Monthly Archives: February 2021

Watching the world burn

On the twelfth of February (or thereabouts, as the land agents say) a friend of mine posted a quite spectacular photo of a fire on Dartmoor. The difficulty is that this is an accident waiting to happen. Winter wildfires are not unusual. At the same time firefighters were tackling a fire near the Cogra Moss reservoir, in West Cumbria (hence the photo from one of our local papers.) In Scotland the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was called to reports of a wildfires on the islands of Benbecula, Harris and Lewis.

I heard on the radio a senior Scots fire officer discussing the Scots cases. This happened whilst much of the country was covered in quite deep snow. (Canadians, you would not have bothered clearing the drive) The fire officer commented that it was not uncommon for his men to drive through snow on their way to tackle these fires.

He pointed out that the basic problem is that whilst we think of our winters as being wet, in reality things can get very dry. That is something I can empathise with. Here in our bit of Cumbria, if we relied on spring sunshine to dry the ground out, we might be able to travel on much of our land by August. What saves us are those easterly winds we often get in February. They’re cold, they can cause problems with freezing and wind-chill. But often they’re not quite freezing and they are very drying. They’re not fun to live through but we need them.

I remember one year when they forgot to stop. We got to the start of May and grass on the east facing slopes was thin, blue and crispy. It crunched as you walked over it. Grass on lee slopes, facing west, had grown perfectly normally. You could see the difference between different areas in the same field. That was exceptional and gives you an idea of what it’s like when you have too much of a good thing.

Our moorland fires are due to the grass and foliage on them drying out in the easterly winds. Whilst a fortnight before, everything could have been sodden, now it’s tinder dry. So people who wouldn’t even think of discarding a cigarette end or similar in summer, don’t see it as a problem in February.

And then there’s the problem of why we have too much grass and foliage. Back in the 1970s and 1980s the EU subsidy systems were based on the numbers of sheep you had. There was a headage payment. As there was virtually no profit in sheep, people were keeping numbers just for the subsidy. Indeed I heard of one outfit where they were buying cull ewes, putting them on rough ground and not tupping them. The last thing they wanted was these ewes lambing. Lambing sheep, looking after lambs etc was just a cost. They were doing it purely for the headage payments the EU was paying. This led to overgrazing, which damaged the peat and reduced the heather.
In the 1990s these schemes were stopped, and indeed a lot of environmental schemes were started with the aim of getting things back to what they had been. Now those in charge are beginning to admit that this hasn’t worked. At the upper levels, the admission has largely been inadvertent and accidental. It came when the government wanted to ‘roll over’ environmental schemes so farmers whose scheme ‘ran out’ before the new system was ready wouldn’t be left without support for their environmental work. Embarrassingly some contracts cannot be rolled over. This is because the scheme hasn’t worked and standard government accounting procedures forbid rolling over of schemes that aren’t working. This is not unreasonable.

Now if a scheme doesn’t work because a farmer hasn’t keep their side of the bargain, the money is just clawed back. But these didn’t work because the designers of the scheme got it wrong. In many cases the farming industry told them they’d got it wrong at the time, but what do we know. After all, we’re not experts.

The trouble was that a lot of ‘experts’ designing these schemes assumed that if you had a landscape of peatland and heather which had been overgrazed by sheep, then all you needed to do to help that landscape recover was to remove the sheep.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work. If you massively understock, then you get an entirely different landscape. On Dartmoor the environmental schemes have produced large areas of a grass known as Purple Moor Grass (Latin name is Molinia). Apparently there are thousands of hectares of this stuff, it forms large tussocks which are hard to walk through. Molinia has thrived because whilst cattle find it very palatable between May and July, sheep hate it and avoid areas dominated by it. After July, cattle won’t bother with it either.

In theory the fact that cattle will eat it should be the answer to the problem. Stock the moors heavily with cattle and they’ll start hammering the Molinia and if you work carefully (perhaps with fencing and similar) you could protect the peat and encourage the heather. It’s a pity that hill cattle aren’t economically viable isn’t it. Even if they were, the difficult is you have to feed them for twelve months, not just three. So really you’d need to have somebody buying all the big rough bullocks they could find, running them across Dartmoor, making sure to keep them on the Molinia infested areas, and then selling them on at the start of August. You might have to keep it up for a few years but it would probably work as part of an integrated management system.

Except it would break down because nobody outside the area would buy the cattle when you wanted to sell them because of the risks of bovine TB, so the cattle would need to be finished locally. I suspect it would be cheaper if you had farmers set up the system, working with environmentalists and then just work out how much the farmers lose on it and cover their costs.

But unless you do something, you’ll have the risk of fire every winter, as this Molinia (and don’t forget the gorse as well) dries out and then burns.

The burning grass isn’t as bad as it can get. When it gets really bad is when the peat catches fire. Now winter fires, where the peat should be wet and is with any luck frozen, are hopefully less likely to cause the peat to burn that the summer fires. But once the peat starts burning, then you get major environmental impacts. In 2019 twenty-two square miles of blanket bog in the Flow Country, between Caithness and Sutherland in Scotland, burned. The WWF Scotland study claimed 700,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent was released into the atmosphere as a result. Apparently this was pretty much the same amount released across the rest of Scotland during the same period.

Just to add to your problems, once a peat hag starts burning it can quite literally keep smouldering away for years ready to flare up in the next summer. Planting trees under these circumstances prevents nothing, as the trees can burn as well.

Obviously Dartmoor, Cumbria and the Western Isles are different areas, but the problems have largely been caused by understocking. It’s been discovered that merely taking sheep off a fell doesn’t return the fell to what it used to be. This isn’t surprising, what it used to be was the result of a management system, not the result of abandonment. Rather than abandoning the land you have to reintroduce the management system which created the environment you want.
Now it’s not as if this is something that has crept up on us without warning. During 2001 and the FMD outbreak, there were a lot of summer fires in Cumbria because there were no sheep to eat off the grass. With the fells being understocked the amount of forage left uneaten simply increases. On Dartmoor it does so because the Molinia spreads, in other areas there are other causes but the root cause tends to be under-grazing.

So if with climate change we are going for hotter, drier, summers, then summer fires on the fells look like being a regular occurrence, and they will start getting into the peat.

Now the answer is not just put a million more sheep or Dartmoor (or wherever) because that won’t fix it either. After all, sheep won’t eat the Molinia. Not only that but what works for Dartmoor won’t necessarily work for Cumbria. Indeed what works for the valleys in the west of the Lake District may not work for those in the east. So we need somebody to draw up environmental schemes with enough flexibility to do something entirely different in one part of the country to what can be done in others. So schemes that have prescriptive dates or tight conditions everybody has to meet are right out.
Now the fact that the Government can now come up with a bespoke scheme for the UK, rather than having to try and take a scheme which is designed to cover everything from Finland to the Greek Islands, must surely be an advantage. I await with interest to see whether our civil service are up to the job.


There again, what do I know? Speak to the experts!

For this collection of stories, our loyal Border Collie, Sal, is joined by Terry Wogan, Janis Joplin and numerous dairy cows. Meet pheasants, Herdwicks, Border Collies, and the occasional pink teddy bear. Welcome to the world of administrative overload and political incomprehension. All human life, (or at least all that hasn’t already fled screaming for sanctuary) is here.

As a reviewer commented, “Jim Webster’s recollections, reflections and comments, about life as a Farmer, are always worth reading, not only for information, but also for entertainment and shrewd comments about UK government agencies (and politicians).
One of the many observations that demonstrate his wryness, is as follows:
There was a comment in the paper the other day. Here in the UK, clowns are starting to complain that politicians are being called clowns. The clowns point out that being a clown is damned hard work, demands considerable fitness, great timing and the ability to work closely with others as part of a well drilled team!”

Well you try these things.

I’ve always had a memory for stuff that intrigued me at the time. I can still remember one old chap talking with my Dad. They got talking about growing what the old chap called ‘kibble corn’. That to him was mixed wheat and barley. There was nothing fancy about how they (or anybody else round here) grew it back them. They borrowed a seed drill from a neighbour (which had initially been designed to be pulled behind horses and had a metal drawbar fitted to it and the shafts removed. It was a good drill, I’ve used it myself, perhaps ten years after this conversation. After drilling the seed, you just went over the field with spike harrows to get the seed down deep enough, chain harrows to bury everything and then roll it.

At the time they were talking, the combine had arrived so the whole lot went through the combine and into the store. Obviously you had to pick a wheat and a barley variety that ripened at the same time, but he swore by it as a feed. Just a bit richer than barley but not as powerful as wheat.

From memory that chap was the first person I’d see use Propcorn or propionic acid to preserve barley. Normally you’d hope for the sun to dry the crop, but on this side of the country that is often a faint hope. What had happened was that they’d harvested their grain and tipped it in a store they’d made. The old chap would keep an eye on it and even climbed into the store to make sure the grain wasn’t heating up because he’d been a bit doubtful that they’d managed to get it dry enough. Basically with damp grain you can get yeasts, moulds and mycotoxins and all sorts of nasties. The minute he’d spotted it getting warm they’d shovelled it out of the store (by hand) and then augered it back in. But they’d applied Propcorn to it through the auger. This stops the yeasts, moulds and suchlike, and it has the advantage that propionic acid occurs naturally in the bovine rumen. Microbes help ferment the starch to produce lactic and propionic acid which they can use. So a little extra propionic acid in the diet is neither here nor there. But it stinks, stings, makes your eyes water and I’ve worked with nicer stuff. But still we have one chap who had one foot firmly in the pre-war years yet was one of the first in to use new techniques.

Then round here I’ve seen what the Scots call Mashlum. Oats and peas planted simultaneously. They used to reckon on planting six stones of oats and four stones of peas per acre. I’ve seen it growing but wasn’t there to see it harvested. Apparently when the plants are young the sturdy pea plant protects the young oat, and as they grow older the oat provides support to the peas.
Whilst the Scots grew oats and peas, I’m sure the one I saw was barley and peas.

Again you just waited for both to be ripe (which meant you had to pick your varieties carefully) simultaneously and then go in with the combine. To feed it to livestock you’d have to roll the barley. For those who’ve never fed cattle, you roll grain to break the grain kernel. This allows the microbes in the animal’s gut to get access at the central bit of the grain where all the food is. You can tell if you haven’t rolled barley properly, the whole grains will go straight through the animal and come out whole in the muck. Rolling the barley will obviously break up the peas as well which is probably no bad thing.

The Scots used to grind the oats and peas mix to make a flour. This would be used to make a flatbread or pease-bread for human consumption. For anybody who fancies it, you apparently make it by mixing the flour of various cereals and pulses then baking it on a hot plate. Apparently you could add more or less conventional flour to your mashlum, depending on personal taste. You’d mix it with salt and water and bake it into round cakes about an inch thick. They are flat bread as they won’t rise.

The Scots also used it as a cattle feed, so much so that questions were asked in the House of Commons. Hansard records that on Tuesday 4 November 1958, one Arthur Woodburn, Labour MP for Clackmannan and Eastern Stirlingshire asked “The Secretary of State for Scotland (John Maclay, 1st Viscount Muirshiel)

1) What consideration has been given to the substitution of mashlum for hay as the principal crop for feeding stuffs in the expansion of cattle population in the Highlands;

2) Whether his attention has been called to the fact that the cultivation of mashlum instead of hay as the mainstay of cattle feed in the Highlands could increase the possible cattle population up to eight times;

3) And what action he proposes to take in this matter.

The Viscount’s reply was measured. “I am sure that the possibilities of this valuable crop have not been overlooked by the College Advisory Officers in any area in the Highlands where it could be grown successfully. I am advised, however, that mashlum could replace hay only to a limited extent.”

Now you’re far more likely to see the combination grown for silage, if you get it right, it can increase the protein of the silage meaning you need less bought in protein.  

Another thing I’ve seen is ‘pea haulm hay.’ Names vary, the term pea haulm straw is also used. They don’t grow peas round here, but one farmer round here had contacts with a haulier/hay and straw merchant from over on the east side of the country where they did. If you get a few good hot days at the right time of year you could bale your pea haulms. One wagon load was always sent across here. The farmer I knew had fitted hayracks in his cubicle house. (Which is something I’ve never seen before or since) He’d put his bales in the hayracks and just let his milk cows eat what they wanted. What they didn’t eat, they could lie on which meant he never had to bed them.

That’s the joy of farming, it’s amazing what can work for you if you believe in it.


Then again, what do I know? Speak to the experts.

For this collection of stories, our loyal Border Collie, Sal, is joined by Terry Wogan, Janis Joplin and numerous dairy cows. Meet pheasants, Herdwicks, Border Collies, and the occasional pink teddy bear. Welcome to the world of administrative overload and political incomprehension. All human life, (or at least all that hasn’t already fled screaming for sanctuary) is here.

Jim Webster’s recollections, reflections and comments, about life as a Farmer, are always worth reading, not only for information, but also for entertainment and shrewd comments about UK government agencies (and politicians).
One of the many observations that demonstrate his wryness, is as follows:
There was a comment in the paper the other day. Here in the UK, clowns are starting to complain that politicians are being called clowns. The clowns point out that being a clown is damned hard work, demands considerable fitness, great timing and the ability to work closely with others as part of a well drilled team!

Spreading clean water and still getting complaints.

I came across this almost certainly apocryphal story. Apparently a town gets its first 5G phone mast. Almost immediately all sorts of people develop medical conditions. A protest group against the mast is formed. The local council arrange a public meeting and bring in the representatives of the company that erected the mast. In it everybody is waving their doctors notes and going on about all the ailments they are now suffering.

At this point the company representative says gravely, “This does sound bad. If it’s this bad now, what will it be like when we get round to switching the mast on.”

The reason the story strikes home for me was I knew a couple of brothers who were farming on the edge of town. They had one field where, whenever they spread slurry, there were complaints. Official letters arrived, plus phone calls and talk of court cases. Then somebody from the local environmental health department turned up.

He looked at what they were doing, and from what they said, he obviously knew how the job should be done, and as far as he was concerned they were being sensible. So he asked them if they would try something to help them and make his job easier. As he watched they washed out the slurry tanker until it was clean, and then filled it with clean water. He watched them spread the load of clean water over the field, went back to his office and took a note of all the complaints that came flooding in. He then went round all those who had complained and pointed out that they were complaining about a clean tanker spreading clean water, water that came from the water main.

Complaints dried up for a year or two after that. But the Environmental Health officer’s advice was always keep your tanker clean. Just wash it off after using it. He’d noticed that the public weren’t all that discerning and if the tanker looked clean they didn’t appear to get as excited about what it was doing.

There again I was once at a meeting with Animal Health officials in the North of the country. They were discussing the number of complaints they got about farmers and their estimate was perhaps fifty percent of complaints were basically malicious, or at the very least the person making the complaint had to be very ignorant. They gave as an example one farm which was close to town and had quite a few people walking past it. Sometimes on footpaths, sometimes not.

The Animal Health officers got a constant stream of complaints about this farm. The policy at the time was that a complaint had to be investigated. It didn’t take the officers long to come to the conclusion that the complaints were basically spiteful. Occasionally there was substance to the complaint. Somebody complained about a lame cow. There was a lame cow, the farm’s vet was currently overseeing a course of treatment.

The officers were faced with something of a dilemma in that they’re not allowed to shoot members of public out of hand for being a damned nuisance. They also couldn’t tell the farmer who the individuals were who were trying to cause him and his family a lot of trouble. Yet not only was it giving the farming family a lot of grief, it was causing the Animal Health office a lot of unnecessary work as well. Then somebody came up with a brainwave. Every Tuesday morning, one of the officers would drop round and have coffee with the farmer and his wife. On his way to the kitchen he’d see cattle in the sheds and over coffee there was always the opportunity for an informal discussion about how things were going. The officers, who were all vets, found it useful because it kept them in touch with ordinary farms and their problems, and I suspect the farmer managed to get some veterinary advice for the cost of a coffee and biscuit. The upshot of it all was that when the malicious caller phoned, the person who answered didn’t even need to write anything down, they merely said, “Yes, our officer will be making an unannounced inspection.”

To be fair, it was unannounced, they never once phoned up and said, “We’ll be round for coffee on Tuesday.”

That case went well. Indeed so long as you can get sensible grown-ups involved who understand the world, things can rub along not so badly. But sensible grown-ups are perhaps less common than they ought to be.

Way back, I remember reading a piece in the Farmer and Stockbreeder. I guess it would be towards the end of the 1960s or very early 1970s. From what I remember a family had been running a small pig farm. They were tenants and were just sort of getting by. Their troubles started when a couple bought the house nearest their farm and started a stream of complaints. I cannot now remember how long this went on for, but there were court cases and lawyers bills. At one point the farmer and his wife offered to buy the house off the couple at the couple’s valuation. This was because they could get a mortgage for the house but as farm tenants couldn’t raise money to do any sort of works on the farm, and because of lawyers bills etc, hadn’t the money to do them anyway.
The couple refused and at some point not long after that, the farm went bust. From what I remember of the article, the day the pigs were sold and farm sale was advertised, the couple ostentatiously went out that evening to celebrate.

Apparently at that point the farmer snapped. He noticed that they’d left a bedroom window open and spent the evening pumping pig slurry into their house.
Genuinely I don’t know whether he technically filled it, but apparently he made a gallant attempt. When the couple arrived home there were threats of criminal proceedings. But the village policeman (some areas still had them back then) apparently pointed out that the window had been left open. The farmer had not had to force an entry, therefore as far as he was concerned it was purely a civil matter. As the farmer commented, “It’s awfully tricky to sue a bankrupt.”


There again, what do I know. Ask an expert


The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing. But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

Farm Assurance Schemes

Are they worth it and if you’re not a farmer have you ever even heard of them?

I was lucky in that when they were coming in, I was out of dairy and was buying calves and selling store cattle. So I managed without the extra expense. I did finish a handful of cattle but I sold them direct to the consumer. I sold my customers an eighth of a bullock (because when it comes to freezer space, the janet and john formula is one lamb is half a pig is an eighth of a bullock). My customers didn’t care about farm assurance schemes, and weren’t interested in knowing about them. In reality I was my own farm assurance. They were buying from Jim. They knew me, could drop round and even be introduced to their animal beforehand if they wanted.

I was also involved peripherally in a body called ‘Cumbria Local and Fair’ at one point. In simple terms the Fair Trade movement has done a lot of good around the world for a lot of people. There doubtless places where it could do better and places where people take advantage, but across the board I’d say it has done a lot of good.

Now the idea was that the principle could be extended to Cumbria. After all, farmers in Cumbria (and the rest of the UK) deserve a fair crack of the whip. We should no more be screwed by major retailers than our fellows in the third world (or in any other part of the world for that matter.) There were problems. Some of it was about scale. One supermarket was interested in selling Cumbrian milk from its Cumbrian supermarkets. It’s not one of the big chains, but even so, they were rather shocked to discover that one Cumbrian dairy farm (and not an especially big one) could provide all the premium Cumbrian milk they needed. Cumbria is physically big and with twenty million visitors a year we can get crowded, but there’s fewer than half a million of us who live here all the time.

Another problem was expectations on the part of people wanting to set things up. One idea was we could try Cumbrian beef. Now I looked into it and did the basic research. I could have arranged this comparatively easily and cheaply. Because all cattle have individual passports it’s far easier to arrange than, for example, with lamb. So to be ‘Cumbrian Beef’ the animal has to be born in Cumbria (which is easily proved from the passport and we’ve got plenty of dairy and beef units with cows to produce the calves) and must live all its life in Cumbria. Again this is easily done. If the animal is born on a dairy farm and is sold to somebody who will rear it for beef, the animal’s passport will show which farms it has lived on. It will even show the auction marts the animal has passed through, and Cumbria has a lot of good auction marts.

Finally it is possible to get the animal slaughtered in Cumbria and it could then be delivered to the butcher, if necessary with a photocopy of the passport accompanying the carcass. It means the consumer could go into the butcher’s shop and know they were buying Cumbrian beef.

I talked to people in the trade and they agreed that actually that sort of thing could be done for very little extra cost. Initially there would be very little extra money in it, but the beauty of the system was that, without really costing anything, it would respond to consumer demand. So if customers started asking for Cumbrian beef, butchers would ask the abattoir to send them more. So the buyers standing round the rings at Cumbrian auctions would start putting in an extra bid or two to make sure they bought the guaranteed Cumbrian stock. Slowly the price might rise and you’d get a Cumbrian premium. But even if you didn’t, it had cost you nothing.

The problem is that this wasn’t enough for people who wanted to set up a scheme. They wanted to guarantee extra welfare, or have extra restrictions on feed or whatever. Even if these extra criteria cost nothing, you would still have to organise members and police things. You’d need an organiser who did on-farm inspections etc to make sure that the rules were being obeyed.

As somebody pointed out to me, given a £30k salary, car, and computer, even if they worked from, home you were going to struggle to keep the cost below £50,000 a year.

If you got a hundred farmers to sign up for it they would have to pay £500 each every year with no guarantee that they would see any of the money back because you cannot guarantee a premium. As far as I could see there was no way you could sell that to farmers. Most would think that you’d probably got more chance of getting your money back betting on the horses.

But this is one of the problems at the heart of farm assurance schemes. By law we have very high standards in the UK. In a lot of areas we are ahead of Europe. For example in the UK (and I believe, Sweden) sow stalls are banned. In the rest of the EU, to quote Compassion in World Farming, “Their use is limited in the EU, with a partial ban enforced from 2013. However it is still permitted for sows to be kept in sow stalls from weaning of the previous litter until the end of the first 4 weeks of pregnancy.”

So in reality we already have a whole UK farm assurance scheme. We produce in the UK to UK standards and the various UK authorities who are in charge of monitoring these standards stand behind them.

Now by definition there are costs you face as a farmer when it comes to producing food in the UK that you wouldn’t face in some other countries. (To be equally fair they will have costs we don’t have) If, on top of these standards we introduce farm assurance schemes with higher standards there will be more cost. There will be the costs of running the schemes etc and all these costs fall on the farmer members. There will also be the costs of meeting these standards. This is entirely acceptable if there is a premium being paid to cover these costs. The problem is, if you have a universal scheme that aims to cover all UK farmers, there cannot be a premium because everything is produced to that standard and that standard is the norm. The danger is that the scheme becomes a protection racket, ‘If you don’t hand over the money you won’t sell in this mart’.

Now the universal scheme covering all UK farmers would work, but only if the buyers are the far end valued it. But we see grain buyers buying farm assured UK grain and mixing it with imported grain that doesn’t meet UK farm assurance standards. We see manufacturers mixing UK farm assured meat with meat from elsewhere in the world, buying on price rather than quality.

And here is the problem. Actually pushing up farm standards is the easy bit. The important part of the system is getting farmers a premium for the high standard produce. But there will only be a premium if the consumer actually cares about your standards.

And here we run into another problem. I have talked to family and friends who aren’t in farming and have discussed farm assurance schemes. They immediately used to tell me about their experience with introducing British Standard (BS) 5750. Its equivalent in European Standards is EN29000 and in the International Standards Organisation ISO9000. These standards lay down formalised procedures and require documentation but do not as such lead to improved quality of the product. I’ve had no end of people tell me about the ‘work arounds’ and ‘fudges’ that they had to make to ensure that their employers systems were fit for BS 5750. One lady mentioned that she, as a very junior employee, was given the job of documenting how they ordered from all their suppliers.

She did the job, the boss was pleased and they got BS5750. Ten years later she happened to see the file on a shelf and opened it out of interest to see who had updated it. There was her work, pristine and untouched. In the ten years they had changed all their suppliers but nobody had ever bothered updating the paperwork. But they’re still BS5750.

So just having an ‘assurance scheme’ isn’t going to impress anybody. Most of our consumers are involved in fudging the data for something similar.
So who should the assurance schemes target if cynical consumers aren’t going to be bowled over with them?
The buyers are an obvious first step. But most major retailers would rather set their own scheme up. It allows them to lock in farmers and can be a useful marketing tool. Why would a supermarket want to drop those advantages to join a national scheme ‘everybody’ is part of? They get absolutely no marketing advantages at all.
The crucial point is that with a national scheme all suppliers are part of, the people you are really targeting are your overseas competitors. If we can get them to meet our standards to sell in the UK, then this will put their costs up and make it harder for them to out-compete us. All this needs is a government that bans the import of food products that do not match our standards. To be fair I suspect the ban on all EU pork products other than Swedish is not going to go down well.
Across the board, at the moment, with governments borrowing at unprecedented levels and with unemployment about to increase massively throughout the US, the UK and the EU, this is not a time when governments are going to do anything that raises basic food prices. Their electorates are not going to put up with it.


There again, what do I know about it all, go to the expert.


A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”