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'Food for Thought'

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Farming Matters!
Facts and figures

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Countryside Matters!
'Burning Issues'
Globalisation

Helplines


Archive 2000 - 2001

Index

Globalisation; The problem with the Theory - August 2001

The costs of food production. - January 2001

Best Value - November 2000

Transport and Travel
June/July 2000
and
August 2000

Farming in Crisis; Food labelling; Cheap food and GM crops
Spring 2000

The foot and Mouth Crisis - May 2001

Archive2001

Food for Thought 2002



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'Food for Thought'
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'Burning Issues'
Globalisation

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Globalisation:
The problems with the theory

The principles of the World Trade Organisation are clear and simple, and in a perfect world would no doubt be effective. However we do not live in anything approaching a perfect world and we need to be aware of the shortcomings even of these basic principles, especially as they apply to agriculture.
There are two of these principles in particular that cause problems for British Agriculture.
  • 1.Without discrimination - a country should not discriminate between its own and foreign products, services or nationals.
At first sight this means that no import restrictions can be placed on any goods from other members of the WTO. However the ‘small print’ contains the words ‘ . . . . at least after the goods have entered the market. . . . Therefore, charging customs duty on an import is not a violation of national treatment even if locally-produced products are not charged an equivalent tax.’ (‘Trading into the Future, Introduction to the WTO p.6’)
It may be that successive British Governments have deliberately signed away the right to impose restrictions on imports. However the basic principle is still there, that they can be imposed.

This WTO principle impacts directly onto farming in the U.K. because the demand for higher animal welfare pushes up production costs. Why is New Zealand lamb cheaper (even after transport costs) than home bred lamb? Could it be that minimum care and welfare keep costs down? Is there a case for the imposition of tariffs on animal welfare grounds? or is it a case where ‘cheap food is good food’ providing we do not see the result of poor welfare practices?

  • 2. More competitive - by discouraging “unfair” practices, such as export subsidies and the dumping of products at below the cost of production, to gain a market share.

This impacts on U.K. agriculture in two ways.
Firstly by countries finding ways to support their producers - notably the U.S.A. who have paid their farmers billions of dollars in ‘disaster aid’ and who still carry out dumping on the world market, often in the guise of ‘food aid’.
and
Secondly, by the very fact that ‘Multi-national companies’ are not included under the WTO rules. There is nothing to prevent grain being bought cheap and moved around the world to sell at cost or even below cost elsewhere in order to gain market share. If a national producer goes bust in the process then it gives more power to the 'Multi-national' next time around - one more rival out of the way. This is all the more worrying because the WTO specifically states that ‘Marketing Boards should not be run by national governments’. The Australian Wheat Board has for this reason been floated on the Stock Exchange.
What is to prevent shares being bought by a ‘Multi-national company’ and the Australian wheat market dominated by just one large buyer? Ultimately what is to prevent a ‘Supra-national company’ controlling the world grain or indeed the world food market?
The WTO principles, rules or regulations do not apply to companies, only to national governments. There needs to be a way found of controlling the domination of the market place by these increasingly influential groups, and of putting the control of the world food supply back into the hands of democratically elected governments.

Put in very simple theological terms ‘Sin rules! O.K.?’

T W Brighton. 1st August 2001


Food for Thought
2002
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The Cost of Food Production:

The year 2000 has been 'The worst year in living memory' for farming. Income dropped by 27% on 1999 which was already at a historic low. The figure for last year was just £1.7bn. This works out at £7500 for every full-time person employed in farming. Seeing that agriculture carries many part-time and seasonal jobs, the true income per head is much lower.

The NFU has calculated that there is more than £220m available to British farmers in agrimonetary compensation because EU subsidies are paid in Euros, worth less when compared to the strong pound. If these sums were paid in full (and farmers in continental Europe have already received them), it would raise the income of every person employed in agriculture by £975. This would raise farm incomes by 13% putting British farmers on a more level playing field with their European colleagues.

If the government is really committed to ensuring that the agricultural industry emerges stronger from the present crisis then some serious money is going to have to be forthcoming. Tinkering with the edges is not enough. The British people need a strong and efficient British agricultural industry. We say that we are unhappy at the semi-monopoly in the petrol industry! Just think what it will be like if the same type of multi-nationals control our food 'from farm to fork'. It could so easily happen if the base of independent farming is destroyed in the U.K.

Terry Brighton, January 2001

'Food for Thought'
2000-2001
Index

Previous letters

Transport and Travel in the Countryside:
August 2000
and
June/July 2000


Crisis
Cheap Food
Labelling
and GM

Spring 2000

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'Food for Thought'
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Farming Matters!
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'Burning Issues'
Index

Helplines


Transport and Travel in the Countryside:
August letter
June/July letter


Crisis
Cheap Food
Labelling
and GM

Spring 2000

Archive 2000-2001

Best Value?

One of the ongoing difficulties in Government, both Local and National, is how assessment is made of the 'success' of decisions and projects. The use of 'Best Value' judgements would seem to depend on monetary value only.

For example:-

Wiltshire County Council are reported as having to assess the 'Best Value' of the County Council owned tenanted farms. These were originally formed to give young people the first step onto the farming ladder. The thinking now is that 'Best Value' means that the land at present used for farming could be used for housing. The financial return will of course be far greater than the present rents can give, but what is 'Best Value' in this context?

This kind of 'Best Value' judgement has been in use for a long time. The privatisation of public transport and in particular the rail network is now acknowledged to have been 'handled badly'. The ongoing problems are seen to be public safety and punctuality. However there are other larger considerations, not least the difficulty of making connections between one company's trains and another. The possibility of making connections between local bus and coach services are almost non-existent. To reduce car use we need an integrated public transport policy. This can never be achieved by using monetary 'Best Value' judgements.

My criticism of the use of 'Best Value' would include the occasions when short cuts have been taken in matters of public health and safety. Although it has been vigorously denied in the past, it now appears that wrong judgements were made at the height of the B.S.E. crisis. The question remains:- on what basis were such judgements made? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but monetary concerns, even the short term survival of businesses, should not have been of first importance when public health was compromised.

Can we then set out some parameters for true 'Best Value' ?

1) It will not necessarily be the cheapest option,
or give the best short term return!
2) It should be in the best interest in the longer term.
3) It should be environmentally sustainable.
4) The decision should, if possible, be easily reversed in the future
if it is necessary to do so.
5) Decisions should not be made 'Behind closed doors'.
Open government should mean what it says!

Your ideas on the subject on a postcard please . . . . . . . . .
or e-mail me at 'countrysidematters@milestonenet.co.uk'

Terry Brighton, November 2000

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'Food for Thought'
2000-2001
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'Burning Issues'
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Rural Poverty


Best Value?
November 2000 letter


Helplines


Transport and Travel in the Countryside
August letter


Crisis
Cheap Food
Labelling
and GM

Spring 2000

Transport and Travel in the Countryside

With the increased cost of fuel for transport, and sections of the National Press campaigning for a reduction in tax, it is apparent that we have yet another pressure being brought to bear on rural communities.

The report by The Countryside Agency, "The State of the Countryside 2000" says:-

'The majority of people living in rural England use their cars for most journeys. the location of services and poorer public transport provision compared with urban areas makes car ownership a necessity for most rural households', (page 53).

'Rural households are twice as likely to run more than one car than metropolitan households', (page53).

These two statements by the governments own statutory body point up the needs which have been apparent for some time to those living and working in rural areas. The lack of any integrated transport policy is one factor that has led to young people moving into urban developments away from the communities where their families have lived and worked for generations.

Unfortunately the simple reduction in the tax on petrol will not provide a complete answer to the difficulties faced by commuters, students and parents of children when faced with the daily journey to work, school or college. The problems of congestion at the school gates, traffic chaos on routes into city centres, lack of parking provision not to mention environmental damage, all have to be faced.

For many years we have been unwilling to spend time and effort, (not to mention money) on working out a truly integrated policy on transport. This must take into account the following:-

    An adequate rail network, re-opening some closed stations and building others.

    A co-ordinated bus/coach service timed to connect with local rail services.

    Parking facilities at the edge of local communities to provide 'Park and Ride' for those who live at a distance from village centres.

    The provision of school transport and a restriction on the parking of cars near schools.


Surely for civilization that can equip us with mobile phones, the Internet and space technology, it must be possible to provide the basic needs in transport without destroying the environment and each other, (the road death figures are a disgrace to a so called civilized society!).

Unfortunately these things cost money!!! and are unlikely to be election winners. Theologically the problem is one of basic human selfishness. It is my car and I will drive it where, when and how I want. After all I do pay to use it and I have the right . . . . . . . .!

Sadly the 'rationalisation' of church services means that many Christians in the countryside are no longer able to walk to church on a regular basis on Sundays. They need to use their cars. That's progress that is!

T.W.B. 30/6/00


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THANK YOU !

to His Royal Highness Prince Charles for once again speaking his mind about 'Rural Issues'. It is interesting that those who deny that there is any kind of divide between rural and urban, only prove by their lack of knowledge and understanding that such a divide does indeed exist!

I would list the following as some examples:-

FUEL PRICES:

Locally in and around Devizes in Wiltshire, unleaded petrol is 86.9p / litre. (1/8/00) This compares with 83.9p or even 82.9p in some urban areas. Not only do we in the countryside need the car for transport, we also have to pay over the odds for fuel! No wonder there is a campaign to 'Dump the Pump'.

TRANSPORT:

Sadly there is no coordinated transport policy in most areas of the countryside. The only way to get to the train from here is a 20 mile round trip in the car! Having driven that far, and having to pay parking charges at the station, it is easier just to keep driving. It is now being suggested that young people are 'loaned' small cars or scooters to enable them to get work. ( In some places it is impossible to even attend an interview without your own transport). More in last months letter

HOUSING:

In our village communities, house prices are way above what young couples can afford. All the houses which come on the market are bought by older people who want to live in a small rural community. Where there is 'Social Housing' in villages it again tends to be occupied by older people. This has an effect on all aspects of community life. In the parishes where I live and work 50% of the requests for the baptism of children come from young couples living in the local towns, who want to 'come back home for the Christening'!

FOOD:

For most people in the U.K. food comes wrapped in plastic from the local supermarket. The reality and necessity of production is ignored, even by those who should know better. (See previous article in 'Farming Matters')

Terry Brighton; August 2000

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