We are still waiting to hear the outcome of the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform process. DEFRA is defining the final details regarding the new ‘greening’ rules. We already know that we must grow three crops to comply with regulations, an expensive burden for some farms particularly those which rely upon contract harvesting and drilling.
This rule was invented for some European countries which grow wall to wall rape or maize continuously. British farmers tend to rotate cropping and this directive will not improve wildlife or the countryside. In fact it could drive some small farmers out of business.
As Jane King the editor of the Farmers Weekly said in her editorial this week, “The Uk’s self-sufficiency in food production is at one of its lowest points in a generation. So why isn’t the government the slightest bit concerned?”
Latest figures show that last year the UK produced 60 per cent of the food the nation consumed. The country imported £40bn worth of food, feed and drink in 2013 and exported just £18.9bn. Our reliance on overseas products has shot up in milk, cream and fresh vegetables. The biggest surge in imports was grain, with the poor weather in 2013 and small national wheat crop last year.
They say by 2027 there will be an additional 7 million mouths to feed in Great Britain. The scale of the challenges facing agriculture globally is enormous with demand exceeding supply. And as Jane said, long term, farmers will be talking less about defining yield as ‘tonnes per acre’ and more about ‘people nourished per acre’.
It is perhaps time for the government to recognise that the British countryside and the environment is safe in the hands of the farming community, and rather than tie our hands with bureaucratic ‘greening’ red tape, they should be encouraging us to produce the food required to feed the nation.
This should include giving us the tools such as greater investment into research and development of GM crops. As ever moderation should be applied but with the right safe guards this science has to help us feed the world.
Last Monday the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in the Birthday Honours List. This service has justly been recognised for its dedicated 24 hour suicide watch service.
Last year the chaplains had encounters with 368 people whom they considered to be at risk. Some had come to take their own lives, but chose not to do so after meeting a chaplain who listened to their troubles and put them in touch with others who could help.
Four professional chaplains are employed to work with a team of fourteen trained volunteers. But instead of celebrating this wonderful award, the chaplains are facing a financial crises, and unless they receive emergency funding, by the end of the month their last wages will be paid by selling off the team’s Land-Rover patrol cars, thermal imaging cameras and other vital kit.
Reports of this impending crises were circulating last week and the Sunday Telegraph ran the story at the weekend. To lose this service at this iconic beauty spot where too many desperate people head from across the UK when their lives are in crises, for the sake of £120,000 per year would be unforgiveable.
Mr Pybus who is the director, said he was prepared to talk to the Sunday Telegraph, breaking a code of silence that has been in place since the team was founded 10 years ago. “I believe that more lives will be saved if we talk about this and get the financial help we need to continue.”
Some people will refuse to talk and will jump anyway, on average there are 30 such tragedies each year. This number has stayed the same for some while despite the surge in the numbers who head for Beachy Head and contemplate leaping 500ft to the rocks below.
Amongst those who arrive are many young people who have their whole life ahead of them. If it were not for this dedicated Christian team ready to help and listen, those lives would be tragically cut short.
The sums required to save this unique and dedicated team are relatively small, just £10,000 per month. Individuals, and countless families have been eternally grateful for their kind and gentle intervention with their loved ones in their moment of despair. It would be commendable and appropriate to know that this service can continue through support from the people of Sussex and elsewhere.
To make a donation you can go to bhct.org.uk or call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90