Spin rather than substance

Writers Posted 26/11/19
I guess with the benefit of hindsight we would all have been busier in September.

As I sit down to write this, the rain is once again beating down on the window. It has been a familiar situation since the end of September and the effects of the weather are now firmly in the headlines. We are fortunate compared to many, our fields are very wet but not flooded, more importantly neither is our home and my sympathy goes out to those who are affected by this so adversely.

Like many around us we have been trying to catch the odd dry day to get some drilling done, targeting the lighter land in the hope that things will dry up so we can get on our heavier soils. As the days go by this looks increasingly less likely so our thoughts now are turning to perhaps January/February drilling or spring wheat and for predominantly a light land farm this is new territory.

I guess with the benefit of hindsight we would all have been busier in September drilling into some dusty, dry seedbeds but with the withdrawal of the trusted seed dressings the advice was to delay because of the risk of BYDV. Now in many cases it’s not in at all, unintended consequences eh?!

Around this time of year, our milk buyer puts on a series of meetings to inform the producers of what they as a big dairy company are achieving and what’s new coming down the line. They are normally useful meetings to attend, so with that in mind we set off on the three hours journey as this was the closest one to us this year. This year it was different! It was more like attending one of President Trump’s congressional rallies. There was inspirational music played across the PA system ahead of each speaker, I lost count of the times the words phenomenal, great, fantastic were used to cover all aspects of the discussion apart from when they spoke about milk price a question on which was dismissed extremely abruptly. The reply was “we judge ourselves on our milk price compared to our peers”, which is fine, apart from the fact that their peers’ price currently is dire. I left the meeting feeling it was all about spin rather than substance. It’s fine to put a positive perspective on things, but it’s dangerous when you get the feeling that those in authority are starting to believe their own propaganda. Grumpy left the meeting singularly unimpressed. It led to an awkward drive home!

The words ‘post turtle’ came up repeatedly in the discussions about some of the presentations. You know the scenario, you’re driving down the road and you come across a fence post with a turtle on the top, that’s a post turtle. You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, and he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, he’s elevated beyond his ability to function… You get the drift?

As for what’s coming down the line? Well if you are not already sick of hearing the word sustainable you will be by 2021. To most small business people whether in agriculture or not, having a sustainable business probably means earning enough to keep going into the following year with some ability for reinvestment to make life better/more efficient.

Well, it seems that to a modern day milk purchaser/supermarket buyer having a sustainable business is far from being viable year on year but more about having increasingly rigorous assessment/assurance protocols and the return/further development of carbon/environmental footprinting!

Have you ever gone past a supermarket of whatever name and seen the lights turned off? Some are open 24 hours with just a handful of people inside, lights blazing, refrigerators and chillers on full blast. They fly produce in from all parts of the world, deliver it to their distribution centres then out to the shops, quite often going back down the same stretch of motorway from where it came. With their “just in time” delivery system a good proportion of their stock is on wheels at any one time and yet they demand us to prove and reduce our carbon footprint… what is their carbon footprint?

A supermarket has no ability for sequestration of carbon on their activities yet as farmers at least we can offset our emissions against the grass/ vegetables/fruit/ crops that are grown, most farmers commute to work consists of a short walk across the yard, does the CEO of any supermarket walk to work? The hypocrisy in this area is overwhelming and yet somehow, they get away with it and yet instead of resisting, our leaders/representatives just seem to drop their trousers and bend over. By the time you read this it may well be just a few days before or post election, I have deliberately avoided talking about it or the Brexit that is yet to happen, that’s for another post. For us, December has another important event which is starting to take our focus – our four year TB test at the youngstock unit. If it goes well, it will be a good Christmas present! December also has a very excited little (or not so little) girl’s birthday on Boxing day.


Tweets from @southeastfarmer