Saturday, 29 March 2014

Supermarkets continue to undermine dairy industry - Need for planning

Britain’s 14,500 dairy farmers are facing an uncertain future as supermarkets continue to seek to drive down the price of farm gate milk, this despite a voluntary dairy code  of agreement reached in September 2012 after dairy farmers successfully blockaded supermarkets distribution centres in summer 2012.
Hundreds more dairy farmers could be forced out of business if the price paid by supermarkets for milk is not increased substantially, as many dairy farmers presently are not even covering the cost of production due to increased cost of feed, fuel and fertilizers.
The dairy farmers cause has been backed by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall who have urged the public to boycott supermarkets that’s used milk as “a loss leader”
The growing militancy amongst dairy farmers has been driven by the grassroots Farmers For Action (FFA) established in May 2000 which was established as a result of disillusionment by the infectiveness of farming organisations, In April 2013 the FFA even pulled out of the SOS Dairy Coalition believing it was blunting FFA’s ability to fight the dairy farmers corner
FFA have organised numerous rallies of dairy farmers and coordinate blockades of supermarket depots in Cheshire, Derbyshire and West Yorkshire.
In a typical short sighted move UK supermarkets keen to source the cheapest possible milk and dairy produce are scouring Europe for the cheapest prices, while ignoring the plight of UK farmers. Over reliance on an extended food chain is not only environmentally damaging  but undermines food sustainability and spells serious dangers as we recently witnessed in the horsemeat scandal.
Planning is vital in all aspects of farming and nowhere more necessary than in dairy farming, that’s why in America it is the “Dairy State” of  Vermont that returns the only avowed socialist to the American Senate. Senator Sanders and his party the Vermont Progressive Party is the most successful third party in America
An estimated 50,000 farmers and farm workers are employed in UK dairy farming, their are 14,500 dairy farms in 2012 down from 34,500 in 1996. Britain’s consume 5 billion litres of milk a year, 1.6 litres per person per week.  90% of herds are the famous black and white Holstein-Friesan (others Ayrshire, Jersey and Guernsey). The average size of UK dairy herd is 123

Why there is a rural housing crisis

Why it is that massive shortage of rural housing Councillors all support affordable housing
yet non built ?. Is this because government not funding housing associations?
Despite the crocodile tears of Government ministers and many rural councils about the massive shortage of affordable homes in the countryside for local people the reasons are actually pretty straight forward and can be solved.
Firstly, the Nimby’s (Not In My BackYard) Brigade.  Often you find that those who are adequately housed in attractive countryside don’t want more homes to be built that they think may spoil their view out of the garden conservatory.  Especially if these homes are thought to house possible “working class people”!
Changes to planning law means that Councils are not obliged to insist on the building of affordable homes if they don’t want to - and many don’t, they simply don’t care regardless of the need.
We also seem to think that converting large chunks of the so called “green belt” into huge, ugly exploitative factory farms,  often set up solely to take advantage of generous EU and UK government subsidies is preferable to building some new homes. 
The countryside has in too many areas been colonised by a blight of retirement bungalows and weekend second homes for our wealthy urban middle class elites.  As well as wreaking village communities by destroying local schools, shops and pubs.  This results also in the double whammy of a lack of supply of homes and a very high demand - which pushes up prices completely out of reach for those who do not have access to a wealthy Bank of Mum and Dad.  
There is also far less existing social housing in rural areas than urban (13% compared to 22%) and low wages and lack of jobs.  The disastrous government policy of the so called “affordable rents” regime for new properties (and in many cases the new  lettings of existing stock) costing up to 80% of market rents compared to the traditional social rent of 50% of market rates is a death nail. The barking mad destruction of the Agricultural Wages Board which will even lower pay is yet another. 
The Bankers crisis and the huge cuts in Housing investment by this Tory Government have of course just made the problem far, far worse. 
There is some hope for the future since it seems that there is antidotal evidence at least that Tory MPs are being button holed in their Conservative Association Clubs by angry members who are fed up  with their kids living at home until in their thirties ,since even their offspring cannot afford their own place.  There is also concern expressed that there is no “help” available anymore to clean their homes, do their gardens or serve their food and drink at the local posh restaurant. 
There are also signs that the Countryside is turning and enough is enough.   Progressive Councillors are now being returned in Shire and district Council elections up and down the country. In July in rural Dorset we will celebrate the Tolpuddle martyrs and remember a time when the countryside was at the forefront of radical politics. Maybe, just maybe, our contemporary rural poverty and homelessness may spark something a little similar. 
John Gray

Housing Associations Branch Secretary and UNISON National Executive Council Member

Cry of the Wild - Wolves at the Gates of Paris

The European gray wolf has made an appearance in Denmark for the first since the last native Danish wolf was shot dead in 1813,

The sighting in a national park in northern Jutland is just the latest illustration of the wolfs recolonisation of western Europe.

Wolves were re introduced to the French Alps in 1993 and have since increased to 200 animals in 20 packs, their range has now spread to the sheep rearing area of Southern Auvergne (home of Roquefort cheese) and far to the north to Vosges on the Alsace-Lorraine border. With predication's that Wolves will be on the outskirts of Paris by the end of the decade.

In Italy there has been considerable success in reintroducing of the European Brown bear into the Dolomite mountains, ten adults captured in Slovenia were released and have now grown to a group of an estimated 50 adults and cubs.

Meanwhile, in England attempts are being made to reintroduce the Great Bustard, the world's heaviest flying bird which was hunted to extinction in England in 1832

The Great Bustard was reintroduced to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire in 2004 but has meet unfortunately with only little success to date.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Burston 2013


This years Burston Rural rally was according to many one of the best, good weather and wide variety of speakers and singers ensured the success of the hard  work of the organisers


Hardworking Euro MEP Richard Howitt was present showing his support for Country Standard, along with long time supporter Mike Ward (Unite)

London Clarion Cycling Club were also present, having  cycled from London

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Steinbeck on migrant workers 1930's USA

"Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never been hungry saw the eyes of the hungry. 

Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. 

And the men of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad, as a man must do before he fights. 

John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath 

Tom Joad

"I'll be ever'where–wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there..An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses the build–why I'll be there.” 



John Steinbeck The Grapes  


Salinas California SEIU office and we can do it mural

Monday, 15 July 2013

Food & The Nation - Mary Creagh

Mary Creagh: Britain should be ready to serve up fresh taste of success

Yorkhsire Post

Up until the 1980s, Britain’s cooking was infamous. Our overcooked meat and vegetables, bland dishes and uninspiring restaurants were mocked by food and restaurant critics the world over. 

Today, tourists are astonished when they come and taste some the best food in the world.
On my visit to the Great Yorkshire Show last week I saw some of the best of our farming heritage and our regional specialist food economy. Yorkshire and the Humber has the largest concentration of food and drink businesses in the UK, which contributes £1.7bn a year to the UK economy.

In Wakefield, we have our famous rhubarb and liquorice festivals, award-winning sausages from Blacker Hall Farm, and fantastic beer from Ossett and Clark’s breweries. Innovative young chefs, like Liam Duffy and his Iris restaurant, are using their talents to bring great cooking to Yorkshire.
These small craft businesses are providing jobs and growth in a semi-rural area, working alongside a supportive local council who understands the role food can play in driving tourism and creating a sense of place.

Food will be one of the major challenges of the 21st century. The world will need to feed eight billion people by 2025. Emerging demand in new markets, lack of access to land and water, and the changing weather, are putting pressure on the global food system. A rising population, climate change and water stress will affect how this country produces its food.
There are huge pressures on the UK’s food system. This year’s late and exceptionally cold spring, and last year’s wet and erratic seasons, mean times continue to be tough, particularly for livestock farmer struggling with the rising cost of grain. Life is getting harder for many families too. Food prices are rising faster than wages and there is a cost of living crisis. The recent horsemeat scandal sparked a debate about how Britain’s food is produced, traced and regulated.

In spite of the challenges, the food industry has the potential to create jobs, boost UK growth and drive the economy. Labour believes that there are opportunities to boost our food security, produce more food in the UK and create new markets to export the best of British produce.

The more we produce in the UK, the less we need to import, the more we are protected from currency fluctuations, and the more we can export.

The food and farming sector is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK: 400,000 people work in food processing and manufacturing in the UK, and exports amount to £11bn.
Currently, Britain imports 40 per cent of our food. Labour believes there are opportunities to boost our domestic food security, produce more food in the UK and to boost our exports to new emerging markets. This is an ambitious approach.

 I believe that we can produce more food as a nation while addressing the decline in biodiversity that we have seen over the last 60 years. But it will require government leadership and a clear strategy.

That is why, last week, I launched Labour’s review of Britain’s food supply and the challenges that face our food system. You can read our document – Feeding the Nation: creating a resilient, growing food industry – online at

Groups like the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and National Farmers Union (NFU) are calling on retailers to support local farmers. The CPRE have urged supermarkets to stock more local produce, with at least 10 per cent of sales coming from goods produced within 30 miles of a store. 

I would like to see schools, hospitals and central and local government procuring more food to British standards. These are the ideas we are looking at in Feeding the Nation, to help boost our food industry, create jobs and spend public money better.

The free market, de-regulatory approach of the current coalition Government is letting us down. 

Labour in government published Food 2030, the first national food strategy since the Second World War, setting out a vision for a sustainable and secure food supply in the UK. That work has been ignored by the coalition. We set up a Cabinet sub-committee to bring together the relevant government departments involved in food.

The coalition Government scrapped it. There is no food strategy for England and no co-ordination of food policy across government. After the 2010 election, the Government split up the labelling responsibilities of the Food Standards Agency creating a fragmented approach to food governance. That split was criticised by Professor Pat Troop in her review of the handling of the horsemeat scandal.

There are huge opportunities for Britain to lead the world on food. We have some of the world’s best universities and research centres on agriculture, food and environmental sciences. We need to find practical applications for this research and translate it into commercial and business opportunities.

We want a growing food 
industry, pride in our culinary craft and farming traditions, and more great food.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Agricultural Workers in UK 1955

Black colouring denotes area with over 4 agricultural workers per 100 acres

Sussex, Kent, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire Norfolk, Lincolnshire