Bill Telfer column Nov 25 2002

By Bill Telfer, The Journal

It comes as no surprise to anyone at the sharp end of the farming industry
that Defra has merited only a "very poor" on the reports of its efforts.

We have seen from day one just how unfocused and ignorant of the real job in
hand it actually is.

One of the many mistakes which never make the non-farming press has recently
come to light. I complained many times in the past about the fact that we
pour far more money into the EU than we ever get out.

Well, Defra has just missed a chance to repatriate at least some of it.

There is, within the EU, a fund to help fight animal disease, and given what
we have suffered in that respect over the last few years, I'd have thought
that any help in that direction would have been very welcome.

The United Kingdom was the only state not to apply for funds which are said
to have been worth £5m.

Incidentally, the French received £20m and Ireland over £4m.

A Defra spokesman admitted: "We did not make the deadline of June 1. We
forgot about it."

As one of the departments stated key objectives for 2003 was tackling animal
disease, someone definitely needs to stand in the corner wearing the dunces

I bet it was interesting at headquarters when the omission was discovered
while all around claimed "It wasn't my fault".

Meanwhile, Defra has released more details of the review of its rural policy
to be undertaken by Lord Haskins, together with a small team of officials.
It certainly needs a review.

I still haven't forgotten their stand at the Royal Show this year where
those manning it knew nothing about farming but were hired from an agency,
while some of them demonstrated how to make paper sacks into papier mache.

I see they have been castigated for not putting farming and food production
higher up their agenda.

I'm not surprised.

They take advice from far too many organisations. One has only to look at
the spokespersons from non-productive quarters who welcome every swing away
from sustainable farming.

If we are to believe a statement made in Parliament, there are actually 65
different organisations advising Defra. No wonder it doesn't know where
they're going.

I'm very disappointed to read that the 20-day stand-still rule on livestock
movement is to stay in place, apparently at the behest of vets working in
the Ministry.

It seems things have changed little over the years.

About 20 years ago I was very heavily involved with those in charge of that
department and spent many hours at their headquarters at Tolworth.

Even then theory reigned. Most of those I dealt with had no practical
experience whatever. I could write a book about the frustrations.

Perhaps we should move the Scottish Border back to Hadrian's Wall.

Scottish movement restrictions are much more sensible.