November 2015: Why is agriculture judged to be so unimportant?

I know I had a bit of a moan last month about the diabolical state of farming in general, but apparently it’s not just me who thinks that for the first time ever, or certainly in my lifetime, nothing in agriculture is making any money. Up corn, down horn, and vice-versa, has played a part over the years, and we’ve always been grateful for the phrase every little helps; but currently, very little helps.

Farmers generally are great at perhaps slightly exaggerating their yields, particularly over a pint! They don’t usually admit that they’ve failed miserably to sell their produce when the price was right, but I’ve had lots of conversations recently with neighbours who think the price was never right in the first place.

The price of our produce is way below the cost of production, and seems to bear no relation to market requirements here. But why? Can cereals, or pigs for that matter, really be produced so much cheaper elsewhere and transported here? I find that hard to believe.

So, the pig man has suffered and, for the second year in a row, the arable man is suffering. Carry on like this and there will be wholesale changes and then, perhaps, UK agriculture might be appreciated.

I say might, but it’s really as if we’re unimportant when, in fact, I think agriculture should be the most important industry. Food won’t always be cheaper from abroad – well not if every country abides by the strict rules we have to suffer.

The other thing that concerns me is the amount of greenfield land here being taken for housing. We’re going to have more mouths to feed from less acreage, and when will that reflect in returns to farmers? With an ever-increasing world population and the amount of land we lose each year worldwide (it used to be about the size of Wales per annum, but I suspect it is more now), there will surely come a time when perhaps UK agriculture will be valued for what it really is.

Those of you who have had a piggery fire, and I am one of them, will know what the effect is on the morale of both man and master. It’s more than 20 years since I lost two farrowing houses full of sows and litters, and the stench remains with me today. The inadequacy you feel, the helplessness of not being able to get the pigs out is almost indescribable.

I was reminded about that recently when a local piggery caught fire and more than 300 pigs lost their lives. The horrendous film on the local news didn’t make for bedtime viewing. I know everyone takes care, but a timely reminder to double check any safety measures in place will do no harm. And if anything’s not up to date, please, for your own sake, do something about it.

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About The Author

Sam Walton is a Yorkshire farmer and former pig producer, and the founding editor of Pig World.