Oct 03:- Now that the reports on GM crop trials have been published there seem to be grave doubts about their effects from a scientific point of view. Many of the fears of environmental campaigners appear to be vindicated. In addition to this one of the herbicides (Atrazine) used in the trials has now been banned in the EU, resulting in questions being asked over the validity of some trial results. Also Denmark has just announced a partial ban on glyphosate use, due to fears of pollution of water courses at certain times of the year.
Nov 1st:- During this past week controversial statements have been made by a group of scientists from the agro-chemical companies about 'co-existence'.
British Food Fortnight
This was again a very successful and worthwhile fortnight, especially as it was timed to coincide with the majority of Harvest Festivals. Next year BFF will again coincide with Harvest Festival, the dates are 18 September to 3 October 2004.
In 'The Independent on Sunday' (June 22nd) Mr Meacher expressed the concerns over the safety of GM crops which many others have previously voiced. The safety of our food is of vital concern to us all and ,so far, their does not seem to have been satisfactory testing proving that safety. Indeed it seems that tests which call such safety into doubt may have been supressed. This is one to watch closely.
6-Day Standstill and Agricultural Shows
May 20th:- The Government has finally agreed to allow animals attending the various Agricultural Shows to be moved under revised rules. This comes too late for many , but is a move in the right direction. Why it does not come into effect until the 30th May is not clear, but the effect is to restrict attendence at the earlier Shows. Some Shows had already closed their entry lists while others have been able to delay their closing dates. In spite of fears that unworkable restrictions would be imposed the bio-security and movement rules remain the same as for last year's Shows.
May 10th:- Two major issues are still causing concern, particularly for low-throughput abattoirs, at present. As previously stated; from May 30th 2003 all abattoirs will be required to have underground, refrigerated storage for blood collection. From July 2003 there will be micro-biological testing of all equipment (literally - including knives etc) and meat.
Some abattoirs have already given up and closed. If there is a rethink on these rules it is to be hoped that they are announced before it is too late for others also. See the full article and links at Continuing Concerns
April 8th:- The Government has backed down on the refusal to fund a disposal scheme when the burial of fallen livestock becomes illegal on 1st May. Funding will be put in place to assist in the removal of fallen stock but the details are still to be finalised. There will need to be an interim derogation to allow a scheme to be set up.
A number of Trading Standards Officers had said the ban would be unenforceable. (Farmers in some areas had threatened to dump carcases if no scheme was available as they had no viable alternative to burial.) In Scotland the ban will not be implemented while further discissions and consultations take place. Until new legislation is in place (in Scotland) burial or open burning of fallen stock will be permitted as provided for in the 'Animal By-Products Order 1999'.
Over Thirty Month Scheme
March 26th:- Farmers are justifiably upset by the 20% cut in the OTMS payments proposed by the Government. This brings the deadweight cost down from £1.09 to just 87p per kilo, or around £65 per animal. The OTMS sceme itself is likely to be dropped shortly.
March 7th:- The long awaited decision on the Ashmoor Burial Pit was made yesterday. The site is to be restored to farmland but at present will remain in DEFRA's ownership. The liners are in the process of being removed, the pits will be infilled by bulldozer and the area left to re-seed. Many locals would have preferred to see a nature reserve on the site. The restoration of the site finally brings the visible impact of Foot and Mouth to an end.
Nov 1st:- Final details as to the future of Ashmoor and ownership are still causing controversy. DEFRA is talking about retaining ownership for 5 years and there is still uncertainty as to whether the land will return to its original use as farmland or will be made into a nature reserve.
February 7th:- The EU has dropped the proposal to impose the full costs of hygeine inspections on abattoirs regardless of their size. Small and medium sized abattoirs would have been forced out of business by the disproportionate charges. The news has been welcomed by both abattoirs and the farming community.
Equally welcome is the end to the 20 day standstill order, at least for the time being. It is however replaced by a 6 day standstill with strict regulations. Some of these will prevent animals being moved between Agricultural Shows as they do not provide for the isolation units, in place last year, which enabled movement between showgrounds.
The milk price is creeping up towards the E.U. recommended price of 20+ pence per litre. The average price received however is still between 17.00 and 19.00 pence per litre depending on the company and area, with some being even lower!
Organic producers receive a premium for milk sold as organic. Their surplus production however is bought at standard milk prices. With processing becoming more centralised this is becoming more common. (See 'Food for Thought').
Planners in Gloucestershire however have refused to pass plans for a new livestock market and agricultural centre. This is causing concern as Cirencester Market is due to close next year. Elgin market has closed and other livestock markets continue to be near closure as do some abattoirs. This impacts directly on animal welfare (distances travelled) as well as on farm gate prices. In addition new regulations proposed for abattoirs are again causing concern which could reflect across the industry and further into the retail and catering sectors.
The figures shown in the NFU food price campaign confirm that the farmer only receives some 28% overall from a wide range of produce.
The latest edition of 'Country Way' is now available from The Arthur Rank Centre, National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warks, CV8 2LZ.