Do we blame Brussels or aim fire closer to home!

  • Written by Carola Godman Irvine
  • Posted on Apr 18, 2018
  • Articles

It is encouraging to hear Defra secretary Michael Gove calling for ‘people’ to speak up if they wish to take part in the ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation. I have no idea what Health and Harmony in an agricultural and rural context means, but at least I believe he is alerting farmers to speak up.

The clue is in his suggestion that those wishing to shape the future of farm support in the UK post Brexit, should speak up now, or risk their views being overshadowed by certain “vested interests” who have either the money, connections, or the power, to imprint their agenda on the public.

The Minister referred to the recent consultation on the trading ivory, which had attracted tens of thousands of responses, which made it easier to see off the opposition in government, resulting in ‘a more targeted, precise and more effective’ ivory trade ban.

It is now vital that everyone whose livelihood and businesses depend upon farming and importantly food production, bombard the Minister with practical and considered advice regarding sustainable food production, and land management long term.

There is strength in numbers which Mr Gove clearly recognises. We cannot rely upon the top brass within the NFU to get our messages through. They have failed in the past, and currently I fear they are not making much of an impression.

Having spent the best part of the last two weeks attempting to complete this year’s Single Farm Payment Application, I am hoping that part of Mr Gove’s reforms will result in the return to the previous simplified version of this annual exercise.

For several years completing the form on line was fairly straight forward. This year for reasons beyond my understanding, information regarding each field noting field sizes, buffer strips, lengths of hedges and the location of trees which was supplied to the RPA by farmers’ years ago has been deleted from the application form. We therefore have had to start from scratch in order to comply with the regulations for EFA.

I question the decision to disallow crops which were eligible as a ‘greening’ crop for many years as EFA (Ecological Focus Area), but do not qualify this year.

Field Beans and Lupins no longer comply, despite being Nitrogen fixing plants which add value as a break crop improving the soil nutrition and structure. Whoever decided these crops no longer qualifies for EFAs, should be congratulated upon getting it wrong. Do we blame Brussels or aim fire closer to home!

Unfortunately the RPA Help Line is a shambles this year. Having sat patiently waiting to be connected for over an hour, I eventually spoke to a charming lady but one who had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Her advice was to ‘go and look at the website’! Having spent hours doing just that and failed to find the solution to me query, I had reluctantly resorted to the Help Line.

I am hoping that by the time this goes to print we will have resumed field work. The ground to date is water logged, but the promise of warm, dry, sunny and breezy days ahead is encouraging. Some jobs including spring sowing are now five weeks late, but if conditions improve rapidly, we can still get the seeds planted, and with any luck they will get away quickly once the soil warms up.

It sounds like a sensible bunch of vets have picked up on the subject of Freedom Collars. They correctly consider it preferable for dogs and cats to be contained within their boundary by collars which bleep, as opposed to getting onto the roads where they are in danger of being run over or worse, cause fatal accidents. Let us hope Mr Gove gets this message loud and clear, and common sense prevails.