The message given to the many farmers present was that the agricultural industry must take up the challenge to drive forward sustainable intensification, find resources to adapt to climate change, and put a stop to the chronic dependency on support payments.
Research and development of conventional and GM crops, and advances in livestock production should be intensified and implemented. Mega farms should be given planning permission where appropriate, to support sustainable intensification to enable increased efficient production and to ensure we can play our part in feeding the growing global population.
Sean Richard a man who rarely minces his words; he has been known to insult a room full of farmers by calling them ‘dinosaurs’! On this occasion he seemed to carry the gathering with him rather than aggravate. Perhaps he is mellowing with age, he certainly had the room on side with his view that DEFRA was hardly fit for purpose.
Alastair Leake is the Director of Policy of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. He is showcasing intensive farming and working alongside ground breaking environmental practises. He confirmed that farmers have the edge when it comes to looking after the countryside, and do so effectively while running successful commercial food producing enterprises.
He reminded us how very efficient British farmers are; the average UK wheat yield is 3.2tons per acre, globally is it 0.8ton per acre. It should be noted that the top 25 per cent of British farmers produce yields well above the average.
He was adamant that environmental legislation does not help feeding birds, nor do nature reserves protect farm wildlife! A view proven in Kent. He also made the point that although bird numbers have fallen since 1966, when farmers were encouraged to plough every piece of land available to grow wheat. Bird numbers are now increasing surprisingly rapidly in areas when their environment improves and appropriate food source is available.
David Christensen milks 600 cows, and over the last 5 years he has had to slaughter 135 TB reactors, an ongoing problem which needs more resources to eradicate. He reminded us how fortunate we are to farm in a country which is politically stable, and where we do not have to cope with earth quakes, or extreme climate, and we have plenty of water. There is also have a captive market on our doorstep which recognises that British farmers produce safe, high quality, regulated produce.
The panel spoke with one voice regarding the future of British agriculture, they also considered DEFRA, environmental agencies and organisations such as the RSBP to be inefficient and unhelpful. The message was that farming must progress through enlargement, efficiency and science, if we are to ensure food security and help to ‘Feed the World’.
When later challenged about the importance of small family farms, David Christensen acknowledged that through innovative management and the flexibility to diversify, well run small farms are a vital ingredient, and which in many cases compliment if not support, larger unwieldy farms. Family farms will always be an integral part of the British countryside.
Having jumped ship from the Home office, Norman Baker must have been relieved when Alex Salmond confirmed that he will not seek election as the MP for Lewes, despite his effigy being paraded through the streets on bonfire night!
I am reliably informed Mr Baker’s exit had little to do with his relationship with Theresa May, but due to the local polls which are putting him neck and neck with the conservative candidate Maria Caulfield. Maria a local nurse, is reported to be running an impressive campaign, with particular emphasis upon areas of the constituency long neglected by the incumbent MP such as Newhaven, the notoriously dangerous A27 between Lewes and Polegate, rail links, post offices which are threatened with downgrades, local hospital facilities and much more besides.
London’s Bermondsey Square Hotel has been taken over by a Middle Eastern businessman who is running it ‘in accordance with Sharia Law’! The new Muslim owner has banned alcohol, including dishes such as rum ice cream and beer battered fish. A full English breakfast of bacon, sausage and black pudding is definitely off the menu, and chefs are trying to improvise with chicken.
It will be interesting to see if marriage certificates will be required by couples wishing to book in, and if refused will the hotel face the same consequences as the couple who turned away a gay couple from their bed and breakfast business, or indeed the Christian bakery firm that refused to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage. These people were taken to court for standing up for their principles and just saying ‘no. It will be interesting to see if the new owner of the Bermondsey Square Hotel receives the same treatment for discrimination, or is there one rule for British Christians and another for Middle Eastern Muslim businessmen? I think this one will be an interesting one to watch.
Carola Godman Irvine