We are considered to be out dated, dinosaurs who own a dog, a stick, an old Ford tractor and spend our days milking cows by hand, and leaning on gates dreaming of collecting EU subsidies.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Farmers are and always have been highly skilled, multitalented, entrepreneurial people, who consider farming a vocation, and would happily in many instances tell the EU where to go, and what they can do with their CAP. (Common Agricultural Policy)
We run our businesses efficiently, constantly looking to the future and ensuring we are prepared to weather the downturn in commodity prices, such as dairy farmers presently coping with a further drop of 10p per litre since May, and arable farmers seeing wheat prices drop by 60 per cent.
Judging by the number of young people who are being attracted into the agricultural industry, I would hazard a guess that the average age of British farmers is not 58 as so often quoted, but nearer to 45. They may not all be classed as the main farmer but in many cases they are now the key full time active operator. But for various reasons, they remain under the radar of the statisticians.
The industry is attracting young people from a variety of backgrounds including non-farming families. Some through agricultural colleges and university degrees, others as apprentices working on farms while attending day release courses. Agriculture is no longer considered an old fashioned backwater industry, it offers a vibrant career path for those intelligent and enthusiastic enough to spot the opportunity.
Some farmer’s sons and daughters pursue alternative careers in commerce, working abroad or the armed forces. They remain involved and connected and return to the farm bringing additional skills to support parents and the business, ready to integrate and take over when appropriate.
Today margins are tight, not many farm businesses will support more than one generation, and a successor returning home with funds and an alternative income stream, can in some cases be essential.
Ian Birrell’s report in the Mail on Sunday, highlighting the plight of British fishermen who are being forced to abandon their way of life, is yet another example of the damage membership of the EU is doing to one of our oldest commercial industries.
He uses Hastings inshore fishing fleet as a vivid example of how fishermen struggle to survive on the pittance they earn from the daily catch they are permitted to keep. Crews are regularly forced to throw back more fish than they land, as they are fiercely policed by DEFRA officials on a daily basis. They ensure their tiny quota is not exceeded, by forcing fishermen to discard boxes of fine healthy fish.
These fishermen earn as little as £50, sometimes being forced to throw back fish worth £200. All thanks to the ludicrous ill thought out Common Fisheries Policy
In comparison across the North Sea the Cornelis Vrolijk, one of the largest fishing trawlers in Europe is tied up in Ijmuiden, near Amsterdam. At 370ft long, this ship is capable of hauling in 150 tons of herring and mackerel each time she throws her nets overboard. Its latest 2,500 ton catch is worth about £500,000.
These fish taken by the Dutch owned boat, unloaded in a Dutch port and will be dispatched around the globe by a Dutch logistics firm, were caught in English coastal waters under Britain’s fishing quota, allocated by the EU. This vessel holds nearly 23 per cent of the entire English quota.
As our fishing fleets struggle to earn a meagre living under sustainable guide lines, our sovereign waters are being legally plundered by foreign companies earning millions.
DEFRA officials should be supporting our industries not strangling our hard working fishermen with inflexible gold plated regulations and red tape which no other European countries take seriously.
Somewhat surprisingly an unlikely alliance between the fishermen and Greenpeace has developed. They are supporting the fleet which they see as a model of sustainable fishing which is now under threat.
The Government insists it values fishing communities but the Dutch trawler is a vivid example of the failures of incompetent bureaucrats, and as Ian Birrell said, “Timid politicians”, unable or unwilling to stand up for fishing communities across Britain.
Carola Godman Irvine