Are the DUP really going to push for a fundamentalist agricultural policy? (I doubt it.)

Brian Feeney raises a real issue facing farmers with regard to Brexit…

…last week US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross was quite clear that if the UK wants a trade deal with the US after Brexit they will have to jettison EU food standards. Chlorine-washed chicken is the least of it.

Some chickens are dosed with antihistamines to tenderise their meat. Others have been treated with ketamine, a hallucinogenic drug, yet others with steroids.

And, as Brian hints, it’s not the only issue that’s worrying the Ulster Farmers Union. GM is so pervasive in the US that it’s not even labelled as such. It’s not banned from the EU as such, but it has to be labelled and that has the effect of curtailing market sales.

Chlorine washed chicken is indicative of a genuine departure in the philosophy of food regulation, with the long-established EU principle of the precautionary principle over evidence. But then again the US doesn’t do farm to fork regulation: checking only at market entry.

The high demand for chicken may mean that any putative impact on local farmers is low. Growth hormones like BST in meat and milk are likely to be a much more real challenge in terms of Northern Irish farmers retaining a hold of the UK domestic market and to the EU.

Farmers can, have and will continue to change and diversify. But, you would have to ask yourself, how likely is that the Tory party (whose MPs disproportionately represent the rural areas likely to be most adversely affected by any such decision) will go for such a deal?

Consider too that the Labour spokesman for farming has spoken on all of these issues as key blocks to a functional future food policy.

Somehow, it’s fast becoming a self-deluding nationalist shibboleth that all Unionist moves are shortsighted and stupid. However, a glance at the political record suggests that this is a vast underestimation of their opponents: who now have the only NI ball in the game at their feet.

The problem with almost all speculation on Brexit and what it will look like when it finally emerges is that it is trying to commentate on a whole bunch of variables as though they were points that are already fixed. They aren’t, and they won’t be until the deal is known.

As a still convinced Remainer, I really struggle to see what advantages Brexit can offer us that we don’t have in our hands already. But I also try not to make the mistake of believing that the Brexiteers will make all the stupid mistakes we can possibly imagine for them.

In this respect, they are right to suggest that a good outcome (Eurosceptics now regularly cite the once hated Lisbon Treaty which lays solemn Article 8 obligations upon the EU in this regard) is in the interests of both the EU and the UK.

  • John

    Ultimately it is up to us. If we choose to export our wages by buying imported goods for no good reason other than to be seen with a fashionable badge, that is called madness.

  • John

    Perhaps we need to educate people not to be stupid.

  • William Kinmont

    Yes I understand that interest rates are one of the big costs nz farmers now.

  • John

    Why not do what the Kiwis did in 1984, simply take out subsidies. Having visited NZ in 2000 on a agri study tour looking a milk production and met both farmers and supply side business owners, unanimous opinion was that initial pain very quickly became huge gain. I have yet to meet a Kiwi who wants to go back to support based agriculture. It is vitally important to understand that Kiwis admit that a low value currency is central to the massive success of Kiwi agriculture. This is also true of industrial Germany which was driven by a £0.62 euro.

  • William Kinmont

    Will make a very interesting dynamic.

  • William Kinmont

    Much of the Barley in Bushmills comes from The midlands of Ireland aparently we are too close to the sea almost everywhere and the salt air effects it. Don’t see too many combine harvesters in the Drumlin country or Islay for that matter.

  • William Kinmont

    This is currently already helping here , though I think that out more intensive system relies more on imports,of things like soya,fertilzer and agrichemicals and machinery.

  • John

    Yes, a 20% interest rate on1987 land price of $2,750 is $550 per year, current land price of $11,000 with interest of 5% is you guessed $550 per year. The basic problem is land price as the average interest rate in the 1980’s was well below 20%.

  • John

    Correct, so the next step is to relentlessly reduce these inputs by adjusting the system to reduce or remove these inputs.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ve been mentioning the Dalriada Document in other responses. Korhomme has kindly made a link to it. As a sane proposal for a federated solution which would leave NI both in the EU and in the UK it is an important effort to square the circle, please check it out if you’ve forgotten its proposals.

  • John

    Yet more bureaucracy, this is like a Star Trek replicator

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Have you ever read the document John, or are you knee jerking at the idea?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It is also called a raiding of economies which ruins lives and creates intense social misery. This used to persuade governments to regulate rather than open the door on such predatory damage. The EU is one such bulwark, which is exactly why Legatum wants us out and vulnerable. You may complain about bureaucracy and regulation under the EU, but we are about to be delivered up to what actually happens when it does not stand there as a protection layer.

  • John

    I do not know what we are being protected from. You do not take issue with the fact that EU economic growth is amongst the worst in the world, that the financial services sector is having a laugh at us and that our political masters are aiding and abetting in this silly comedy. Our civil servants are neither civil nor servile, indeed they have become extremely self-serving. No working to 67 years of age for them, rather retire from 50 on with a ridiculous lump sum payment and a gold plated pension, the result of collusion with our dear politicians in return for acquiescence in stitching up the muppets.
    New Zealand is not unlike Ireland in many ways, they ditched agri subsidies in the mid 1980’s and to day have a vibrant agri sector and a very profitable food processing sector exporting 1,000s of miles to their nearest customer.

  • John

    Trying to control the economy from the centre has never worked, it has always perished on the rocks of “events, dear boy, events” The centre is not able to read or respond quickly enough.

  • John

    car manufacturers.

  • Korhomme

    I tried Dr Google for ‘best British brands’ but didn’t get very far. I did find a list with ‘top British cars’ which had Aston Martin, Mini, Jaguar, Land Rover etc, as well as Morgan. Morgan is the only maker that isn’t foreign owned. This only seems to confirm that Britain is no longer a major (volume) manufacturer — the firms that do this are foreign — but some are trading on the names they once had. The UK is now a ‘service’ rather than an industrial economy. Just how well service will work in the ‘third world’ outside the EU remains to be seen.

    I see what others have written about this; I’d be more inclined to put such brands into the niche category.

  • Angry Mob
  • David Crookes

    First I have an electric car, and now I do nothing to help myself.

    Stop indulging in insane fantasies about your interlocutor, avoid cloacal language, and keep to the subject.

  • Sean Danaher

    Indeed it is a massive advantage for exports in that you can increase market share. I would take issue regarding destination countries; almost 50% of NZ exports go to Asia, mainly China and Japan. Only 11% to the US and about 3% to the UK.

    In the case of the UK however it is very much a net importer of goods. According to the OEC https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/gbr/ the UK has a massive trade deficit of $220B in 2016 and imports 150% more than it exports. This of course is extremely unhealthy. The UK survives because it is very good at exporting services.

    Devaluing on such a scale will be very painful for the UK and we will see double digit inflation. Foreign holidays will be unaffordable for most people, but then again aviation may be an issue under a no deal scenario.

  • Sean Danaher

    Thanks Angry. Interesting link and makes me even more suspicious of Legatum.

  • Sean Danaher

    John
    there are many forms of capitalism. But the neoliberals have been masters at pushing a very extreme and perverted form of capitalism and convincing people of TINA – there is no alternative.

    The US is a prime example of neoliberalism. I was in the US doing my PhD at the Harvard Smithsonian in 1980 during the Carter/Regan campaign. At the time it was unquestionably in my view at least the greatest country in the world. Regan of course famously won and introduced neoliberalism. I could almost weep when I go back which I do quite often. Look under the surface and is a wreck. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle classes have seen no increase in living standards since the 1970s. The infrastructure is falling a part. The growth rate looks impressive but all goes to the top 1%. It is absolutely nor a country which I would like to emulate.

    Another country I know well is Germany where I did an undergraduate placement in Kernforschungsanlage Julich in 1976. Germany was very impressive then and even more so now. Clean, beautifully run and it seems uniformly wealthy (though I know the former East still has some catching up to do. I spent a month or so there this summer. It is also a capitalist country.

    For an even more different form of capitalism you could look at Modern Monetary Theory; I have posted this link before but if you are unfamiliar with MMT it is worth looking at http://www.progressivepulse.org/economics/is-world-leading-nhs-healthcare-an-affordable-proposition/

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “In this scenario what right have you to criticise others?”

    Simply put, I don’t soak the countryside in nitrates, I don’t wash out slurry tankers in streams, I don’t murder rare birds of prey and I don’t rip out hedgerows willy-nilly and then lament the fact that there’s less wildlife than there used to be.

    If I did the very things that I criticise then I would have little right to complain, but as I don’t do them then I feel quite justified in doing so.

    Now, are my complaints justified and do you agree that they are in some way harmful to the environment or do you disagree?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I shall now be extra vigilant for practitioners of phillumeny, a 5th column if ever there was one! (Word of the week BTW).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    John try actually having an economy without a centre.

  • Damien Mullan

    That ‘madness’ has been the cog turning the world of commerce since the dawn of civilization. The ancients loved luxury every bit as the consumers of today. That’s unlikely to ever change.

  • Damien Mullan

    Maybe we would be better in a command economy then. Actually, we have the evidence in from that experiment. North Korea being the one of the last vestiges of that economic philosophy.

  • John

    Are you suggesting that replacing imports with exports is a bad thing? I do not care who we export to as long as they send us THEIR money to sloush around in OUR bucket. I do not think people employed in making these goods here in the UK would complain either. Foreign holidays are what poor simple rural peasants like me consider a luxury, so problem there. Catch yourself on, “aviation may be an issue” so long as there is money to be made airlines will fly where ever, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel with that one.

  • David Crookes

    Bravo, Ghob, it appears that you have met your match!

  • John

    If people are content to pay a luxurious price for mediocrity I still call that madness or perhaps stupidity.

  • John

    Sorry Damien, I have no idea where you got that one.

  • Sean Danaher

    John
    I’m not suggesting that at all. My limited understanding of economics suggest the two best measures of an economy are net exports and productivity. It is far better to have a net export high productivity economy such as Germany rather than a net import low productivity economy such as the UK. I hope we can both agree that if the UK economy more resembles the German one after Brexit that will be a good thing.

    Regarding flights I was referring to the Open Skies agreement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EU%E2%80%93US_Open_Skies_Agreement When the UK leaves the EU the treaty will have to be renegotiated. This is a non trivial issue and totally independent of currency valuation. There may be severe disruption to flights.

    I hadn’t realised you were a “poor simple peasant”. My experience is that whereas peasants may be poor they are seldom simple and very much worth listening to.

  • John

    Unfortunately I am but a poor simple rural peasant with one O level in maths so I was always able to count my change and able to recognise when I was being short-changed. Like you I visited the USA several times and spent about 18mths milking cows there in the mid 1980’s. Also like you over the last 40 years I have watched it change dramatically for the worse for most ordinary Americans. Even in the mid 1980’s it was all about your “credit rating” and spend, spend, spend. Sadly even at that time I found it very difficult to buy USA made goods so it was a case of exporting your wages and eventually your jobs to the far east mainly. Regan and Maggie’s “big Bang” deregulation of the banks accelerated the whole process.

    Any thing sound familiar at this point.

    I have no clue what Neoliberalism does for a living, a complete mystery to me. There may or may not be many forms of capitalism, again I know not. I do know the kind of capitalism that we practice is very simple. We take base raw materials, put these raw materials through a process to add value and then we sell finished product on the open market against all comers to the consumer. We pay particular attention to all our costs and invest were we can get a return over time, extra effort is devoted to controlling the cash requirement of the business. It is worth noting that the multinational and global players in our sector set our market prices which we are very happy with (so much for economies of scale). We are in a better place to sustain a drop in sales or an increase in various raw material costs, we may not like it but we can handle pain longer than the big boys. In this context I cannot understand why more farmers do not add value to at least some of their output. Relatively simple processes can contribute a huge amount of added value and therefore to farm income.

  • Sean Danaher

    Hi again John
    What you say is very sensible my beef is at the macro level; the level at which the 1% work.

    The current neoliberal capitalist system is quite extraordinary. I think a good introduction to how “crazy” is is has become has been produced by produced by Malcolm Henry who is a boatbuilder from Skye and is not a trained economist. I think his animation is very good and definitely not aimed at a specialist. Hope it is of use
    http://www.progressivepulse.org/economics/crazy-money-an-animation-by-malcolm-henry/

  • William Kinmont

    A radical and federal approach probably is needed, I have been hoping ithe absolute crisis of brexit might rise is above our usual constitutional quagmire. The problem I see here is that if brexit must happen long term Britain is probably better served out of the customs union wheras we and Probably Scotland are always better served within.
    A sectoral approach for NI agrifood remaining in EU is even more possible. A border in the Irish sea for agrifood would not be impossible to manage nor necessarily should it be politically impossible for Dup to sell

  • William Kinmont

    I would prefer my horse, pity the world goes so fast.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I am, of course in complete agreement. Brendan O’Leary, whose ideas were seminal to the Belfast Agreement, drafted an outline solution with the Dalriada Document, which describes what you are suggesting. As you say the utter inflexibility of the DUP will make almost anything but the most destructive version of an exit look like some serious defeat to SF.

  • Georgie Best

    Do you mean that you have a “horse outside”?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “The little guys have free family labour and subsidise farming with other off farm income. Disease problems escalate the bigger the scale.”

    I work a lot in rural Canada and have come across Hutterites who live in farm-colonies and from what I gather they are very successful farmers on account of maximising these advantages that you mention.

  • John

    Are you very sure about that. What do you do with the waste soiled water from your washing machine and dish washer. Where does your toilet waste go to. There is an a lot of domestic houses in North Down. Just because this stuff is out of sight it is not out of mind. You do not by any chance take milk in your coffee or butter on your toast, think about that and those pesky farmers on the Gransha road.

  • John

    You silver tongued divil, you say all the right things.

  • William Kinmont

    ??

  • John

    I think you will find that agriculture contributes 0.62% of it’s Gross Value Added (£9.9 billion). This NOT the same as 0.6% of the economy, please be factual.

  • John

    I would not be so sure about that. NI agriculture has bank borrowings of about £1,1billion from the big four banks, 60% of farms owe nothing guess who they are?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    John

    I listed criticisms derived from observations.

    Either these criticisms are deserved or ill-deserved in which case feel free to agree or disagree.

    At present you are doing neither other than building an impossibly high and irrelevant moral platform that allegedly one must clamber upon before they are worthy of being allowed to criticise others.

    This is a classic distraction tactic used by people who know that they can’t find general fault with a person’s points but would rather confuse and dilly dally rather than agree or disagree.

    If my criticisms (and David’s) are ill deserved then you may take our posts apart and explain why, it should be simple.

    If our criticisms are somehow hypocritical then that simply means that we are hypocrites making valid points, to be a hypocrite is not to necessarily be wrong, either way, you have the opportunity to explain why the criticisms are not valid.

  • John

    Sounds a bit like slavery to me, I thought that was abolished.

  • John

    You do not get out much.

  • John

    Lots of room for growth then.

  • Sean Danaher

    Apologies John, there are different figures bandied around, and also different sources round to different numbers of decimal points and use slightly different methodologies, even different types of GVA. I have no reason to doubt your 0.62% and most certainty had no desire to deceive.

    On data however there are some very interesting ones such as how much does the UK exchequer contribute net to the NI economy per annum? Figures range from as high as £10bn to as low as £2bn depending on whom you talk to. Because of the statistical assumptions made in the way the data is gathered no one knows for sure. The best guess seems to be about £8bn.

    The Scottish figures under GERS are no more precise and there has been considerable debate in the Scottish Parliament as to the fitness of purpose of the methodology used.

  • Sean Danaher

    Mick just to add I have put my thoughts more coherently together on this and have a piece here if it is of interest http://www.progressivepulse.org/brexit/public-and-power-broker-brexit-tribes-and-the-mirror-of-erised/

  • John

    You said it not me. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Do not confuse emotions and facts.

  • John

    That is a big part of our problem, to much time and energy spent throwing assumptions and meaningless statistics.

  • John

    Why are we still talking about providing farm subsidies, the Kiwis have shown that a small Island in the middle of nowhere can survive and prosper without them.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Another thing that you did not say was whether these criticisms that David and I highlight are warranted or not.

    If you think we’re wrong in citing such criticisms then have at it and explain why we’re wrong.

    And given what what I have cited are facts based on observations and experience then it’s fair to say that emotion has little to do with it, unless we talk about the emotions involved that simply won’t allow an individual to criticise wrong doing.

    So yes, I agree, do not confuse emotion and facts.

  • John

    Agriculture is about harvesting energy from sun, rain and soil. This energy is manifested in many forms, starch from potatoes and grain, grass converted by cattle and cows into protein and milk fat, starch from cereals is converted by hens and pigs into protein. Crops such as brassicas, turnips, carrots and leeks are consumed directly by humans. What links this process is weather, which as you will appreciate is a wee bit unpredictable, however that is what farmers have to work with. This year for example we have been delivered 4 foot or 1.2 meters of rain since May.
    Given this seasons rain fall a very significant percentage of this years’ spring cereals are still in sodden fields and are now unlikely to be harvested at all. The harvesting of grass silage should have been completed in September, this has not happened yet due to, you guessed the weather.
    Strange as it may seem farmers would much prefer not to be plundering through gutters to the knees, damaging the ground, mucking up the roads and creating yet more work.
    Rush hours traffic is horrendous in North Down, the Belfast / Bangor road is a very big carpark. When sitting in this car park I could not help noticing empty trains trundling by. Obviously a lot of people are perfectly happy spending their time in this grossly polluted car park EVERY day.
    Agriculture in the UK has through environmental legislation. spent 10s of millions of £s of mostly borrowed money on soiled water and slurry storage over the last 10 years and disposal of same is heavily regulated and policed. Though not a fan myself, large 4×4 vehicles are a legal requirement for towing livestock trailers and therefore arguably a mandated necessary evil.
    Hundreds of millions of £s of public money has and is being spent to stop raw sewage being discharged around our coasts . So who exactly is poisoning what?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A person poisoning something is a person poisoning something, it is that simple.

    You may believe that there is some sort of exemption clause because society is making a hash of environmental protection or infrastructure but I prefer to stick to the facts and particulars rather than find some sort of offset that allows them a Pontius Pillate opportunity to wring their hands.

    And, if all these things that you have mentioned are detrimental to the environment (and I don’t doubt that they are) then please explain why my listed gripes are NOT harmful to the environment.

  • John

    Absolutely correct regarding “poisoning”, immediately stones and glasshouses spring to mind.

  • William Kinmont

    its a very difficult balance, our agriculture has become very intense, farmers and our environment may be better off if we go extensive but are we just shifting the problem elsewhere.
    environmental legislation like that on slurry storage or renewable heat may actually be doing more harm than good. The hedgerow removal was encouraged and funded in yyears past.
    No excuse for deliberate flouting or harm, i doubt that anyone washes their slurrytanker out more likely collecting water . Not even sure washing out a slurry tanker would do significant harm, silage effluent a different matter.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Your entire defence is based on the supposition of hypocrisy, I say hypocrisy doesn’t matter with regards to highlighting a transgression.

    After all these posts you have yet to defend the behaviour I have highlighted, why is this?

    If the behaviour is acceptable then say so, if it’s not then say so.

    It’s not difficult.