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8 January 2011

Posted by DMC on 8 January 2011 in Diary |

I very quickly received a comment from one of my most faithful readers yesterday that not only did she not find yesterday’s joke offensive but actually enjoying it, so it couldn’t have been too bad.

I was listening, during the night, to a programme about the European Single Farm Subsidies paid to farmers and whilst I avoid, at all costs, making any political comments on this blog, as a layman and taxpayer with little knowledge about the workings of the agricultural policy in Europe I must say I find the whole process very puzzling. Three of the farmers interviewed each admitted to receiving £80,000 subsidy per year, precisely what this was for was not made clear. One farmer, however, did admit that he now did not have to bother about trying to plough the corners of his field and could whizz round with his tractor without these difficult manoeuvres which made the whole process. Amazingly he got paid for leaving these difficult to plough areas of land  in order to encourage the butterflies and insects etc-environmental improvements. Can you imagine a farmer 50 years ago being told that if he didn’t bother to plough all of this land someone would actually pay him for leaving out the difficult bits! I think he would believe he had arrived in heaven, whereas today’s farmer appears to take the view that he should be paid for environmental improvements. which could have been said to have been good husbandry in the past.

I recall one farmer, last year, being interviewed on the subject of subsidies, who was in a big way in wheat, who said he received £250,000 subsidy which he didn’t really want but had little choice but to take it. All of this comes on top of the era, initially of the  the food and wine mountains where a disgusting amount of surplus food was produced, as a result, I seem to recall, of  a minimum guaranteed price no matter how much which produced.. Then the era of when  we paid farmers to set aside perfectly good agricultural land and paid them for not cultivating it – no doubt to get rid of those mountains – then that was reversed. We then paid them to take out all the hedgerows so they would have bigger fields to plough, thus costing less per acre, then that was reversed – they are now paying farmers to replace these hedges in order to create a habitat for the wildlife so essential to the cycle of cultivation, bees and insects for example, making the crops.. Who are these crazy bureaucrats in Europe who make all these rules, without, it would seem, a understanding of basic husbandry which I gather costs the average British family £2000//£3000 a year each every year.

As I said at the beginning I really know nothing about the detail of the European Agricultural Policy other than as ordinary taxpayer. I have no doubt that some of the hill farmers might have a bit of a struggle making a living but then that’s the way it’s always been. Farmers should be really no different to the rest of us, they should be assessed on what they have left at the end of the year after paying all other expenses – that’s how most families survive.  Most farmers have the benefit of a free home, plus I imagine almost free heating, electricity telephone, insurance and all the other bits and pieces the rest of us have to pay out of taxed income.

Admittedly they may not pay themselves a wage but then they probably have quite a lot of free food. Taking all that into account how do they then compare with, say, other trades people,, nurses or teachers, for example, in terms of surplus money at the end of the year. Despite all this subsidy we still import 40% of our food. I hope,  set against a balance of food exports to Europe which neutralises this idiotic situation.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is this crazy business of subsidy has to be phased out completely sooner rather than later, that’s if the French farmers will ever allow this to happen as they usually seem to get their way whenever there is any mention of changing or abolishing subsidy. With all the newly admitted Eastern European Country farmers having a perfect right to climb onto the same gravy train I think it will be many years before we get back to any degree of sanity on this particular matter.

Now, I’ve had my say on something about which I have had ‘a bee in my bonnet’ for some time. I feel the better for having said it but I don’t think it will make me many friends, certainly not among the farming community.

The highlight of my day was the early evening visit from Alice and George Everard, who live nearby in Sawbridgeworth. Alice E is one of ‘my lovely’s’ oldest and best friends and it was great to catch up with them as it is almost 8 years since I have seen them although, of course, my Alice is in constant touch with the other Alice, it’s just that I always seem to be abroad whenever they had a party or dinner to which we were invited. We spend a jolly hour or so over a bottle of champagne catching up with each other’s news. They brought with them their beautiful dog Amber, a Lurcher/Greyhound. How I miss my own Woody, my faithful black labrador friend for almost 14 years. I was amused to hear Mark Tulley, on his early Sunday Morning  programme, quoting the old saying, ‘ a cat looks down on you, a dog looks up at you and a horse looks you straight in the eye’. Really, I suppose, this was in praise of the horse, magnificent creatures though he is, give me a dog any day.

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