So what exactly is your industry’s relationship with government?

The problem with being rural is that government and a major part of the population aren’t rural and in some cases haven’t got a clue what is going on. To put this in perspective somebody mentioned to me four issues those in authority hold against rural dwellers. They feel that these things are standing in the way of us reaching net zero. We are, ‘car dependent, have low density housing and are hooked on oil burning, and then there is intensive agriculture.’ To be fair it isn’t merely government, the entire political class and a lot of quangos and pressure groups are trapped in the same mindset.

Let us go through these.

Car dependent.

In a paper by the Rural Services Network we read, “Local authorities in rural areas have far less funding available to support bus services. In 2017/18 such expenditure in predominantly rural areas was £6.72 per resident, compared with £31.93 in predominantly urban areas. Expenditure to cover concessionary bus fares was £13.48 (rural) and £25.54 (urban).

And then they complain that we’re ‘car dependent.’

Low density housing

Just who is in charge of planning law and regulation? Without being nasty about it, if governments have planning laws and planning policies, they can hardly then complain about the results of them.

Oil Burning.

Well here we run smack bang into the problem with an entirely urban mindset. Back in August 1983 a paper was produced, “Winter rape oil fuel for diesel engines: Recovery and utilization.” In 2002 there were farmers in the UK growing oil seed rape for bio-diesel. By which I mean they were crushing the seed themselves and running their tractors on the result.

But of course diesel went from our saviour under Gordon Brown to the fifth horseman of the apocalypse in about 2017 because of particulates. A major problem in a built up area, but not in the middle of the countryside.”

At the moment there are no full sized electric tractors, just big ‘garden tractors’ that are apparently suitable for vineyards. Apparently (but I’m not a tractor expert, I’m a cowman) they’re 30% more expensive than conventional. So from a farmer’s point of view it’s a case of us being expected to retool with more expensive equipment that doesn’t work as well, purely to solve a problem that isn’t a problem. Indeed the energy wasted trading in an awful lot of tractors that could have a generation or more life in them using rape oil doesn’t make sense.

Intensive agriculture.

Guilty as charged on that one. Indeed if we massively cut food production we’d very rapidly solve the problem of CO2 emissions as there would be a lot fewer people to emit the CO2.

Unless government are going to ration the number of calories are allowed, then people are going to eat the same. So cutting intensive agriculture in the UK will merely result in even more food being hauled, often as air freight, from all round the world. The amount of CO2 produced by food production won’t fall. Unless the countries we buy food off want their own people to go hungry, they will have to intensify their agriculture prior to flying the stuff to us.

Another problem we have when trying to cope with changing farming to meet a new world is the way various single issue pressure groups selectively fiddle the figures. To quote

“Peer reviewed research published in Agricultural Systems using the Life Cycle Assessment model to quantify the environmental impacts of Australian beef production found a 65 percent reduction in consumptive water use, from 1465 litres/kg of liveweight to 515 litres/kg of liveweight over the last 30 years, from 1981-2010.

Previous media articles have reported claims that it takes between 50,000 and 100,000 litres to produce a kilogram of red meat. But these reported measures count every single drop of water that falls on an area of land grazed by cattle over the space of a year. And they do not take into account the fact that most of the water ends up in waterways, is used by trees and plants and in pastures, not grazed by cattle. “These calculations therefore attribute all rain that falls on a property to beef production, whereby the water is clearly being used for other purposes, such as supporting ecosystems”.

So there you have it, depending on which piece of ‘data’ fits best with your preconceptions you can declaim with confidence that it takes up to 100,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of red meat. You can then declaim with equal confidence that it takes as little as 515 litres of water to produce a kilogram of red meat.

And then there’s the rumbling arguments about Brexit still going on. Apparently out of the 70 something trade deals we were part of with the EU, we’ve already rolled 66 of them over so we still get all the advantages (and disadvantages) which come with any trade deal.

But a lot has been made of the Australian deal and how much it will mean for UK farmers. Not only that, but the Australians (like most of the world) use hormone growth promoters.
Yet also on the horizon is the fact that the EU has decided that “there was no health risk from allowing PAP (processed animal protein) from pigs and insects to be fed to poultry, the feeding of pigs with chicken PAP, or the use of gelatine and collagen from sheep and cattle being fed to other farmed animals.”

So that’s what is going to happen and will start in August.

The question has to be asked, given the whole BSE thing, is the UK government going to ban the import of EU pig and poultry products on the grounds that they do not meet UK food and hygiene standards?


Me, what do I know?

Speak to somebody who might have more idea. Available from Amazon as paperback and ebook

And from everybody else you can get it here

As a reviewer commented, “A collection of anecdotes and observations about farming in England in the 21st century. Written by an actual farmer, this book is based on real experience and touches on a variety of subjects in a witty and engaging style. Cats, cattle, bureaucrats, workers, and the working dog all make an appearance, as do reminiscences about the old days and speculation on a possible future. This book is both entertaining and informative, a perfect diversion for the busy reader.”

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20 thoughts on “So what exactly is your industry’s relationship with government?

  1. Eddy Winko June 29, 2021 at 5:23 am Reply

    Once we all become vegetarian those in the country will be able to jump on a spare sheep cow to get about, you never know it may catch on and move into the towns and cities. That’s two of your problems solved.

  2. Doug Jacquier June 29, 2021 at 6:57 am Reply

    Hi, Jim. A couple of articles on the issues your refer to in relation to farming practices in Australia. This one says that alarmist EC concerns about HGP is essentially bollocks. This one suggests PAP won’t be fed to cows and sheep.
    As you well know, I’m not a farmer so I’m assuming you are right to be concerned about both issues. What really interests me is whether you and farmers organisations ever send your eminently sensible arguments to MPs and government agencies and, if so, what is the nature of their responses?

    • jwebster2 June 29, 2021 at 8:19 am Reply

      I’m old enough to remember the original ‘discussion’ about the issue. It was pointed out that ‘cow beef’ naturally contains higher levels of oestrogens that does bull beef treated with artificial hormones. Soya and from memory cabbage also contain higher levels of substances which ‘mimic oestrogens’
      There were two real problems, one was that various people, again from memory, were damned sloppy with putting the implant in, and full implants were turning up in the meat rather than in the ear.

      The other issue was the use (apparently still happens in Ireland where ‘political organisations’ control the drug trade) of clenbuterol (Angel Dust) which is dangerous to humans even if they just handle it.
      Apparently a reasonable skilled inspector can walk through a slaughterhouse and pick out the animals fed with clenbuterol by eye because they’re just too damned good.

      As for the other stuff, a massively urban country rarely rural proofs anything. For example the insulation requirements for houses totally overlook the insulation integral in houses built before 1919. So in effect they automatically fail because stone walls three feet thick ‘don’t have a cavity’

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 29, 2021 at 8:43 am

        Don’t get me going on idiot governments of both colours which simply don’t understand the concept of a cob wall!

      • jwebster2 June 29, 2021 at 8:52 am

        Different governments, same bureaucracy ‘advising’ them

      • Doug Jacquier June 29, 2021 at 6:37 pm

        Re your last sentence, it would appear that between the ears of many MPs and bureaucrats such cavities are common. 😉 Perhaps you and your farmer friends could offer free home stays to vaccinated urban opinion shapers so they can see the impact of their blinkered views.

      • jwebster2 June 29, 2021 at 7:54 pm

        I’m not sure the farmers could cope with the vacuity of the conversation 🙂

  3. rootsandroutes2012 June 29, 2021 at 7:41 am Reply

    Do we know whether Simon Fell reads this blog?

    • jwebster2 June 29, 2021 at 8:19 am Reply

      I genuinely don’t know, he’s certainly never commented 🙂

  4. M T McGuire June 29, 2021 at 12:38 pm Reply

    Ugh, it does my head in just thinking about it. There are a number of technologies that are being used in the third world that might be useful to farmers here. For example, stuff that utilises wee to make power. I know! Seriously, though, try to stop laughing, it’s true.

    Now, I’m thinking that, in a community farming livestock, there are times when wee might be a plentiful commodity. With the right development of the fuel cells that produce power by synthesising wee, ‘waste material’ collected from the livestock (and the farmhouse) could, potentially, end up powering the farm’s electricity supply. Free power and sewage disposal; two in one. I’m sure this is how we need to think though. Quite a long way out of the box everybody is in.

    • jwebster2 June 29, 2021 at 2:40 pm Reply

      I had a look at

      At the moment all there are commercially are anaerobic digesters which are horrendously expensive and need more careful feeding than a dairy cow! These MFC look interesting

      • M T McGuire July 1, 2021 at 8:29 am

        Awesome! See how I have ended up with an entire space station running on this stuff! Mwahahahrgh.

      • jwebster2 July 1, 2021 at 8:31 am

        I assume they encourage enthusiastic consumption of beer and similar to keep throughput 🙂

      • M T McGuire July 1, 2021 at 9:12 am

        Nah there’s a nuclear reactor as well. This being the future, they are much better contained and much safer but the cockroachs that were originally used to process any waste that couldn’t go in the wee tanks got a bit of a dose of radiation. So now they’re sentient and oversee the recycling and rubbish disposal plant. Our hero makes friends with them.

      • jwebster2 July 1, 2021 at 10:02 am

        Well you would, wouldn’t you 🙂

      • M T McGuire July 3, 2021 at 11:11 am

        Too right. It’s the people who do all the invisible humble jobs who are important. So my parents’ advice about going to university was that I should make friends with the cleaners, the kitchen servers and the maintenance staff before I bothered to get to know anyone else, because if anything went wrong and those people looked on me favourably, it would make any fixes or problem solving so much smoother and easier. Mwahahahrgh!

      • jwebster2 July 3, 2021 at 12:34 pm

        Your parents were right. I’ve always made a habit of being charming to librarians and receptionists 🙂
        Certainly if you ever do freelance journalism, a receptionist who likes you and makes sure you do get to talk to the person you need to talk to (even if you didn’t know who it was when you phoned) is to be valued in rubies 🙂

      • M T McGuire July 3, 2021 at 7:26 pm

        Totally. I left university in a recession. There were science grads wood been sponsored through school by companies like bae and lucas where were being told, ‘sorry no job after all’. As an art history graduate I had no chance so I started writing as a waitress, I did contract cleaning, and when is learned to type I worked as a secretary. I hope that I was a bit less of a twat to work for, when the time came for me to ‘lead tasks’ for having had that experience. It was certainly an eye opener. On the whole the people in the invisible jobs are much more sorted, down to earth and generally fun.

      • jwebster2 July 3, 2021 at 7:52 pm

        Yes, they can be so much more grounded

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