From: Laurence Keeley, Fairfield, Herstmonceux
There was an interesting gathering on Wednesday 30th October by the Bexhill and Rother Environment groups at Belulah Church Hall. Geoff Rayner gave a interesting talk about diet and nutrition and many facts regarding farming, including European subsidies and feed lots in America. But I believe one issue has not been considered, that is land tenure.
I can give some examples;
I was once farming in Ashburnham in the 60s,there were 20 farmers producing milk. Today in the whole of Rother District I believe there are only three. And one dairy farmer goes out of business a week.
I have 4 rams, two I wont use this year, so went to see a local couple with ewes, and asked if they would like to have them, they said they would not be putting their ewes in lamb this time as they were getting £50 for the lambs and the feed was nearly £10 a bag.
At the same time we are seeing over weight people, an increase in diabetic people and more liver diseases from an unhealthy diet.
We are seeing people like Sir James Dyson buying up all the land in Cambridgeshire, while young people coming out of Agricultural Collage can’t get into farming on their own account.
I must remind people it’s all very well to increase the minimum wage, but if we are to pay farm worker £10 an hour, one won’t be able to purchase a few vegetables for a few pence.
What should we do?
Re-examine inheritance tax, it should not matter what you own, it’s what you do with it, for example with James Dyson, allow him to farm, say 300 acres, then he should create tenancies for new people wanting to go into farming to help feed the nation. He would pay a land tax if he farmed over say 300 acres.
Then, when we eventually leave the European Union, we will have some £34 million a day cash in hand. Some of this capital could underwrite loans to new farming families.
We could, by not giving away our money, still use a subsidy to protect our food supply. We should be growing more at home. But while speculators are allowed to purchase land as an investment, we will continue to see farmers getting older and no place for new young people to move onto our fields.
There were the same question regarding if we leave the EU, we will have to take beef from feed lots from America that are fed on hormone based feeds. We should not have to import such produce in or out of Europe.
There was a mention of not eating so much meat. People don’t seem to realize cattle manure is the best way to have good soil, or we have to use more artificial fertilizers and sprays.
We need to move away from intensive farming, and that needs a land ownership change. If we are going to see the minimum wage increase to over £10 an hour, you wont get vegetables at the price they are today. If farm workers received £500 a week.
We could, where large new estates are being built, have a self-sufficient garden to grow local grown fruit and vegetables.
We could build a few homes in villages to revitalize village life, on land that may not be a good food growing patch. Build module homes for about £80,000 add £20,000 for the local parish council, then create a local produce shop so local people don’t have to go to the towns to purchase items they can’t get locally, thus saving air pollution and traffic gridlock.
May I invite readers to visit my website at www.campaign-for-change.co.uk to see a new vision for housing and care,and feeding the nation.