‘Landscapes will change forever if small farmers are pushed aside’

June 24, 2018

REALITY CHECK: This is farmland looking out from the village of Kingston, near Swanage. “I cannot see the public being at all happy at the prospect of an army of environmental managers (which is essentially what so many smaller farmers are) being driven off the land, because it doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that the only cost-effective way to manage wildlife in this countryside is to pay the farmer to do it, because the state wouldn’t be able to afford its own dedicated workforce.” – David Handley on the consequences for the landscape if small and medium-sized farms disappear.

 

 

CONDESCENDING TONE: “I have long since tired of its simpering presenters talking down to me and presenting their view of what goes on in the countryside in the same manner they might adopt when talking to a class of slightly deaf five-year-olds. The problem is for a lot of people, in fact for a great many people, Countryfile is their only window on the world outside the urban spaces. ” – David Handley speaking about the BBC’s flagship rural affairs programme, Countryfile.

 

 
A LEADING voice in the agricultural industry has accused Britain’s flagship publicly-funded rural affairs TV programme Countryfile of abandoning small and medium-sized farms.
Farmers For Action chairman David Handley said in his recent column for the Western Daily Press, that one of programme’s presenters failed to challenge one of their interviewees for wearing a logo for the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board on his waistcoat.

‘Why was ADHB rep not challenged?’

In his despatch, Mr Handley accuses this body of predominantly representing the interests of big agri-business and corporate grocers, and not small and medium-sized farms and the BBC of not doing enough research to challenge them.
“So from that we can assume that a large section of the population now accepts the fact that the writing is on the wall for the country’s small and medium farms – and the writing spells ‘closure’. Because that was the message delivered by one interviewee I happened to see the other evening. Delivered, moreover, without challenge.
“So the inference is that farms have to get bigger because bigger is better. Scale up, drive out those costs, bump up the margins.”

ADHB represents 75 per cent of all farm output

The ADHB was set up in 2006 by former Labour Defra minister Jeff Rooker. It was set up as an amalgamated body comprising the former levy bodies of the British Potato Council; the Meat and Livestock Commission; the Milk Development Council; the Horticultural Development Council and the Home Grown Cereals Authority.
On it’s website, it details how the ADHB represents 72 per cent of agricultural output across the UK consisting of pig meat in England; the dairy industry in the UK; beef and lamb in England; cereals and oilseeds in the UK; commercial horticulture in the UK and the UK’s potato industry.
The ADHB says its core values include helping the UK farming industry and its supply chain to be more competitive and resilient; helping the industry understand what consumers will cost and buy and accelerating innovation and production growth through co-ordinated research and development and knowledge exchange.

‘Urban folks hang on every word of Countryfile’ 

Countryfile has had its list of mishaps of late, including a segment from a programme in April when presenter Anita Rani tried to overcompensate on a mile stone carving when asking the professional if she could help him finish it off. The work was allegedly ruined and had to be repaired.
But on the other hand, it can be argued they have acted responsibly on other occasions like in November 2017, when senior anchor John Craven warned viewers in advance they would be seeing images of savaged sheep to educate them on the importance of keeping dogs on leads when out in the countryside.
Mr Handley said: “I don’t have much time for the BBC’s Countryfile. In fact, I don’t have any time. I have long since tired of its simpering presenters talking down to me and presenting their view of what goes on in the countryside in the same manner they might adopt when talking to a class of slightly deaf five-year-olds.
“Equally, most of the farmers I know share my opinion –or hold an even stronger one. The problem is for a lot of people, in fact for a great many people, Countryfile is their only window on the world outside the urban spaces. Not only that, they believe every word of what it tells them as though the text had just been brought down from the mountain on freshly-engraved stone tablets.”

‘House values would drop in neglected areas’

Mr Handley has warned the public – particularly those who live in rural areas – that the countryside has come about by design and careful management and stewardship, and this will all be jeopardised if small and medium-sized farms had no future.
This was not referred by Mr Handley in his column but it would be fair to say that if the Dorset, Somerset and New Forest countryside fell into major neglect and disrepair, property values of those who live in those areas would see them plummet.
Whilst the National Trust, the Forestry Commission, the Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and the RSPB to name five conservation charities and government-funded bodies do sterling work across the country, they do not have the personnel and financial resources to replace the work done by small and medium-sized farms.

‘Wildlife oases exist on small farms’

Mr Handley said: “I just pose one question: who among all these large-scale farmers is going to have the job of looking after the countryside? Who is going to manage Wales? Who is going to maintain the tricky balance between conservation and agriculture that makes Exmoor and Dartmoor what they are?
“What about the wildlife? Because let’s get one thing clear: the wildlife oases in this country aren’t on the massive, intensively-farmed holdings the size of half a county, they exist predominantly on small and medium farms where their management is part of the general routine.

‘State has no funds to be sole landscape custodians’

“I cannot see the public being at all happy at the prospect of an army of environmental managers (which is essentially what so many smaller farmers are) being driven off the land, because it doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that the only cost-effective way to manage wildlife in this countryside is to pay the farmer to do it, because the state wouldn’t be able to afford its own dedicated workforce.
And as we wave goodbye to small and medium farmers we can also wave goodbye to a host of individual food and drink products which comes off them and which, after several decades of effort, has finally given us a specialist food sector we can be justly proud of.

‘You can’t have landscape on the cheap’

“Let’s turn the argument round: why should we have to sacrifice all that, to put many of our most cherished landscapes art risk merely because the food chain won’t pay farmers what they need to carry on operating in the traditional way they always have?
“Why should we jeopardise the whole future of our countryside just so that Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons and the rest can continue racking up the profits?
“That, I would suggest, is the real question Countryfile should be asking.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Levey July 6, 2018 at 12:03 pm

I agree with everything this man says. Let’s face it, the BBC always has an agenda, always reports on what suits them and always puts their slant on everything they report. Country file, I enjoy the programme but have to agree that the way it interviews is very condescending to the viewer and the pertinent questions never asked.

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