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September 13, 2007

Farming Life: Flood, Pestilence and Famine

Posted by Jorocs

What can you say? After floods, which could cause a famine of cattle feed in the coming winter months, we have to face pestilence in the form of Foot and Mouth. And what is so ironic is that the initial cause of the outbreak was from the Government laboratory at Pirbright. No wonder when Gordon Brown heard this he rushed home from his holidays travelling one hundred and eighty miles up the 303. Who was the Chancellor who turned down Defra's request for more funding for the Pirbright Laboratory?

As an ex-Chancellor he must be sitting very uncomfortably at the moment while we farmers are nervously contemplating the future with memories of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak still in our minds. Not for Gordon burning pyres of dead cattle around London marking Government failure. Carcases are transported across several counties to an incinerator while we farmers wait anxiously and hope that the government shows more competence in handling this outbreak than that in 2001 which was an operational disaster costing the country billions.

We run the whole gamut of emotions coping with the day to day problems in the aftermath of the floods trying to switch off from worrying what the future brings. But during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak this farm was closed down for twenty four hours with a suspect case and no words can communicate the despair and foreboding that a farmer has to go through in those uncertain hours before a negative or positive result.

This time the Government has tried to move the blame onto Merial, an independent pharmaceutical company on the same site which stores the vaccines. They obviously have far more money to counteract compensation claims than the Government, such is the twisting and turning of the ex-Chancellor. The blame is now centring on the drains or the flooding. Presumably the drains are commonly shared between the Government and Merial and perhaps the Government is hoping that this may muddy the waters on identifying the source of the outbreak.

If you want to know what's going on upstairs, you just have to ask those downstairs. My tea lady friend at Pirbright told me they have totally failed to indentify the source of the outbreak. She also tells me that Bluetongue, a disease which affects sheep, and to lesser extent cattle, has travelled across Europe and the next three weeks will see it crossing the English Channel with the migration of the midges. My char lady friend at Westminster tells me all is quiet in the summer season and that the Conservatives will probably have to consolidate to the right, but they will become less authoritarian and will review regulation.

Meanwhile we dairy farmers have great reason to be optimistic about milk price increases. Globally milk and milk products have gone into short supply. While output has been reduced across Europe due to low milk prices, a severe drought in Australia , a booming economy in India and China with an accompanying desire for an "upmarket" western diet have resulted in an unprecedented upsurge in demand.

Jorocs writes about hunting life for the Social Affairs Unit. To read more by Jorocs, see Hunting.


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