A world of challenges and controversy

It’s struck me probably harder than ever that the challenges faced by UK agriculture are more diverse than ever. We’ve got everything from the climate of the entire planet, and its potential effect on the livestock industry, to the enormous damage that can be done by flies. We’ve got challenges from input markets, from the global fertiliser business, to the problem of how to find and keep staff. We’ve got challenges from legislators such as the neonicotinoid pesticide ban. We’ve got challenges from the weather, for arable and livestock farmers; and in the latest issue of Farm Business there’s a report from the crime fighters who are facing up to counterfeit agri-chemicals.

We’ve got the first legislative programme from the new Government. Its undertaking to legislate against tax rises has been welcomed, but I can’t see how a politician’s promise becomes anything more than a politician’s promise even when it’s been passed into law. What is it with this new trend to laws that purportedly lock in legislation? If you know just about anything about the British constitution, you know that parliament can’t bind itself. These purported locks are worth no more than any other politician’s promise. Our MPs need to take life more seriously and less of the window-dressing please.

In our report of the words of Livestock Auctioneers Association chairman, Chris Dodds, at Welsh Sheep, raises a point people seem to be forgetting at the moment. He expressed concern over the divergence between the rules put in place by the Welsh Assembly Government and the laws in England, and the possibility that it might make cross-border trade more difficult. That’s within the UK. There seems to be an idea abroad that you can have ‘trade’ without agreeing on common rules. You can’t.

Richard Wright’s ideas on fertiliser pricing (click on Behind the Headlines under the Talking Points menu) will get a few people thinking. Fertiliser is a global market, like so much in agriculture, and what people do here has a limited effect. It’s a vital input with a well known bottom line benefit. If that didn’t outweigh its cost, growers wouldn’t buy it. Fertiliser use, in the foreseeable future, remains a no-brainer.

Chris Lyddon
Editor, Farm Business

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