Super farms – who needs them?
Farmers leader Peter Kendall is in the news a lot these days. First heâ€™s championing GM crops. Then biofuels. And now superfarms. After 50 years of consumer action against caged chickens, Kendall wants more cattle kept in big sheds (The future of food is in super farms, says NFU leader, The Guardian, 6 June 2012).
From most points of view his strategy would be precisely wrong for Britain. Rather than confining cattle to sheds, we need to let them out onto the green pasture evolution prepared them for. That way we get healthier milk, beef and dairy foods. We capture more carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away safely in the soil. We provide more jobs and business opportunities for young people in the countryside. And we start to reverse the lamentable degradation of Britainâ€™s greatest asset â€“ our soils.
Kendallâ€™s arguments donâ€™t add up â€“ chiefly because theyâ€™re driven by self interest rather than the national interest. Heâ€™s an intensive cereal grower and so is constantly looking for hidden subsidies to prop up the price of wheat. In the UK we already grow more than twice as much of the stuff as we eat.
So Kendallâ€™s NFU argues for super farms â€“ because animals in sheds eat more crops like wheat. He argues for bio-ethanol because the subsidy on it pushes up the price of wheat. He argues for GM crops, in part because too many of the worldâ€™s soils have been wrecked by growing wheat and other grain crops.
Down here in Candleford we look out on flower-filled pastures grazed by cattle and sheep as they have been for millennia. We think this solar-powered system of food production would solve a lot of our problems. And we wonder why the NFUâ€™s self interested policies are given quite so much coverage in the press. Would the journos allow BAE Systems to promote defence policy? We think not.
Perhaps they should take a look at Pasture Promise TV where theyâ€™ll discover farming methods that really do deliver healthy foods and sustainable production.