter, and after climbing for hours it was good to >> descend into the shade of the valley bottom. Then the smell hit us - >> the stench of a rotting sheep. We skirted the corpse, not unduly >> surprised; it is fairly common to see the odd dead sheep in Wales. But >> further on there was another dead sheep and then another and another. >> In half an hour of walking I counted dozens of carcasses, perhaps 40 >> or 50. Some had probably died giving birth, others perhaps of old age. >> But there were dead lambs, too, and occasionally a live one that must >> have lost its mother - bleating miserably and clearly too weak to >> survive much longer. >> The hillsides here were seriously overgrazed. The only wild flowers >> were in cracks and crevices, too difficult for the sheep to get at. >> There was an air of desolation about the place, a sense of nature >> trying desperately to re-emerge but defeated by too many hungry >> mouths. Let any young sapling or sprig of heather poke too far above >> the soil and it would be a goner. >> If you need any proof of the failure of this country's agricultural >> policy, I recommend a visit. >> Those dead sheep are a direct result of paying subsidies to farmers >> for each animal they own to produce food that nobody wants. It is >> difficult enough to make a living at the best of times rearing sheep >> on the hills of Wales. When times are hard it is well nigh impossible. >> So the farmers increase the head count to collect as much subsidy as >> possible. The number of sheep in Wales increased almost fourfold in >> the half-century after the last war. >> The animals themselves are effectively worthless - no more than >> statistics on a Brussels printout. So instead of concerned shepherds >> keeping a careful eye on the flocks, you have some farmers who simply >> abandon the sheep to their fate. At least the red kites can enjoy easy >> pickings. >> >> The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) produced a report last week that >> said more than £1.6 billion is needed if Britain is to meet its >> wildlife and countryside conservation targets. That is four times as >> much as the government intends to spend. >> >> The report confirmed what Richard Girling described so graphically in >> this newspaper last month. The Norfolk county recorder of the British >> Butterfly Conservation Society told him that if we extrapolate from >> the current rate of decline "you couldn't reach any other conclusion >> than that, at some time in the future, there will be no butterflies >> left". >> Other species are disappearing, too. The WWF says: "Steep de-clines in >> bumblebee and farmland specialist bird populations show us that paying >> for isolated spots of conservation is not enough." >> So Gordon Brown must somehow be persuaded to cough up a little more >> cash to save the birds and the bees and all will be well? Sadly no. If >> we are serious about restoring this country to the green and pleasant >> land it once was there must be a radical change in our whole attitude >> to agriculture. There is little sign of that. The emphasis in the >> latest policy document from the Ministry of Agriculture is, as it has >> always been, on an "efficient and competitive" farming system. What it >> fails to do is to define "efficient". Let me help. >> Efficient in this context means intensive agriculture. It means >> factory farms. It means killing everything that gets in the way of >> maximum yields and forcing every last ear of corn from the soil with >> tons of nitrogen and God knows what long-term damage to the soil >> itself. Brown might also like to know that it means employing just one >> or two farm workers on vast acreages where, in less intensive systems, >> they would employ many more. Perhaps it makes sense to see the >> countryside stripped of farm workers, or to pay for them to live on >> the dole or to pay even more to "re-skill" them. I have my doubts. >> Since Britain's farming policy changed after the war politicians have >> had only one aim: the maximum yields possible, whatever the cost. It >> made sense during the war when U-boats threatened us with starvation >> but I cannot see those days returning - not even if the UK >> Independence party wins the next election. >> There are good, sound economic reasons for concentrating on food >> quality instead of quantity. You can do an awful lot with £4 billion - >> the cost of BSE alone. It would not have happened had quantity and >> productivity not been king. Nor can it possibly make sense to import >> the vast majority of our organic produce. >> >> The reaction of the National Farmers' Union to the WWF report was >> instructive: "We wholeheartedly agree with the WWF call for more >> funding to be given to farmers to help them go green." >> How grotesque that farming should ever have been anything but green. >> Another report published last week suggested we may have to start >> inoculating babies with bacteria to encourage resistance to diseases >> such as asthma, which are spreading alarmingly. We have sterilised >> everything to within an inch of its life to protect our children and >> now we have to inject them with a bit of dirt. >> With agriculture we have destroyed swathes of countryside with food >> factories and now we talk of helping farmers to "go green". And they >> say sheep are stupid. >> >> firstname.lastname@example.org >
>> As we never read the stuff before forwarding it it quite often means the >> opposite of what we presume he assumes in any case, assuming he did presume in the fore. >> >> Cheerio, >> > >not only that but he still hasn't twigged that for his ilk the good times >are over. Food prices are going to go up with a bang over the next few years >along with energy
A major reason to get rid of meat diets.
The question is not, can we afford a vegetarian diet, but can we not afford one!
I'll be happy to pay ten times what I pay now, to see filth like you taken out of the food chain. How rednecks like you could condemn society to a cruel fate, is a crime against humanity. You best keep on your toes now that we know who you are!