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May 2001

[Week 22 · May28th - June 3rd, 2001]

Show Cancellation

According to the Ananova website Tony Blair believes there must be a review of farming following the wave of diseases which have beset the industry.

The three-day Great Yorkshire Show, which is held at Harrogate, has fallen victim to the FMD outbreak and been cancelled this year.

There was also news this week that the Northumbrian farmer at the centre of the original FMD outbreak is to be prosecuted. The charges may include using unprocessed pigswill, causing unnecessary suffering to pigs on his Heddon-on-the-Wall farm, and failing to notify the authorities of the disease.


[Week 21 · May 21st - 27th, 2001]

Dales FMD Outbreak

There are fears this week that the outbreak of FMD in the Settle area could be the start of a new wave of the disease, and which looks to have been possibly present in the infected animals for several weeks. There has been some anger about the delay in slaughtering Settle-centric flocks. On Thursday [May 24th] Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, visited Settle and met representatives of the local farming industry.

There were also worries surfacing this week that in the first few weeks of the FMD outbreak thousands of cattle at risk from BSE infection may have been included in burial pits with potential for fluids from the decomposing carcasses entering the water table.

The East of England Development Agency is providing 30,000 grant to help train farmers and farmworkers in IT skills.


[Week 20 · May 14th - 24th, 2001]

Colorado Beetle Alert

The UK is on Colorado Beetle watch. MAFF has issued its alert of this 'notifiable' pest which can devastate potato crops. A single female beetle can establish a breeding colony. Looking a bit like a large ladybird an adult Colorado Beetle [about 1cm in length] has ten alternating yellow and black stripes which run the length of its back.

Monday's Guardian carried an article in which it reported that Britain could soon be the largest consumer of organic food, fuelled largely by our concerns over healthy eating, and GM and food scares. The information was part of research carried out by Datamonitor, a market research organisation.

Next day the Financial Times reported that rural development experts fear that those working in the farming community do not have the necessary skills to benefit from the service economy jobs that are already, and likely to continue to be, available.

Following reports the other week that the Henry Doubleday Research Association would possibly lose its much prized organic status if genetically modified maize trials took place some two miles away, the RSPB announced this week that if the trial proceeds it would be resign from Scientific Steering Committee which advises on GM matters.

  [Week 19 · May 7th - 13th, 2001]

More Help on the Way

On Tuesday [May 8th] Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, announced a advice package of 15m to assist farmers post-FMD. Farmers will be able to get help on applying for marketing grants, restocking, local food promotion and free business advice. However there were claims that this funding was simply 'repackaged cash'.

The FMD outbreak took on a bitter twist this week when The Times carried an interview with the President of the NFU, Ben Gill, in which he claims to have been at the end of a dirty tricks campaign by government officials and the wealthier land-owning community - who preferred the livestock FMD vaccination strategy.

A report this week from English Nature on the challenges of our upland habitats has called for the government to withdraw subsidies from hill farmers who are damaging the upland environment. As a result of subsidies, apparently between 1980 and 2000 the number of ewes on English uplands rose by 35%, with some hills now overgrazed and not environmentally sustainable. Reform of these EU subsidies is called for.

On Friday [May 11th] legislation was passed that provides rate relief [subject to some conditions] for new non-agricultural businesses set up on farms. This should be a welcome help to those farmers trying to diversify their businesses. There are also some amendments to the village shop rate relief scheme allowing other small rural businesses to benefit. Councils may up the rate relief to 100% at their discretion.


[Week 18 · Apr. 30th - May 6th, 2001]

Aid for Rural Economy

The government has announced 43m of aid for market towns which have economically suffered as a consequence of FMD. About 50 towns - which could receive up to 1m - have been identified, with another 30 towns to be announced in the future.

The money is part of the 100m package detailed in the government's Rural White Paper. Interestingly, the Countryside Agency launched a website this week aimed at helping market towns exploit opportunities.

In the battle for increased milk prices it looks as if Express Dairies may offer a price rise of 2p/litre. This follows a 1.8p/litre price rise by the Milk Group last week.

The President of the Scottish NFU, Jim Walker, has called for much tougher controls on the import of foreign meat products; which is thought by many to have been the original source of the current UK FMD outbreak.


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