Posted on 23 August, 2017Comments (0)

Farm News

Farm News

It sounds very repetitive but the weather does dominate farming and today it is very wet again. To put the recent rainfall into perspective when I first started farming in Bentworth in the early 1980’s the annual rainfall was about 28 to 35 inches per year – 2.5 inches a month. The rain that we have recorded since July 12th is 8.8 ins not including today’s contribution which will probably be another inch or so – just in 28 days rather than 3 months. Bad for holiday makers and farmers!

The wet weather ruins the quality of the grains so that instead of producing wheat suitable for milling (making bread, biscuits etc) it is only suitable for animal feed. The grain deteriorates so that the ability of the resultant dough to rise and produce acceptable loaves is diminished – instead flat solid bricks would be produced if baked. The rain spoilt grain is difficult to harvest if the crops are knocked to the ground and the animal feed price is worth about 25% less. This year much of Southern England has this problem and consequently the bakers will be dependent upon imports for good quality rain. The required grain is likely to come from Germany, the US or Canada – but these countries also have weather issues of too much wet or drought. The price of milling wheat will rise and that will show in higher food prices next winter.

Wet grains take several days to dry and therefore a few hours of sun will not be enough to restart the harvest but the weather forecast for tomorrow is sun and dry this weekend so hopefully before long harvest will resume.

The issue of food imports has been in the media lately with chlorine washed chicken and hormone treated beef – both from the US in the headlines. Do you want to eat cheaper food produced to standards that are currently unacceptable in the UK and EU? The US chicken is 25% cheaper than UK produced chicken. One of the reasons for the low production cost is that American abattoir standards are low and to kill the bacteria in their meat they need to use chlorine washing to make the meat safe to eat. The UK and EU have much higher standards and therefore do not need the sledgehammer approach of chlorine washing of food. These foods are not yet imported into the UK or the EU but are being discussed as part of the new post Brexit freedoms to trade.

A further effect will be that if we allow such foods into the UK then the EU will stop UK food exports to Europe – they say quite rightly that it will be impossible to be sure that poor quality US food does not use the UK as an entry point to the EU. The effect of the EU closing its borders to UK food products such as raw food grains, meat or processed foods will be catastrophic for this country and will decimate agriculture and result in large areas of our countryside being abandoned for production of food. UK agriculture and food manufacturing employs more people in the UK than the car and aerospace industries combined (Guardian June 2017).

Commentators and some politicians speak of the lower food costs but what of the quality??? Farmers and others are lobbying for the current EU and UK food standards to be maintained but need support from the general public – if you care about what you eat write to your MP (Damian Hinds) and others now.

Julian Lewis

[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]

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