Rod & Gun: Crisis on the Farms
Kinney, Dc, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
A few months ago it was the blatant attack on hunting and ancillary sports that was making the headlines. And how well field sports enthusiasts and their friends responded to it.
Now there is an even more insidious cancer spreading through the countryside and, apart from a few well chosen words from prdictable sources, the reaction in most cases has been muted.
I refer, of course, to the drastic collapse in farm incomes through no fault of the farmers concerned. And the thing that amazes most observers is that while farm gate prices have been slashed the housewife has not benefited noticeably in the shops and supermarkets.
There are many causes of the present crisis in the countryside. Farm support schemes, particularly those emanating from Brussels never, in my opinion, represented a solid and reliable foundation for any industry. The people who benefited most had precious little to do with farming as we have known it; few of them ever got mud on their boots.
The BSE scare and fears about other foods set the recession ball rolling and it has gathered momentum with the political difficulties in Russia and other traditional markets for farm produce.
The supermarkets, too, have come in for what seems to be justified critcism. Their aggressive buying at the lowest possible prices has all but wiped out the old corner shops and is now being felt in butcher shops and grocery stores in every part of the land.
It cannot be good for anyone that farmers have seen cattle, sheep, pig and cereal prices plummet to the point where thousands of them now face bankruptcy. I dread to think how farmers can overwinter surplus stock which they have been unable to sell and for which they will have to buy costly feeding stuffs. Many farmyards will not be happly places this winter.
When the collapse started many observers took the view that it was a little difficulty that would resolve itself fairly rapidly. Unfortunately, that has not happened - one reason being that all aspects of agriculture have been affected.
At the moment it looks as though many farmers have nowhere to turn. Prices are so low that in some cases they do not cover auction fees.
I think the older generation of farmers will weather the storm and, hopefully, see this dreadful time through. But I wonder about the younger members of the farming community. Some of them never experienced hard times before and are unlikely to put up with the sort of hardships their fathers and grandfathers tolerated.
Worst affected are those who have borrowed heavily from the banks to finance the purchase of farm machinery or land.
The sad fact is that unless remedial and effective action is taken - and quickly - whole families will be driven off the land. And if that happens the whole infrastructure of rural areas will be drastically affected.
In many towns and villages houses are being bought up by those with money from outside the area. In normal circumstances that need not be a problem.
But I have no doubt at all that if many farmers go to the wall it will have a very bad effect on the whole range of those things which go to make up the quality of life in the countryside. And that will be bad for those who depend on trade generated by farmers. And it will be bad for field sports.
I think it behoves everyone who values the country way of life to make their voices heard now just as they did when hunting came under attack. In another few weeks and months it may be too late.
Meanwhile, the German Pointer Club of Ireland held most successful field trials on lands where the shooting rights are held by Mr Derek Anderson near Newtowncrommelin in North Antrim.
With a lot of game on the ground some of the dogs found retrieving a shade difficult. …