Over The Gate
By Jeff Swift

TWO items of news to do either directly or indirectly with the countryside interested me last week. Firstly there was a report which talked about Customs and Excise taking on extra staff to snoop on farmers regarding the illegal use of red diesel. Of course no one countenances any widespread misuse of red diesel, but I would have thought that what the report suggested might be just a bit over the top.

I understand that behind it all is yet another regulation from Brussels. This decrees any red diesel changing hands has to be recorded and the one to pass on the fuel has to be a licensed dealer.

It seems that if a farmer lends or hires his tractor to his neighbour with red diesel in the tank, he must be licensed and the fuel recorded or else. Talk about "over the top"; words fail me. When I think of the puny efforts being taken to keep illegal meat out of the country and put that beside this red diesel fiasco, somebody somewhere has got their priorities wrong and I don't think it's me.

The other piece that shook me was the story of a lady who bought a bottle of water in a cafeteria and thought it rather expensive, I can't be sure of the price but a figure of 70p comes to mind. Then here comes the rub: on examination, the good lady discovered the water had come from Italy. How daft can we get when we think about the United Kingdom with its high rainfall, its mountain springs etc. and we import water from Italy - or it just me being a bit cynical. And I'm not even going to mention moving our directory inquiries to India.

As for me, I would sooner pay our dairy farmers a decent price for milk, such as the standard price in Europe for a start. Readers of this column will know I have no connection with milk production, but I understand the business and I deplore the situation that is responsible for driving so many hard-working people out of producing milk.

The question that is being frequently asked nowadays is "Are there too many groups and organisations going about advising farmers on change, the future and what would be the best way ahead for individual farmers?" The usual answer from farmers is "yes", and I agree with them. All too often, money intended to benefit farmers gets diluted before it ever reaches them. Too much is siphoned off in administration - talk about something that needs changing.

And while we're at it, we might as well change the jobs of those scientists who spend their time trying to justify their existence by seeking to prove there is BSE in the national sheep flock when we know there isn't.

Dialect word: Twine, meaning to turn or twist.

Thought for the day: All some people need to make them happy is a change and most of the time that's all a baby needs!