It seems to me that on a daily basis red tape is ever more invasive and spreading like Japanese knotweed. Without doubt there are more people snooping and checking on the British farmer than there are farmers actually doing the job.
It was the dreadful Margaret Beckett who like most Labour politicians was and still is riven with class envy and who particularly hated the farming fraternity. She junked the Ministry of Agriculture and came up with DEFRA which is the body of autocrats trying to serve three different entities, none of which are necessarily complementary or indeed pulling in the same direction. It is high time we had our own Minister For Agriculture whose motto should be: “We are here to help the farmer.”
This new department could then address many problems in our profession. For example – why are abattoirs still having to split sheep with two teeth up? Why are hunts still not allowed to skin fallen sheep and feed the carcase to the hounds? Why is the Health and Safety Executive allowed to instruct farmers to sack their workers who have 30 years or more experience but unfortunately did not historically take the necessary exams to qualify for the work that they still do? Why should arable farmers be told how many different crops they can grow each year? Why are we sending £600 million of international aid to help flood defences throughout the third world when we can’t sort out our own problems? Why does Farm Assured British Beef and Lamb (which is a complete and utter farce) send out inspectors, still wet behind the ears, with no practical experience, to judge whether we farmers are fit to carry out our profession even after a life time of working seven days a week? Why are we not allowed to export live sheep through Dover when the demand is there? Are we really not capable of monitoring for how long and how far exported sheep travel? Why are we allowing hundreds of horses and ponies to be regularly exported alive when it is patently obvious they are destined for slaughter? Why are we not slaughtering these same animals in this country where the efficacy of this trade could be controlled and indeed add value? This list could go on and on but I will only wind myself up further. Perhaps any readers could supply me with further examples of ludicrous regulations that have a negative effect on their working life.
Dairy farmers are going through a tough time right now with average prices paid by the processors less than the cost of production. The reason we are told, is that there is downward pressure on the world market price for milk and milk products – what a load of cobblers! There is definitely a world market for the price of crude oil, so can someone please explain to me, why in Argentina, for at least the last 20 years, the price of milk is exactly the same price per litre as the price of petrol?
In the UK, the price of milk is falling because the supermarkets use milk as a tool to entice the customers in, so they can sell their baked beans and biscuits at a highly inflated price and profit earning commodity. Further, meat is used in exactly the same way.
Management and myself continue to run our small farming enterprise in harmony – well, she regularly makes humming noises at some of my decisions! I purchased 190 Suffolk X mule ewe lambs for £78 and hope to earn a crust by September next year, while 180 store lambs purchased from July onwards are showing £15 gross for those already sold. The sheep dog continues to do her job, albeit on three and a half legs, while the rescue Staffie disappears up her own arse on a daily basis. She doesn’t smell too good but is great company.
Lastly, we had our 15 year old house cat diagnosed and eventually put down at a cost of £250 while our neighbouring dairy farmer had a caesarean section on his favourite cow at a cost of £200! No wonder small animal vets can afford to send cards at Christmas.
All is not well in farming but all is not bad either and we wish all contributors, readers and the production team of this magazine a very happy festive season.