NFU President Meurig Raymond’s image is front and centre of the new NFU 2014 manifesto. He appears to have popped up from a hole, perhaps arising from an underground chamber: is this is satirical take on NFU’s relationship with badgers?
The NFU has 50,000 members. This is 5% of the RSPB membership. CPRE has more members than the NFU. But the NFU members own or have control over most of the farmland in England. They also have a direct line to Defra ministers and Secretaries of State, which gives them unrivalled influence over agricultural and environmental policy forming and making. So an NFU manifesto has real clout.
I had a quick look through the NFU manifesto and I thought I would summarise it for you:
1. Give us more money.
Note that English Farmers receive over £2 billion pounds a year from UK taxpayers, just for owning or renting land. Nothing else.
2. Take away all those pesky rules that stop us from Feeding The World.
Note that it is rules such as the Nitrates Directive that have prevented drinking water from being polluted with cancer-causing nitrates, derived from farm fertilisers.
It is rules that have banned Neonicotinoids (or at least temporarily + on some crops) the evidence now stacking up that these are global persistent biocides worse than DDT.
If the NFU really cared about the starving millions, why does it lobby for public subsidies for farmers to grow maize to produce biogas, or grow wheat to make ethanol? And why is about a third of English farmland used to grow wheat to feed to cows?
3.Adopt a “science-led approach”
That means give the global agro-industry free rein to determine farm and environmental policy, under the guise of a “science-led approach”.
4. Farmers are the custodians of the countryside.
As they are best people to look after wildlife, archaeology history and the other values society places on land, there is no need for things like SSSIs, scheduled ancient monuments, listed buildings or planning restrictions.
After all, who could be more responsible for the state of the English countryside today than Farmers?
The English Countryside today (c) Miles King
Market forces drive the agri-industry to commit atrocities and their PR departments peddle the usual rhetoric of a need to feed the ever increasing population. Politicians are ‘paid’ by industries to ensure that irritating public opinion is kept at bay, there was an opportunity to reform CAP but that went west as well! Agri-industry is guilty, but so too us for funding it along with bankers bonuses and bailouts, parliamentary expenses, 850 unelected Lords etc. etc.
Where are the self proclaimed champions of nature conservation? Too busy accepting crumbs or working up the next gardening project to keep themselves in jobs (understandable to a certain extent)? Bring back the passion Iolo Williams relayed when State of Nature was launched. Galvanise the critical masses, there are c.230 days left until we all write “none of the above” on our ballot papers which might see politicians realised that they are held in the same esteem as bankers and the SY P&C Commissioner (he eventually got the message)? Conversely it might see the environment become more of a commercial resource for the benefit of the few?
Call me a cynic, perhaps a realist when actually I’m an agnostic – a very tired and weary one but an agnostic never the less. After all apparently the badger cull is the fifth most complained about issue to MPs!
No doubt the ‘top’ 1% of members get over 50% of the subsidies. And the bottom 20% are all but completely let down by the NFU.
A reasonable guestimate I suspect, and which is why I differentiate between ‘agri-industrialists’ and farmers. One bunch simply use the land as a resource, others are more inclined to ‘husband’ it.
We need a system of genuinely independent assessment of condition status and allocation of support based on nurture of nature not development or diversification into industrialised food or fuel manufacturing which is no good for man nor beast let alone wildlife.
Thanks Mud-lark, I agree.
I have made various suggestions about how this could work over the years on this blog. Fundamentally farmers should only receive public support in return for providing society with benefits, such as protecting wildlife and ensuring basic ecosystem processes such as clean water and carbon storage are operating effectively on their land.
The issue being then, collectively how we (collaborative critical mass of conservation) bring this about? State of Nature appears to have fallen off the mainstream / usual suspects agenda, why is that?
Recognising too that charitable lobbying is under scrutiny what strategy can be implemented in time to ensure that the environment actually appears in the political party manifestos?
Apathy of the masses, naive assumption that there will always be a green and pleasant land and distraction consequential of having to fund ‘politics’ (including more political patronage peers) as well as ‘life’ is not conducive to the kinds of change we seek?
I think it will be a massive struggle to get the environment into the manifestos this time around. As far as tackling the CAP, it’ll either take 7 years to the next Regulation, or perhaps earlier if we leave the EU.
I concur with your assessment Miles, as I do often.
However, that shouldn’t stop us trying although the media are not what they used to be, but in fairness I suppose there are many other more ‘sexy’ topics for them to cover. To most of them, the countryside will always be there, the concern for us being in what state and because of failure to implement intervention neglect will come back and haunt us with higher repair costs but I suppose that it will keep project officers in jobs.
Really enjoying your recent swathe of posts, belatedly congratulations on reaching your 50,000!
Thanks very much Mud-Lark.
Perhaps it’s time to change perceptions altogether, get away from the polarisations of town and countryside, “traditional” management vs technological approaches, even dare I say native vs introduced?
plenty more to write about!