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Although the issues are complicated and arouse passions, one is brought back to (the) earth by looking straight at the quietly spoken thoughts of Hilary Peters.

AUG 4 Important commentary by David on the Defra release: Sheep farming after Foot and Mouth: challenge and change

Food prices discussed Aug 12th (the page will return you to the inbox section - use the left menu to return here)

A discussion of lamb prices and a lot else besides...

In a White Paper "Our Countryside: The Future. A Fair Deal for Rural England" (November 2000) New Labour set out its vision of agricultural progress ~ http://www.wildlife-countryside.detrgov.uk/ruralwp/cm4909/index.htm

This is not a future for traditional British Farming. British Farming - that created the well-loved British countryside - is facing overwhelming and accelerating changes. Already referred to as an "industry", and its living animals as "products", farming as our parents knew it was fast disappearing long before this disaster of the FMD policy. Farmers' income fell by 60% between1995 and 1999. Hill farmers earned less than £7000 on average in 1998/9 (and 60% of that came in subsidies) but now they are making nothing at all and many (like other farmers) are heavily in debt to the banks.

In the meantime, the hidden agendas of organizations like WTO (World Trade Organisation), OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), , IMF (Interntional Monetary Fund) are not getting any attention.....all the while these organizations are affecting policy changes that affect the way we live.

All Governments are increasingly disempowered by the growing power and influence of global corporate businesses exerted through these organisations and others. Corporate business used to influence the US Government but now (check out the leading figures in the Bush Administration) they ARE the US Government.

Governments are afraid to confront global corporations for fear they will take their capital, investments (and hence jobs) elsewhere - in fact global corporations increasingly invite countries to bid for their corporate investment. Needless to say, the bidder offering least regulation, least costs and least taxation wins.

Profits of course are repatriated but typically little tax is paid anywhere, resulting in private wealth and public squalor.

The need to employ labour used to act as a form of taxation on business and offered a means of distributing wealth and providing an income to the greater proportion of the population. Automation has led to a progressive - ever more rapid - decline in the need for labour and massively boosted retained revenue/profit - some of which is distributed to shareholders.

This further increases the disparity in income and wealth between the rich and poor - an ever declining proportion of the population hold the vast majority of the wealth and ever increasing proportion of the population become relatively and absolutely poorer; and fewer and fewer have the opportunity to earn a living wage with ever greater job insecurity.

'They' call this 'triumph' of free market capitalism - the new global economic orthodoxy - progress.

Undemocratic decisions are being made behind the scenes; power and enormous amounts of money are at stake. Huge companies want to turn farming into big agribusinesses - and are doing so, buying up the smaller farms that are no longer economic to run.

Maff's FMD culling policy is relevant here. David King has said publicly that we may lose up to "50%" of the livestock in this country. Can the smaller farmer remain independent? Or are farmers who still have a feel for the land and are the traditional custodians of the British Countryside (not prairies) being squeezed out of business?


"We talk desperately about science, economics, politics - anything rather than acknowledge it is human insanity that has brought this on and sustains it."

What about the fundamentals here? Hilary Peters, a front-line campaigner against the "post-code"slaughter, a writer and expert on gardens and city farms, who has travelled throughout Britain visiting, writing and thinking, offers the following revolutionary thoughts:
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Centre for Environment and Society University of Essex Research Programmes

Policies for a more sustainable agriculture

Regenerating Agriculture Policies and Practice for Sustainability and Self-Reliance by Jules Pretty - Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Programme at the International Institute for Environment and Development.

'Sure to become an instant classic. It will bridge the gap between technical and social perspectives, win over doubters and should encourage greater confidence and investment in more sustainable agricultural systems'


June 24 Coleen on "selling hot cakes"

Email from David June 23
We need a serious debate on globalisation which I say is destroying/undermining our prices.

...with addition by Val C "..I would go further and say that we have to cut out the middle man. "Farmers First" was formed with that in mind. They have bought an abattoir in the Midlands and are processing and selling members' lambs through it. Their ultimate goal is to have a chain of farmer-owned supermarkets throughout the Country and I would imagine that this FMD fiasco will give them a tremendous boost towards achieving that."

Addition from Maggie In the next village we have a farmer who has done just this and he markets his own produce and the place is well supported. He markets a quality product and gives first class user friendly service - he has also awards for his pies and sausage. There are at least six men or more working full time at the meat counter and a further two in the grocery dept. where he sells produce from other suppliers.

addition from Penny..Price is often the dictating factor.

reply from Val! The biggest problem is the lack of slaughtering capacity. If our local abattoir closed, as so many have, it will make it uneconomic....


Read about the problems of dairy farming today

CHANNEL 4 NEWS SPECIAL REPORTS Bove in Quebec Broadcast: May 15, 2001 Reporter: Kirsty Lang
Channel 4 news report (May)
Jose Bove: "Farming was beginning to be the symbol of the resistance against globalisation. Because farming is the thing we do in each place all over the world." In August 1999 a group of French farmers led by Jose Bove dismantled a Macdonald's restaurant under construction in his home town of Millau. For Bove, Macdonald's represents the industrialisation of food production. The burgers taste the same whether you live in France, Britain or China. Bove's message is that the global standardisation of food is bad for our taste buds and bad for our health. His subsequent imprisonment made him a national hero in France and the first martyr of the new anti-globalisation movement. Ironically it was a group of AMERICAN farmers who paid his bail...

José Bové plans a visit to London. (Sunday Times)to protest against the "perversion" of British agricultural policy

June 12 - watch what happens outside NFU in Shaftsbury Avenue - or be there yourself - Bové battles against big agribusiness

M.Bové, a sheep farmer in France, has become an influential figure in the fight to reclaim farming for real farmers .."Agriculture is a perfect illustration of this type of logic, which pervades every facet of food production. Agricultural production has now become agro-industry. From the farmers who formed their small cooperatives, we have seen a conversion to the firms who have rationalized their systems of production in order to maximize profits on their investments."

read more

Journalist and farmer Jonathan Miller's thoughts on the future

We concern ourselves with ruralism and not solely agriculture

We stand for the introduction of truth into rural debates

We stand for the removal of UK and EU policies that do harm to the rural space

We are neither pro nor anti EU but pro sanity in European policies and eager to work with friends in Europe and elsewhere to develop and support positions

We develop fresh alternatives/proposals to address those rural problems of concern to our members - everything from animal welfare to rural telecoms, as our organisation develops. We use the net itself to project ourselves with a web page on which we publish open letters to ministers and other documentation.

We aim to start this for a mimimus budget and to grow it on the basis of a broad base of support

Some kind of administrator is needed to manage the mailing lists

And some kind of editor to manage the website and what is likely to become a number of discussion groups

The organisation ought to be as flat as possible - we have no money and the flatter it stays the more democratic we will be

We need a web wizard who can pull all of this together into a sizzling site that is clear and easy to use and which is under our own URL rather than someone else's.

I presume we will also want to control our own discussion groups (with back-up to keep them going!)

We are going to have to develop web pages, create and maintain mailing lists, and many more tasks.

Can we do this 'virtually' using a dispersed electronic headquarters rather than a single physical one? It would be a big test. It would mean we all had a 'desk' at the virtual hq. We would have to somehow sort out who would do what.

Received from Inbox May 15th

Following FMD we are expected to diversify - The Government have come up with loads of money to help the rural community who "will not be forgotten" One Idea is the rather grandly named (Quote)

The Processing and Marketing Grant - (PMG) is aimed at developing processing facilities for primary agricultural products in England for the benefit of processors and producers of the raw material

If that little lot confuses you. They really mean turning dead animals into food or similar

(Next Quote)

PMGs are awarded on a competitive basis i.e. only the best application receive grants within the available budget To be considered for a grant, projects must cost at least £70,000

Awards may be for up to 30% of eligible project cost, with a maximum grant of £1,200,000

You find a minimum of £49,000!

Now I don't know how you out there in cyber land are doing, but after many, maany weeks of selling nothing but a few duck eggs. I'd be lucky to find £49 to spare. and in view of my reduced circumstances would find it difficult, to furnish a loan, never mind finding a bank manager who would be foolhardy enough to provide the wherewithal to a customer who is finding it difficult to pay the electricity bill So I can wholly sympathise with my chum who married with a young family, desperately wants to move on and do something else. still with the agri-business, which he loves.

He is almost there with his plans to diversify and needs a piddling £5000 to get his scheme up and running. With feed bill escalating his overdraft, which FMD compensation would not cover, even if he caught the disease, which he has not, and little or no income there is more chance of hens growing teeth than him diversifying. The big producer is probably going to benefit but. Once again it seem like the little fella IS forgotten in our country What is he supposed to do????


email from David June 23

Someone sent me the article below. Without political support, it is difficult to see the point in working harder and harder for less and less. The only way to make a living is to stop selling a commodity. We MUST take control of marketing and sell everything through three or four farmer owned co-operatives. The means of determining price has got to be re-established to stop the nonsense of being forced to accept whatever cheque the processor (of meat and milk) decides to give us).

We need a serious debate on globalisation which I say is destroying/undermining our prices. The NFU are allowing the Government to destroy us.

The NFU knew NOTHING of the imminent DEFRA but Ben Gill was welcoming it a couple of hrs after it was announced. Farmers want to see an end to unrestricted globalisation which has brought us disease and poverty. I am angry that the NFU has not got a grasp and will support a new union that represents sustainable agriculture rather than presiding over the demise of our industry.

David
Exploited & disappointed livestock farmer


Peter Hetherington
Friday June 22, 2001 The Guardian

Blair ditches the farmers

At one time, Labour based its appeal for national unity on the importance of the countryside. When there was a huge, unionised workforce on the land, Clement Attlee was proud of the party's rural roots. His agriculture minister, the Yorkshireman Tom Williams, defended field sports on the grounds that country people had earned the right to be trusted in the management of the animal kingdom and the entire Labour front bench voted for hunting.

How times change. Farm workers are now thinner on the ground than pitmen and agriculture accounts for just 1% of GDP. It has taken New Labour some time to realise that it owes a once-thriving industry few favours.

Pouring billions into farming, the last great bastion of subsidy, has won Tony Blair little ground. They still vote Tory in the old shires, although the number of farmers has declined by 20,000 in five years to about 350,000. It is certain to fall much lower in the aftermath of the smouldering foot and mouth crisis.

Agriculture is now without a dedicated ministry for the first time and Blair, bruised by skirmishes with farmers over the past few months, wants his new secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) to bring the industry to heel.

Pressure is growing on Margaret Beckett to end the feather-bedding of farmers and support other countryside industries with the potential for growth.

Mr Blair's case has been strengthened by the chairman of the government's countryside agency, Ewen Cameron, a Somerset landowner. He believes Britain should take a lead in Europe by pressing for a swift scaling down of EU agricultural subsidies so that more cash can be pumped into the wider, long-suffering rural economy.

Pressure is also coming from other unexpected quarters. The National Farmers' Union might be alarmed by the growing band of country folk favouring widespread reform. But its former chief economist, Sean Ricard, has little sympathy with the complaints of his former employers. Agriculture, he says, has to finally address reality.

"After 50 years of subsidies, farming is the most hope lessly inefficient and uncommercial sector of the whole economy," he thunders.

What's the point, argues Ricard, of continuing to prop up an industry which - like older (unsubsidised) manufacturing sectors - can never employ more workers and is destined to decline further? Far better, he says, to gradually withdraw subsidies and let farming find its own level in the market place.

Agricultural support accounts for a third of the annual farming income of #15bn. But even that underestimates the real position. Remove unsubsidised sectors, like pigs and potatoes, from the equation and that subsidy is closer to 50%.

Ricard, now at Cranfield Business School, is not alone in feeling that other rural businesses, with greater potential for growth, deserve more support.

"You could take a fraction of that #5bn annual support the farmers get, say #1bn; put that into another countryside scheme and people would really notice the difference," he says.

In a new analysis, one of the country's foremost countryside institutes, Newcastle University's centre for rural economy, underlines the mis-match between farming subsidy and support for the wider rural economy Tourism, for example, accounts for 4% of GDP, four times more than farming and employs 7% of the workforce, against 1.5% in farming. It stands to lose #5bn this year as a result of foot and mouth. Farming, by comparison, has lost about #775m but could get #1bn in compensation. The tourism industry has been given only #18m so far, although businesses have to cross a bureaucratic minefield before they get any government help.

Margaret Beckett at Defra faces one of the most challenging jobs in the government. She must bringing a note of realism to an industry cushioned by the old ministry of agriculture which, in the minds of critics, was little more than an appendage of the National Farmers' Union.

This week she travelled to Luxembourg for her first appearance on the EU stage and began making the alliances necessary to finally bring meaningful reform to the common agricultural policy (CAP), which determines most of the generous subsidies.

She has spoken boldly of developing a new strategy for rural England to give people hope. But it is a far cry from the postwar Labour government. Now there is little trust between an industry still crying out for more cash and a government which feels the time is right to change course in the countryside.

Beckett's task will not be made easier in the aftermath of a foot and mouth crisis which has punched such a great hole in the rural economy that the government's own tourism quango reckons that about 150,000 jobs and 3,000 smaller firms are under threat.

Beckett's immediate priority must be to begin switching subsidies away from farming - "modulation" in EU jargon - to protect the environment and support alternative rural businesses. Even within the current CAP regime, she has some room for manoeuvre. Ministers can divert up to 20% of farming subsidies to other rural projects. So far - unlike France, for instance - it is well below that level.

Nevertheless, Sean Ricard believes it is far more likely that the new department will pursue "modulation" than its ministry predecessor.

"In the past, only the Ministry of Agriculture controlled the agenda and while others suggested - pleaded - at the end of the day, Maff and its cosy relationship with the farmers would have prevented it."

Peter Hetherington is the Guardian's regional affairs editor TOP

addition by Val C Hi David

I agree with you 100% but I would go further and say that we have to cut out the middle man. "Farmers First" was formed with that in mind. They have bought an abattoir in the Midlands and are processing and selling members' lambs through it. Their ultimate goal is to have a chain of farmer-owned supermarkets throughout the Country an I would imagine that this FMD fiasco will give them a tremendous boost towards achieving that. The trouble is that British farmers, unlike the French, for example, have always been so bad at co-operating and are always suspicious of one another. Terry B, a neighbour of mine and a leading light in the venture, has said that people are often more concerned about what he is getting out of it than they are about what he is doing. In my view, small-minded people like this deserve to go to the wall. What we desperately need is someone to organise us and the right person would be worth any amount of money!

As far as the market place is concerned, I have been involved in direct selling for some years. There is a certain amount of money being thrown at this, particularly here in Wales and I have attended various meetings on the subject. A study done in the Brecon Beacons showed that there is a vast untapped market on the doorstep. The tourist industry would much prefer to use local produce but there was simply not the continuity of supply. What a ridiculous situation! But I would imagine the story is similar all over the UK. Quite how we organise ourselves to bridge that gap, I am not sure but I think we're going to have to try. I think there is money available but it is the organisation and the expertise which are lacking.

I know several people round here who go up to London once or twice a week with a refrigerated van, taking all manner of produce to the hotel and restaurant trade. These are individuals, not experts, who have seen that there is a huge market for quality produce direct from the producer. I'm not saying that everything we produce could be marketed like that but I'm sure a fair proportion could, particularly when they've finished decimating our industry.

Val C

Val, Addendum from Penny

I totally agree with your message re the importance of local selling. Not sure about Farmers First though. They were set up as a division of Farmers Ferry - a company established solely to export live animals to the continent.

Also the situation re the tourist industry is not so clear cut, sadly. Talking to my local butcher (also in Wales) he tells me that hardly any of the bed & breakfast places buy local meat - they prefer to buy more cheaply from an importer. Price is often the dictating factor.

Farmers Markets seem to be on the increase and must be a step in the right direction.

Penny

reply from Val! Surely then, any move on their part (Farmers First) to establish or expand the home market, or the export of meat rather than live animals should be welcomed, don't you think?

Well I sell Jersey Cream to about 30 outlets, mainly hotels and restaurants, at a considerable premium to the milkman's cream and I find that they really appreciate the product. Furthermore, I only deliver twice a week and they are prepared to live with this too, once they get organised. Similarly I sell Gloucester Old Spot Pork to the same people - again at a premium. They put it on their menus as being local and it just 'flies out'. When you think about it, the cost of the food is actually a very small proportion of the cost of running a restaurant and I think many of the enlightened ones realize that the benefit they gain from paying attention to quality is enormous. And when tourists come to Wales, for example, they WANT local food. I think the B&B's you mention are very short sighted - either that or they are aiming at the bottom end of the market. The biggest problem is the lack of slaughtering capacity. If our local abattoir closed, as so many have, it will make it uneconomic. But I think I heard Michael Meacher say he was committed to doing something about this but I wonder whether Europe will let him!

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Maggie says, In the next village we have a farmer who has done just this and he markets his own produce and the place is well supported. He markets a quality product and gives first class user friendly service - he has also awards for his pies and sausage. There are at least six men or more working full time at the meat counter and a further two in the grocery dept. where he sells produce from other suppliers.

As to the personality problem. Unfortunately it seems to be a national trait in some of the farming community to be greedy, grasping and suspicious of anyone who looks to be doing better than they are.

Farmers, do not make the same mistake that the British textile industry did. Work up to a quality not down to a price. Our textile industry did the later and is now non existent whilst the Germans, Portugese and Italians have a thriving textile industry by striving for quality at a good price.

I have as you have perhaps gathered connections with both farming and the now defunct textile industry. I watched with pride as my Father ran up the flag denoting the Queens Award for Industry and the workforce celebrated. Some time later, I cried along with him as I watched everything broken up and sold off. I cried with him for the honest workforce who had never ever found a need to withdrawn their labour despite the fact that textile workers were never highly paid, men and women who once even worked without pay for a fortnight to get sufficient cash flow to keep the place going. Ten years later now six years gone I find that words fail me when I think of the silent crowd - those same men - who came to pay their respects to my Father Ronnie. They were all let down by a government who took us into the Common Market and promised us a market for our cloth. We were taken in as prospective customers not producers. Why was it that most of our newest machinery ended up in Germany and France? (The old went out to the Far East)

We must not allow our farmers to go the same way.

We were once world leaders in quality products. What has happened to us?

Our industries have gone, coal, steel, textiles, motor industry we have even flogged off Rolls Royce and Land Rover the best 4X4 by far. What are we? One thing is for sure, a little general education has meant that we all want to wear white jackets instead of overalls, in fact we want to forget about manual work altogether. Unfortunately someone must work and produce something for there is a limit to how many people can be parasitic on an ever diminishing workforce. If we do not produce or make anything what do we run the National Health Service with? Who pays for the education system? Certainly not this mob of Champagne Socialists. Ghandi made a point of demonstrating that however humble work was it was not demeaning or diminishing.

One thing about living and working alongside and with animals one can never forget one's origins they make quite sure of that!

Sorry about that. My family would say 'Hey hey Mum's on her soap box again'

Let us keep Britain Farming

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Coleen on "selling hot cakes"

This is just one very small example of how home grown/produced products sell like hot cakes.

One of the farmers' wives diversified into home baking (and what beautiful cakes they are) made with butter just how cakes should be. She cannot produce enough - people come from away miles to buy them - and she has even started supplying the local shop in the town. They also sell their own 'free range eggs' again they cannot meet the demand. Before they lost their Jersey Herd they would have people asking did they do cheese and yoghurts and their own butter - which they did not. There was a small family butcher somewhere in the North East being interviewed - saying he only sold locally produced meat and business was booming - or it was before this. I know I have asked this question before (and was told it was because people will not pay for quality) but why can we not have more of a choice and choose if we want to buy our own grown and raised British produce. It does seem ludicrous that we cannot buy more British products - unless we happen to live near to someone who will buy and sell local meats/veg etc. Where has that good old fashioned word 'choice' gone.

Coleen TOP

neo-liberalism

: the belief in elimination of governmental regulation and freeing of investors and corporations to do as they like.

Neo-liberal advocates claim these steps create overall prosperity: the rich get richer and create jobs for the rest of us.

No industrialized society developed through such policies  U.S. businesses were protected from foreign competition in the 19th century, as were those of more recent "successes" like South Korea.

Indeed, faith in the "free market" is in such contradiction to history and statistical evidence that it takes on a dogmatic, mystical character. The models ideal is even sometimes referred to as "the invisible hand": in markets free to respond to the law of supply and demand, goods will be provided to all buyers at the fairest prices, and sellers will make fair profits, as if a divine being were apportioning everything fairly

 In the 1970s, market fundamentalism took hold in some influential circles. "Free trade" and the "invisible hand" work best for those who already have resources and power  the corporations which can pressure governments to make concessions on their minimum wage laws or intimidate a workforce to vote against a union, for example, by threatening to move their facilities elsewhere. The losers -- those with little or no power and few resources to exploit the new "freedom"-- workers, the unemployed, and people (especially women) in countries with less "developed" economies.

The FTAA would allow multinational corporations to relocate facilities almost anywhere in the hemisphere and to sue governments which attempt to limit their profits (through insisting on environmental protections, for example). Workers in the Americas, and especially Latin America, would find their right to organize unions increasingly denied, and their attempts to cross borders still illegal  and no international tribunal would hear their cases.

 With the rise of Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in the U.S. in 1980, neo-liberals secured control at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank just as countries in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia were entering a debt crisis. The IMF and World Bank leapt into a new role: overseeing the economic plans and finance ministries of most of the Global South. They accomplished this by lending money when no one else would, and attaching economic reform conditions to loans (structural adjustment programs).

The tenets of structural adjustment  elimination of subsidies for basic foods and services, privatization of state-owned companies, trade liberalization (eliminating taxes and tariffs on imports), re-orientation from subsistence economies to export production (cheap labor and raw commodities), cuts in social spending, currency devaluation, and "labor flexibility" (layoffs and neglect of minimum wage laws)  became the rules of the day, and remain so now, 20 years later

 After structural adjustment succeeds in opening up countries to cash cropping (growing coffee or flowers, say, for export instead of food) and to sweatshops producing goods for wealthy countries, the multinational corporations mounted pressure for more market-opening measures and more legal security for the rights of investors.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1995 to lock in and enforce the "reforms" ordered by the IMF and World Bank. Now privatization, liberalization, and the other rules would not only be conditions agreed to in order to get loans, but pre-conditions in order to trade on the world market.

 The programs of the IMF and World Bank clear the landscape for companies and banks from the North to make money in Southern countries.

Little of the wealth generated stays in the country where its produced, though the fact of its being produced there makes statistics like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) look better. In fact, living standards are slipping in most countries with IMF/World Bank programs, and debt levels have increased substantially. Forty-nine countries now have lower real per capita income than they did in the mid-1970s.

 The FTAA, with its secrecy, lack of transparency, and rules protecting corporate rights over peoples rights, would continue the principles for governing the global economy established by the IMF and World Bank. Like the WTO, it codifies the rules of structural adjustment and provides enforcement mechanisms.

 The just world that the 50 Years Is Enough Network and many others fighting for justice envision is one where economic policy is dictated not by institutions in Washington or Geneva, or by treaties governments are coerced to sign through fear of losing all trade relations, but rather by the people of each country through democratic processes. We believe that food security, health, education, human and workers rights, and cooperation are the priorities, not cash crops, privatization, and corporate profits. This requires taming the powers of financial institutions, reining in the reach of trade treaties, and strengthening and broadening the power of civil society in every country.

These notes come from www.50years.org

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