Farmers are being encouraged to contact their local MPs in a final attempt to persuade the Government not to transfer 15% of CAP farm payments to a rural development programme. Despite constant declarations by David Cameron and his ministers that they recognise the importance of British Agriculture, production and food security, they are standing by apparently unconcerned as the Secretary of State has said “I believe that transferring the maximum 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 would be the right thing to do where we can demonstrate it would deliver worthwhile and valuable outcomes..”
Farmers remain at a loss to understand what Government intends to use this money for as they fail to explain what ‘worthwhile and valuable’ plans they have in mind.
We do understand the need for environmental protection and management which is why most farmers have undertaken work through the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) agreements, and will continue to do so.
The Scottish Government has announced that it intends to modulate 9.5%, and the German Government has gone for 4.5% - well below the 15% that DEFRA is electing to opt for. 9.5% would surely be right option for the England.
Why the Government wishes to put English farmers at a disadvantage is beyond comprehension. The NFU and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) have lobbied hard in the vain attempt to explain to ministers that if they wish farmers to prosper they must at least be allowed to compete on a level playing field with our neighbours.
Everything seems to be a battle these days. There are stories every day of farmers being hindered and obstructed by public agencies and their officers.
Last week there was a prime example. A neighbouring farmer found workmen from the council ripping up fences and a perfectly good style on his land. They had arrived unannounced, without his permission and were being supervised by a council official.
Quite understandably my friend was far from happy by this invasion. In fact he was absolutely furious. The standard of workmanship was questionable and the poor quality replacement fencing was replaced in the wrong position. There was no straining posts, the flimsy fence will not restrain cattle for long and the replacement kissing gate clangs each time someone passes through.
This form of apparently legalised intrusion and vandalism is not the way to treat the custodians of the countryside who are key contributors in the food chain of the nation.
It seemed somewhat timely that last week’s Spectator recalled the words of the Greek farmer-poet Hesiod in C 680 BC. He said there was nothing romantic about being a shepherd, herdsman or farmer, out in all weathers, rough terrain, and with little in the way of companionship.
I suspect that had those ancient farmers also had to cope with today’s red tape, bureaucrats and officers of various questionable agencies who consider they have a right to dictate to land owners what can and cannot happen on their private land, Hesiod, and even Homer a virtual contemporary, would have both written fulsomely and eloquently on the subject.
The future of Heathrow Airport remains headline news as Sir Howard Davis’s interim report is due out on Tuesday. David Cameron with Ed Milliband’s full approval has asked that Sir Howard Davis delay his full report until after the 2015 General Election, thus kicking it into the long grass.
Not surprisingly there is a growing demand that they stop fudging and make decisions now. Amongst some of the more vocal are Boris Johnston, and Ben Goldsmith who is prepared to resign his parliamentary seat if Sir Howard’s interim report suggests the building of a new runway at Heathrow.
If Ben Goldsmith follows up this threat, it has been suggested that Boris Johnson would stand in the by election for this safe seat. There is speculation that he would then campaign to replace David Cameron a leader of the Tory party. Such a turn of events does seem somewhat far-fetched but intriguing none the less.
The Institute of Economic Affairs called for ministers to be stripped of the power to decide where new airports are built in order to speed up the process. I would also suggest that Agriculture ministers, and officers from various rural agencies are also stripped of their powers to interfere, and allow farmers to get on with the job they do best; caring for the countryside and feeding the nation.
Carola Godman Irvine