Friday, November 19, 2010

What are farmers for?

Now in the olden days it was obvious. They, for their own benefit farmed. They raised crops and livestock, and having consumed that which they wished to consume took ther surplus to market. There they exchanged their surplus at a price agreed between them and either a consumer  or a trader.

One of the unexpected and pleasant by products of this behaviour was that it was found that production of surplus aoften went along with good husbandary of the land, and of the livestock. Thus Adam Smith's invisible hand beautufied this land of ours.

This over the centuries has produced the landscape we so love, even if these days we generaly only see it from the steamed up windows of our cars or public transport.

So I ask again what agriculture is for, because after the latest attempt to suggest a possible maybe in twenty years perhaps reform pof the Common Agricultural policy announced yesterday I find I was wrong. Agriculture is now, too look at the three suggested option about something else.
Option 1
Maintain the Health Check orientation of increasing funding for meeting the challenges related to climate change, water, biodiversity and renewable energy, and innovation.
Option 2
Adjust and complement existing instruments to be better aligned with EU priorities, with support focused on environment, climate change and/or restructuring and innovation, and to enhance regional/local initiatives.
Strengthen existing risk management tools and introduce an optional WTO green box compatible income stabilization tool to compensate for substantial income losses.
Some redistribution of funds between Member States based on objective criteria could be envisaged.
or indeed
Option 3
The measures would be mainly focused on climate change and environment aspects
They seem to have their carts before their horses, which if they had ever visited a farm they might have been able to understand.

Thetre is other, perhaps more reasoned commentary here, and here, where the CAP  blog picks up the NFU's response


Jim said...

I'm a farmer so take all this with a pinch of salt, but there are a few points you should remember.

1) The landscape we know and love was created by the invisible hand, yes. But it was the invisible hand of farming 100 years ago, not today. Much of the b@ll@ocks bureaucracy-speak you list is the result of trying to keep that landscape when the invisible hand is trying to change it. Modern farming would rip out most hedges, trees, ditches and have huge prairies, if it could. Because thats what economies of scale dictate. Like every other industry farming has intense cost pressures and larger scale production is the only way to compete.

2)Most farmers I know would happily forgo all the subsidies and bureaucracy, if they could get on and farm without the State telling them what to do. But the State won't butt out of our business, because the public would get narked if the whole of the UK became one large prairie.

And thats the nub - if the public want pretty little fields, and woods, and neat hedgerows when they go for a drive in the country, when the market is trying to get rid of such things, someone has to pay to keep them in place. Hence the subsidies, more and more being aimed at environmental targets, not food production.

Anonymous said...

The farmer manages to say all that without one mention of the CAP, an EU shambles that cost us the buyers dear. The state should certainly get out, it cannot do anything except cock thing up.

Gawain Towler said...


A fair point on both counts. It is a difficult balancing act. As I say, what are farmers for. we should leave thenm to do their jobs.

The patchwork quilt was seen at the time as a destruction, think of the writings of John Clare, enclosures were evil, and so it would be if we allowed farmers to do their jobs.

There again, in their own interests and in parts of the country the institution of hunting would provide protection for some of what you talk about, but of course the Government have stuck their noses in that too.

So generally I agree with you, there would have to be some comprehension that if we want the countryside to be a slightly living museum we woill have to pay for it, and for the damage that inflicts upon the farmers bottom line.

My issue is thatt much of this policy isn't driven by that sort of conservation, but with the Climate Change agenda. So we see subsidies for windfarms and solar panel farms, neither of which beautify the countryside, nor maintain the quilt.