Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Defra Has to Become Farming Friendly

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Defra Has to Become Farming Friendly

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Weeks

As time marches on, I find an increasing sense of wonderment as I vainly try to rationalise just what the extremely frustrating edicts and pronouncements spewing off the presses of Europe and Whitehall are actually trying to do.

When I first set out on my somewhat chequered career, life for all concerned in the food and farming industries was relatively simple.

Producers, processors, buyers and sellers all benefited from the benign rays of the subsidy sun that warmed each and pretty well every aspect of our food marketing chain.

However in the post war years it became pretty obvious that this almost universal state support could not continue forever and a day. The fluttering wings of a European Common Agricultural Policy were beginning to be heard, while some far-sighted prophets were encouraging discussion among farmers who were starting to realise that a drastic shake-up in the methods of income support was fast approaching.

Advice there was in plenty on most matters of crop and livestock production from sources such as the University and Government advisory services, aided and abetted by the banks and commercial firms servicing the industry.

All these groups had one thing in common, they were farmer friendly.

Economic expertise was, mainly, in the hands of the University's agricultural schools or departments. Our own economical department, under Harold Dinesdale and later Mark Carpenter, serviced the four Northern counties.

This service not only analysed the farm accounts but also provided some of the pioneer production alternatives available to the farmer.

Now our political masters have hatched this single payment subsidy.

Can anyone understand it?

Some 30 years ago agriculture contributed some 3% to Britain's GDP.

Now that figure is about 1% while over half of our farmers, due to an incredible variety of social, economic and political factors, rely on income that cannot be classed as traditional farming. …

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