July 2001

[Week 30 · July 23rd - July 29th, 2001]

Charles' 'Ray of Hope' Plea

Speaking to two hundred business leaders on Tuesday, Prince Charles called on the business community to provide a 'ray of hope' to our rural communites. Backing this up was an article in The Times in which the Prince suggests that business should source local foodstuffs, that pubs could take on additional functions [such as banking and retailing], and that local entrepreneurs and market towns need to be revived.

A furore started the week after reports in the Telegraph that Tony Blair had ordered a clampdown on FMD clean-up work after it was revealed that the bill was costing 2m/day. Costs were apparently averaging 100,000+ for each English farm affected, while the average bill in Scotland is about one third of this figure. And on Tuesday an article in The Independent suggested that the government believes that in some cases money designated for disinfecting farms has been used by farmers to replace machinery rather than for repairs. Later in the week the government seemed to backtrack on its initial claims, saying that the 100,000 figure was an upper limit not the average.

Embattled M&S is to use only free-range eggs in its own brand food products according to a report in The Times.

In an effort to prevent misleading claims in the promotion of organic foods the Advertising Standards Authority has issued new guidelines for advertisers.

Globalfarmers, the Edinburgh-based internet trading company which we mentioned had hit the decks a few months ago, has found a saviour in the form of ADAS.

[Week 29 · July 16th - 22nd, 2001]

Environment-Friendly Farming

On Tuesday [July 17th] the RSPB held a conference in London in which the organisation's chief executive, Graham Wynne, outlined a new model for farm support, but one based around environmental issues. Under the proposed scheme there would be a basic hectarage payment where the farmer undertook environmental audits, while further environment or landscape-enhancing work undertaken would receiving additional payments. Export subsidies and price support [as under CAP] would be abolished.

Provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive reveal that 53 people died in farming accidents last year [to April 2001], a 20% rise on the previous year.

  [Week 29 · July 9th - 15th, 2001]

Stress on the FMD Frontline

The North and East Devon Health Authority and Devon County Council have published a report on the mental health of its rural communities subsequent to FMD, and suggests there will be an increase in suicides among farming families. Farm workers and those in the seasonally dependent tourist industry are also identified as possibly at risk. A booklet - 'Coping with Stress' - which helps identify symptoms of stress and where to access help is being distributed widely among those at risk.

The Country Land & Business Association [CLA] unveiled its thoughts on how farmers can play their part in minimising global warming in a new report entitled: 'Climate Change and the Rural Economy'. Flood-control management, renewable energy and biomass crops to replace fossil fuels, wildlife conservation, on-farm reservoirs to store winter rainfall, and support for carbon sink areas are among the areas up for discussion.

DEFRA was getting into gear this week to help farmers beyond the FMD culls that have hit their holdings with the rolling out of a business advice programme. Up to five days worth of free business advice is on offer in an attempt to help those farmers affected by FMD look at how they can revitalise and renew their businesses.

[Week 27 · July 2nd - 8th, 2001]

Conflicting Stories

Not so very long ago there were worries that the pyres burning FMD carcasses were capable of belching out carcinogens and other nasty chemicals that might affect milk produced by herds close to those pyres. Thankfully this week the Food Standards Agency announced that initial results from more recent tests it has been undertaking on everything from milk and butter to hen eggs, soil and grass show there is no risk to public health.

There was also news this week that England's arable farmers will be paid to create wildlife habitats under an extention of the Arable Stewardship Scheme [assuming the EU Commission approval] which has been piloted for a several years in a couple of regions and shown significant wildlife improvements. By way of example, from next January farmers could receive payments for leaving stubble over the winter period to provide food for birds or by the dispersal of wild flower seeds.

Scottish Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie announced on Thursday [July 5th] that some of Scotland's livestock markets to the north of the country's FMD infected zones could be back in business in the autumn.

A study by The Institute of Chartered Accountants has revealed a gloomy picture for the future of Britain's family farms.... profits down 4% year on year, diversification not bringing in the rewards it should [B&B entreprises can be more labour intensive than farming itself], and 40% of family farms not having a succession plan. The survey base was 260 farms.

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