British Agriculture – Observations from the past

British Agriculture

3 things I have learned as I became an elder having worked in British Agriculture for over 70 years.

  • If you can’t reflect on the past you can have no vision of the future
  • Never take anything at face value
  • You attain wisdom with age

A few of my thoughts I have listed below.

1.  British agriculture is in the same position as before the last world war, much of our food is imported, and some is portrayed as being British.

2. In 1933 a cross party-political agreement set up the milk marketing board, not because of the plight of dairy farmers which was much the same as it is today.  But to start to eradicate TB from human and cattle which was the main source of the disease. All milk could be pasteurised, in particular free school milk for children.  The MMB brought stability to the diary industry, and as for TB it was a great success story, in 1990 TB in cattle was 0.01%, in humans it was about eradicated, all the sanatoriums were closed, Streptomycin had done a good job on Tubercular Bacillus in humans.

3. 09/11/1989 The Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain came down; Eastern Europe was liberated and some of the best arable land in the world became available to the West.

4. 1992 Badgers became a protected species, Brian may got preference over the State Veterinary Service, after 50 years had been spent working hard to rid the country of TB.

5. 1994 the MMB through the government was disbanded, it had served its purpose with regards to TB.  It seemed super markets seemed to have greater influence than government policy.

6. In 2001 British agriculture faced the Foot and Mouth outbreak.  2000 cases with over 10 million cattle and sheep slaughtered at a cost of £8 billion of taxpayer’s money and the UK economy.

7. 2007 Foot and Mouth outbreak confirmed on the 3rd of August (a leak from Pirbright Institute) and by 21st of November, 134,000 animals were slaughtered

8. Since 2008 over 300,000 animals have been slaughtered because of TB, not counting animals in calf.

9. British agriculture used to have the ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food


Agriculture – appears to be slowly being killed off through no real representation

Fisheries – Already killed off. We had Fleetwood, Hull and Grimsby and Scotland

Food – more imported than ever before and controlled by supermarkets with French Water being more expensive than British milk.

British agriculture now has DEFRA.  No mention of farming, we have the NFU despite a rapidly declining actual farming membership base still representing the industry with running costs of this organisation at record highs and we have a food standard that has done nothing to stop Eastern European horse meat in beef burgers or foreign beef being portrayed as British under various “brands”

A quote has always stuck with me throughout my life “Farming is easy when your plough is a pencil and your 1000 miles away from the field” which seems very fitting when blaming red tape or politicians for the state of our farming industry.  I hope in my lifetime I get to see our farmers and future farmers have the courage to use the tools at their disposal to take back control and bring some accountability to British agriculture which is one of the most important industries in any society.

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