11:02

Farming - another view

My friend Sophie Alexander is a farmer in Dorset and has some strong views on farming and subsidies that were prompted by my last blog. I can see nothing to disagree with.

"Interesting the information supplied from Savills. A few points to take into consideration I think.  The standard of livestock welfare in the U.K is one of the highest in the world. Certainly stricter than Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. This costs money.  Also our cost of labour is higher and our arable production regulations stricter. The other countries taken as examples have access to agrochemicals that were banned in the U.K. years ago. The scale of farming in the countries mentioned is of an entirely different order. You cannot compare like for like when the geography, scale, climate and soil are so variable. So I think it is unfair to say UK farming is inefficient. 

But its yields per hectare have stagnated. Is this necessarily a bad thing?  Argentina and Australia are creating dustbowls and soil degradation 1000's hectares per annum with their so called efficiencies and low costs of production. A key question is do we permit the import of products that are
less expensive but produced to considerably lower standards or do we support farming in the U.K. and pay for the higher welfare
and environmental strictures. 

I often question why we even attempt to produce world commodities which are subject to the vagueries of global markets and produced as you say at considerable discounts elsewhere in the world. Perhaps we should concentrate on high added value niche products and build a world brand for even better quality. There is a surplus of basic food commodities in the world not a shortage. We waste over 30% of food grown.  There is the growing argument for eating less but better. But that would take a seismic shift in food education and eating habits. There is very little joined up thinking in world food production and distribution and the health consequences of what we swallow. Actually what farming subsidies have funded is not so much farm businesses as the margins made by processors and retailers while making us a nation of diabetics and fatties."
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