The rest of the week is forecast to be warm and dry, and we can only hope that this year we can have a rain and trouble free harvest once the crops are ready for combining.
Some crops have suffered over the weekend from the combined wind and rain. There are reports of oil seed rape and some barley going down, probably not unconnected to the heavy and vigorous growth. It’s a shame as once they go down the pigeons attack and the ripening process is compromised and combining becomes difficult.
There is a surplus of grass about, the fields have yielded well which seems to be the case throughout Sussex. It is unusual not to have neighbouring farmers queuing up to take any excess off our hands but this year there is so much about some are spoilt for choice.
The beef summit seems to have gone off like a damp squid. Reports in the farming press struggle to convey any enthusiasm for the event or its outcome, and reading between the lines, of which there are precious few. Other than discussing making plans for representative from the farming unions and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), the same people who met last week but without the Minister, to meet again over the summer ‘to discuss a code to increase transparency in the industry’, it would seem little was achieved.
We could hardly have expected this gathering to magic better prices for British beef producers over-night, and the Mr Eustice was never going to close our borders to cheap, sometimes inferior, imported meat, which seems to be filling the supermarket shelves at present. Nor was he going to embark upon a government led advertising campaign to encourage everyone to support British beef farmers by upping their consumption of beef and making sure its British!
Anyway, now the BMPA are going to be asked if they wouldn’t mind giving beef producers a little more notice before they move the goal posts and drop their prices and demand high specifications. There is talk of dropping the cut off age at which bull beef can go for slaughter for human consumption. This latter constraint is similar to the banning of bent bananas and other bird brain ideas. A dreadful and unnecessary waste of perfectly good healthy meat. Whoever thought this one up has quite obviously never been hungry or faced food shortages, and has little understanding about the process of fattening traditional British beef breeds on an extensive fattening programme. Let us hope our representatives in the NFU enlighten them about the absurdity of these proposals.
At a time when MPs are urging DEFRA to stem the UK’s declining self-sufficiency in food, and warning that complacency ‘poses a genuine risk to the country’s food security’, it is baffling as to why proposals to condemn perfectly good beef to ‘landfill’ should even be considered.
Researchers based at Warwick University who have been investigating the spread of bovine TB, are recommending improved testing and vaccination of cattle, and culling all cattle on farms where there are reactors, as opposed to individual animals. The Farmers Weekly carries a report of the research carried out by Warwick’s School of Life Sciences and Department of Mathematics which came to this conclusion.
It is no doubt just a coincidence that in the same week an independent review commissioned by the BBC Trust came to the conclusion that the BBC’s news coverage of countryside issues is too “squeamish”, ignoring the “gritty realities”, of rural life and images of “fluffy badgers”. As Charles Moore pointed out, badgers are more hairy than fluffy, and their colouring is dirtier than people think, they are ungainly, verminous, and very destructive.
Important matters such as health, education and employment in rural areas are rarely covered as the corporation preferred to focus on minority protests or animal stories with a “feelgood” ending. They also rely heavily upon a small number of NGOs’, notably the National Trust and the RSPB for advice and direction.
Charles Moore in his indomitable way covered the story well and to the point, when he noted that “these NGOs’ have great media advantage in rural affairs because they are centralised organisations paying lots of smooth spokesmen to react nationally. Country life is naturally uncentralised, and so the people who really know about something locally are harder to find”. Charles goes on to say that BBC producers should order their journalists to put the National Trust, RSPB etc in the same mental bracket as other big groups – the tobacco and drinks industries, the energy giants, Unite, Tesco – bodies with a right to be heard but also with axes to grind.
Honesty about the natural world is needed, but it is increasingly hard to come by.
Carola Godman Irvine