Farm & Wildlife Forum

A View of the Issues (added 2.12.05)

A View of the Issues


Farming Forum - A View of the Issues

  1. Government does not take good advice on the range of problems and economic factors, which are complicated by strong currency, devolution, EU politics, and unjustified hostility towards the countryside. Problems are compounded by both a lack of practical knowledge and genuine communication skills. Confusion is fed by increasing amounts of poor quality research, and a raft of unsound lobbying organisations, many who obtain money by misleading, or deceiving, public and Parliament. Doubling of overall Government expenditure in 8 years, without real benefits, is hugely deflationary. The current size and ambitions of Government, as in the EU, are not sustainable. In removing support for the production of food, Government is set to waste larger sums on un-costed environmental management schemes, which ignore best practice, and have an uncertain future.
  2. Our taxpayers have contributed each year as much as £15bn per annum to EU farmers, whilst production subsidies in Britain of some £2.2bn have been removed. Subsidised agricultural production exists all around the World, amounting to some £200bn. However trade agreements sanctioned by Government encourage cheap subsidised products to be dumped in Britain.
  3. There is no realistic long term Strategic Planning and Incentives (not compulsion) for the efficient home production of food, adding value in processing that food, facilitating competitive exports, and raising standards of food, disease, and energy security. There is an influential, misguided belief, that agriculture is a side show, and should go the same way as the fishing industry. Those dealing with Government feel betrayed by lack of progress, and conflicting messages. In consequence, the good management and sound stewardship of countryside, especially in the uplands, is not achievable under current plans. Master craftsmen are ignored.
  4. Government and the Office of Fair Trading are having difficulty in defining and implementing fair trade. They are allowing efficient businesses to put out of business by unfair competition, the buying power of cartels and monopolies, and mafia styled activities. Food miles and fuel costs are ignored. Good farmers, with the crucial skills to pass on to future generations, require a safety net and support, not closure. Action now is a national priority. The absence of a level playing field ensures that nobody wins, be it Home Food Production, Third World Fair Deals, or the Tax Payer.
  5. Lack of Competitiveness through the expense of unnecessary Government Red Tape.
  6. British Agriculture has been hugely disadvantaged by some £30bn over 20 years by the political failure to pass on the EU Payments Rebate, which was negotiated on their behalf to compensate for currency losses, one reason why British farmers are at the bottom of the earnings league table.
  7. The artificially High Pound and relative High Cost of Money has set a dangerous precedent for future economic stability. Most supply side industries and tourism have suffered permanent damage as a consequence, and we are also left with an Unsustainable Trade Deficit.
  8. 50% of our Food Processing Capacity and Technology has been lost. This situation has to be reversed, encouraged by Government, in order that real value is added to efficient food production, as has been implemented in New Zealand. Adding value need not increase cost.
  9. Agriculture in other countries also benefit from a range of Discretionary Payments, incentives, and benefits, beyond production subsidies. Relatively low levels of Discretionary Payments are available in Britain, but they tend to be diverted unfairly to areas not needing priority support.
  10. The illusion that we can somehow blame the EU and CAP for the collapse of our farming industry was dispelled by EU Minister Hans Fischler, who stated that, as in the case of other European Governments under CAP, we can treat our farmers as fairly as they do. Any blame therefore rests fair and square on our own successive Governments. Britain can have its own superb Agricultural Industry - without severance of the ability to give good advice to the EU.

Edmund Marriage - British Wildlife Management - 24th November 2005

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Differentiation - A sustainable future for UK agriculture (3.7.06)

Differentiation - A sustainable future for UK agriculture

This important Report was launched at "The Royal".

Press coverage may be found as follows:

The Guardian HERE

Farmers Weekly HERE

The full report may be downloaded HERE


The sustainability of farming today will shape the face of Britain for our grandchildren. The last century has seen enormous change to the face of British industry. Our former might in ship-building is long lost, our car manufacturing sector slimmed down, coal-mining overtaken by more efficient fuels. In all these examples there’s been a sensible recognition that artificially protected markets are unsustainable, and we’ve had to adjust to the consequences for employment and for local economic vitality. Farming too is having to face up to the dismantling of the protection of the former Common Agricultural Policy, but as citizens we cannot view its decline with equanimity.

Three-quarters of the land in our country is occupied by agriculture. Farmers don’t only produce food - they bear the responsibility for our national landscape, for conservation and biodiversity. These benefits cannot be directly supported by any ‘consumer’ price mechanism nor can they be left to ‘hobby farmers’ or charged to public expenditure without an enormous bureaucracy and tax burden. Historically care of our countryside has been an uncosted but valued by-product of the farming sector. For this to continue we must have a thriving agriculture sector.

Broadening customer tastes mean that an increasing amount of food will be imported from areas where costs of production are lower or where a particular product is part of the identifiable national diet. Concern about ‘food miles’ needs to be balanced by a recognition of consumer expectations as well as of the climate consequences of extending the production capability of British agriculture. But self-sufficiency in indigenous-type produce has declined over the last fifteen years from more than 80% to close to 70%. To take two examples:

Consumer demand for pork has increased over that period, but self-sufficiency in pig-meat has declined dramatically.
The planted area for fruit and vegetables has declined by more than 20%, while the value of imports has increased by 50%.

These trends can be traced to a multiplicity of causes - government regulation, relative prices for imported products, supermarket buying practices and customer preferences. Whatever the causes, the effects are real and measurable and the consequences are visible and disturbing.

In commissioning this report as President of the Royal Agricultural Society of England I have had two aims:

to encourage people to enjoy their food and to feel confident in its provenance, and
to help sustain a viable UK farming sector confident to differentiate its output on the basis of quality in a competitive globalised market.

Consumers shouldn’t be asked to overpay for good quality food, and I see no future in any call for a return to the artificiality of protected markets. The strength of British agriculture lies in its ability to offer a differentiated product which shoppers associate with good taste, high animal welfare standards and environmental responsibility. Food produced in Britain offers good value and is worth paying for.

The research commissioned for this report and already published from other sources underlines the growing significance of the ‘ethical consumer’ but, alongside that, the disconnect between shoppers’ individual purchasing habits and their concern about the national landscape and the farming sector. (While 86% of consumers believe that Britain should be a farming nation and that British food should be widely available, only 18% actively ‘buy British’).

 This report usefully highlights three important facts about customers’ shopping decisions. First, that even ethically sensitive consumers need to see a personal motivation of quality, taste or health benefit if their purchasing habits are to change. Secondly, they want to be sure that supermarkets are passing a price differential back to farmers. Thirdly, there were doubts that their individual shopping decisions were significant enough to make a difference.

There is no quick fix to improve the economic viability of UK farming, but once lost a viable farming sector cannot be rebuilt. This report points to the need for the sustainability of farming to be placed firmly on the public agenda so that all parties can share responsibility for the future:

Government - providing the framework for a successful farming sector through balanced regulation and consumer education;

Supermarkets - accepting their crucial role in conveying information about farming and the provenance of the products they sell, and crucially demonstrating that ‘Fairtrade’ applies to UK farmers just as much as it does to third-world countries;

Customers - understanding that they ultimately make the choice on the quality of food they eat and on the long-term viability of the farming sector which supports it.

At the start of my Presidency I undertook to help to build links between the farming and retail sectors. As Chairman of Waitrose I’ve been able to initiate some practical steps to help farmers to understand better the markets they are selling into and to have the confidence to highlight the quality difference which entitles them to a fair price. These workshops build on the long-term relationships with British farmers which are an established part of how Waitrose sources quality food which customers can trust. We’ve also seen positive results from our work to provide more immediate links between shoppers and farmers.

The actions of each one of us today - as shoppers, as supermarket operators, as citizens - will determine whether future generations are able to appreciate ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ as we do. Farming is not a minority interest. It’s a national issue. We all have a part to play in putting it at the front of the public agenda.

Stuart Hampson,
President, Royal Agricultural Society of England 2005/06



Farm Survey - Harvest 2005 (30.9.06)

Larking Gower Farm Survey - 2005 Harvest

Executive summary

  • Further falls in profit to £56 per acre - in real terms equivalent to one-third of what was achieved in 1996
  • The average farm operating at a loss of £16 prior to receipt of the Single Payment
  • Delays in Single Payments partly responsible for the rise in interest costs of £6 per acre
  • Sugar beet reforms point to widespread losses for all farms in the medium term unless alternative income streams can be found
  • Some crumbs of comfort in the long term, but problems for the short/medium term

Each year since 1996 Larking Gower has produced an annual Farm Profit Survey summarising the financial results of a sample of the farm’s clients.  This is the tenth such survey and we have therefore taken the opportunity of extending it somewhat to give a broader picture of farming over the decade on medium sized farms in East Anglia.
As predicted last year, we have seen little improvement in financial returns.  Delays in processing the single payment have given rise to significant cash-flow difficulties and additional costs and it is clear that income receipts from the new scheme have been somewhat lower than has been the case under the old set-aside/area aid regime.

The key concern for the future is the impact of sugar beet reform and how this will affect the region’s farmers.  Our fear is that unless the farmers can identify additional income sources the loss of sugar beet income could eliminate virtually all farming profits.  In the longer term there are some crumbs of comfort.  The greater concern is whether or not many farmers will be able to survive the interim period.


British Wildlife Management

Wildlife Welfare



Farming Forum at Craven Arms 19th January - click - to download the Flyer (PDF)

Farming Forum at Llangollen 20th January - click - to download the Flyer (PDF)

Open meetings will explore practical solutions addressing the current rural crisis. The central aim is to bring together an effective lobbying body to give quality advice, demonstrate the crucial importance of viable rural activities, and influence the electorate and Government.

Invited Panel and Guests include:

Edmund Marriage - David Fursdon - Country Land and Business Association
David Handley - Farmers for Action
Robert Foster - National Beef Association
Tim Bennett - National Farmers Union
John Thorley - National Sheep Association
George Dunn - Tenant Farmers Association
Cross Party MP's - Press - FWAG - LEAF - UCSW
National Gamekeepers Organisation - Game Conservancy
Representatives of other organisations, which benefit from thriving Stockmanship, Agriculture and Wildlife Management

The British Government's target in 1962 was for the creation of the most efficient food production industry in the world. In reality, this has been largely achieved, without further overall loss of wildlife habitats, and massive progress in the quality of wildlife and food friendly farm technologies, together with increased productivity. The current destruction of this core, supply side technological base, is of huge detriment to the future of Britain.

Convenor - Gareth Jones - Penlan Farm - Old Radnor - Presteigne - Powys LD8 2RR - Tel. 01544 370693 - e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press Contact - Edmund Marriage - Tel. 01963 251772 - e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. -

PRESS RELEASE - Farming Forum - Welshpool (added 2.12.05)

PRESS RELEASE - Farming Forum - Welshpool - 25th November 2005

Forty six farmers attended the Farming Forum at the Royal Oak in Welshpool on Friday 25th November, spending two and half hours discussing the end of farming as we know it. There was a sense of confusion and betrayal, with the prospect of the inevitable contraction of home food production and crucial loss of skills, due to increased Government interference and control of farming activities, by imposing more red tape, accompanied by compulsion, rather than incentives.

Economic statistics, and reports from uplands wildlife managers, demonstrated that farming was not getting a fair deal at any level, and that this would impact adversely on every aspect of home food production, and the quality and extent of countryside and wildlife management.

There were doubts that farming now had the resources to save itself and would go the same way as the fishing industry. The support that might have been expected by conservation agencies and non-Government conservation bodies had not materialised.

There was hope that a lower pound, the opening of export markets for meat, and Government action on the supermarket cartel contributing to the unprofitable milk price, would offer a temporary respite for those with major investments in livestock.

There was no confidence of any hope in stopping the excessive decline of cattle and sheep in upland areas, which had resulted in larger areas of under-grazed land, than areas being put into environmental schemes. Large parts of the British uplands were turning into avian deserts dominated by uncontrolled predators, and areas of scrub, which present increased and serious fire risks.

Among those Government advisors named as having done most to destroy goodwill between farmers and Government were Elliot Morley, Baroness Young, Lord Haskins, Sir Martin Doughty (English Nature), Graham Wynne (RSPB), Jack Thurston and Dr Greg Austin (Robin Cook's and Tony Blair's Foreign Policy Centre) together with former Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore.

There was considerable disappointment from those present at the non-attendance of representation from the National Farmers Union and the Farmers Union of Wales, who had also shunned previous attempts to bring together one effective lobbying body for the farming and wildlife management industries.

The unanimous conclusion reached was that the tide of misrepresentation and false accusations against the countryside, could only be overturned by the creation of one properly financed, strong representative voice, together with the assistance of a stronger, more independent House of Lords, with powers returned to balance the deficiencies of the House of Commons.

A more detailed report on the issues raised by the meeting and future plans, would be circulated to connected organisations, the press and Parliament.

Farming Forum meetings are being planned in January for Craven Arms and Snowdonia.

Edmund Marriage - British Wildlife Management - e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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