Farming for the future

One of the big wins from Brexit can be a new agrarian revolution in the UK. We should develop policies to rebuild our self sufficiency in temperate food, as we virtually enjoyed before joining the Common Agricultural Policy. We should also look at other ways of increasing the use we make of our farmland to increase farm incomes.

Cutting food miles should be part of the aim. Investing in better farming methods should be the means of achieving the improvements. UK farms could do with more capital and successful farmers need access to more land to farm.

The UK has not invested as much in market gardening to produce vegetables and salads in the way the Netherlands has done. Our climates are very similar, but the Netherlands have gone much further in putting in glass houses and other protective systems to extend growing seasons and raise crop output.

We need improved funding of tenant and farm owner capital from both the commercial sector and from government as part of its financial support. In many cases forward contracts from leading retailers will make it possible to finance this type of expansion.

In the dairy sector more joint working with the leading food manufacturers and retailers could create more milk demand for conversion to value added products like cheese and yoghurt.

Landowners and tenant farmers can also add other incomes from making land available for solar arrays, battery storage and other green energy activities. We also need to stimulate more tree planting. Our growing conditions are often better than Scandinavia and Canada yet we import most of our wood.

With a massive £20 bn food deficit with huge EU there is plenty of scope for new farming expansion here at home.

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159 Comments

  1. Mark B
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Farming is not as easy as it once was. Energy, labour and items such as fertilizer and feed have increased. So too has the population. We are building on arable land and the arteries that are our transport system are becoming more and more clogged, thereby increasing costs further. It is good to buy British and, wherever possible, locally grown food. Once can also, for little cost and where possible, grow one’s own fruit and veg’ as I have done.

    I think we need to look at things not just from the supply side but, from the consumption side as well. No all the UK can be put to use in the production of food to feed the population. A managed population, in harmony with resources and services, is a contented population.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Surely is it much easier than it once was – try ploughing a field without a tractor and plough or wheat threshing and winnowing by hand!

      • Mark B
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        LL

        Read my second sentence, it is in relation to the first.

        Those combined harvesters do not run on thin air.

      • Dennis
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        ‘A managed population, in harmony with resources and services, is a contented population.’

        Yes a UK population perhaps of 8-10 million would enable not only little need for imports but perhaps total organic farming with insect/drought etc. losses no problem as the remain would suffice.

        At 10 million we would still have a bigger population than many European countries -Switzerland, not an impoverished country, having 8 million.

    • Turboterrier.
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Mark B

      as fertilizer and feed have increased.

      Agreed and one of the reasons is quite simple. Farmers are planting their fields and leasing as many as possible to grow crops best suited to keep their bio digester plant running to produce gas to run generators to produce electricity. Their income for this operation far exceeds normal farming methods.

      The down size is that fields available for animal feed are less and it therefore becomes much more expensive to feed the stock and harder to achieve a reasonable market price.

      Yet another “green solution” not properly thought through.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      The fall in Sterling means that the highly motivated, industrious labour from eastern Europe are less inclined to come, whether or not they would be permitted post-exit from the European Union.

      So even home-grown produce will likely be dearer, as farmers will have to pay rates to attract local effort. Or then again, perhaps they will use that from the developing world, from parts of the Commonwealth, such as Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan?

      However, I doubt that even they would be willing to work in the wet or freezing conditions presently stoically borne by the Slavs etc.

      • Edward2
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        The minimum wage in the UK is many times higher than the minimum wage in some East European countries.
        The fall in the exchange rate has very little comparative effect.

        Farmers might even buy machinery to pick their crops.
        Many are available.

      • libertarian
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        Martin in Cardiff
        Two things

        1) Sterling has risen dramatically since the announcement of a potential Brexit deal

        2 ) Hardly any Eastern Europeans have left overall

        in 2018
        202,000 EU workers came to the UK and 261,000 non EU workers ( the highest since 2004)

        Total number of people working in UK agriculture 346,000
        of which 75,000 are non UK workers , total number of seasonal workers of all nationalities is 64,200

        The problem with seasonal work for UK people is not so much the conditions its the loss of benefits

    • dixie
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Part of the problem may be the use of fertilizers and heavy machinery – ploughing and compaction. There was an interesting program call “farm of the future” some years ago that demonstrated that the over use of fertilizer, constant ploughing and heavy tractors has resulted in literally dead soil. Essentially you need to keep putting fertilizer in all the time to grow anything which together with the tractors involves a convenient dependence on diesel.

      We grow some of our food – tomatoes, beans. lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots and courgettes as much for the taste as knowing where the food came from and free of sprays. We find supermarket tomatoes and veg tasteless and lacking variety while in a very small plot we can grow enough tomatoes and beans for a year of meals, salads and sandwiches. We are looking to put in some small fruit trees this year and are children have been taught how to grow their own food as well.

      All UK salmon is farmed, there is no reason why fish farming could not be done closer to towns and cities providing more local sources of protein and natural fertilizer for fruit and veg.

      We need to become smarter in how we do thing, especially the provision of energy and food, we cannot rely on an abundant and uninterupted supply of cheap oil.

      • James Bertram
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, Dixie. Overuse of fertilser is a massive problem, both for the life of the soil and for air quality.

        This is from the Compassion in World Farming report that I recommended in another post:
        Air pollution: A new study reports that in the UK, agriculture contributes up to 48% of the air pollution associated with premature mortality. This largely results from livestock and fertilisers; a substantial proportion of these are used to grow crops for animal feed.
        Excess nitrogen in the environment: The use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers is a key factor leading to environmental pollution. A large proportion of these fertilisers are used to grow crops for animal feed. The European Nitrogen Assessment identifies five key threats associated with excess reactive nitrogen in the environment: damage to water quality, air quality (and hence human health, in particular respiratory problems and cancers), soil quality
        (acidification of agricultural soils and loss of soil biodiversity), the greenhouse balance and ecosystems and biodiversity.

        Compassion’s Plan: Objectives on Natural Resources
        Restore soil quality by increasing organic matter and soil biodiversity
        Re-establish the variety and abundance of farmland birds and pollinators
        Reduce the contribution of agriculture to poor air quality
        Reduce farming’s use and pollution of water

        Steps for restoring natural resources
        Industrial livestock production should be brought to an end. If industrial livestock’s need for cereals was much reduced, arable land could be farmed less intensively, allowing soil, water and air quality as well as biodiversity to be restored.

      • Mark B
        Posted October 14, 2019 at 4:18 am | Permalink

        Agreed. I gave my excess to one of my neighbours, a retired couple, and they loved it. They too will be growing their own. Next year I intend to grow peas and runner beans, potatoes and other veg’. Even in a small flat you can grow herbs. It is easy and much better.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Well let’s just kill off all the many absurd subsidies for farming, food production, solar, wind, electric cars, batteries …… other than perhaps for sensible r&d in these areas. Roll out only when these things actually works, make sense, are competitive without subsidy and in demand. Then we can see what farming systems and which energy engineering actually makes economic sense. Rather than virtue signalling and pissing tax payers money down the drain with daft lunacies and corruption.

    Anyway if we are really going for the carbon neutral lunacy we certainly cannot have much dairy or meat production, heated greenhouses (Or indeed heated houses) or indeed pets. Just live off cabbage, beetroot, potatoes, porridge, bread (no butter), apples, rhubarb, sprouts, carrots, strawberries, cherries, plumbs, black currents etc. only when in season (and certainly no cream).

    • stred
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Let’s take a lead from Sir Bob and the XRs and wash less to save the planet from extinction as calcium carbonate uses up the plant food.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        Bathe every three months – needed or not!

      • stred
        Posted October 14, 2019 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        I wonder how many XR dumbos realise that CO2 levels were near the point where plants become extinct during the last ice age, that the next one is imminent and that sea crustaceans continue to convert the carbon dioxide into chalk. The end is nigh

    • Ian terry
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic

      Your first paragraph is bang on the money. Totally correct.

      Subsidies provided and agreed by people with not one atom of understanding how energy systems work and operate. All converts to the Church of Renewable Energy Saving the World. We are about to enter another “eat or heat season” with the poorer of society taking the hit, and the few MPs who actually understand the whole energy supply process are totally ignored.

    • Chris Dark
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Potatoes, porridge, bread….heavy in carbohydrates and contribute to obesity. Precisely what we’re trying to steer everyone away from. If that is the future of our daily diet then we’re going to be in real trouble. And if meat was banned then presumably all the farm animals currently alive would be slaughtered….a senseless waste of life and utter cruelty. Meanwhile the rest of the world continues to eat a mix of meat, fruit and veg, just as Nature intended.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Indeed, I will stick to my mix of meat, nuts, fruit, veg, grain, mushrooms, dairy and eggs – all washed down with the odd good bottle of claret.

        Though it is not just carbs that make you fat – all food does. I was ill with something a few years back and so ate nothing for about 6 days – I lost a stone. It did not go back on either.

        • Pominoz
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

          Ll,

          “all washed down with the odd good bottle of claret.”

          How about converting to excellent wine from Oz or elsewhere outside the EU?

      • margaret howard
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Chris Dark

        “And if meat was banned then presumably all the farm animals currently alive would be slaughtered….a senseless waste of life and utter cruelty.”

        So what exactly happens to them now?

        • Chris Dark
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          Slaughtered and never replaced. No-one eating meat? then farm animals no longer required and cost money to feed, so get rid of. A little intelligence in interpreting comments wouldn’t go amiss.

  3. J Bush
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    If this is what your party really want, then the first thing they have to do is to put a strong leash on the RPA and drag it back to basics. Because from my experience all they want to achieve is a continued EU type stranglehold on real farmers, whilst allowing greedy landowners who don’t produce any food for the Nation, but milk the taxpayer for the 100’s of acres of land laid to PG01 (permanent grass).

    • oldtimer
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      I assume that in your post RPA refers to the rural payments agency. When I saw the initials RPA I thought Robotic Process Automation. From my limited knowledge of farming and related practices this latter meaning of RPA can and does make a significant contribution to productivity. Someone described farming like running a factory without a roof, dependent on the weather. If you can put a roof on it then it will help improve control, the application of technology and crop yields. For activities that must be conducted in the open, my understanding is that satellite analyses can help achieve more efficient fertilisation programmes; and that automation can control tractors and other farm machinery with great precision. These techniques are applied today along with other applications of the scientific revolution now underway to improve crop resistance to disease and drought and to improve yield. Farming in New Zealand has been substantially weaned off its dependence on subsidies. It can be done.

    • Mark B
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      J Bush

      Thanks for the eye opener.

    • acorn
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      The CAP is very good for Westminster’s land Barons. It will be interesting to see if Gove’s Agriculture Bill continues to pay them €4 bn a year just for serially inheriting thousands of acres from the Middle Ages. BTW England gets the lowest share per cap in the UK.

      One day I may actually discover why France gets near three times as much as the UK from CAP. Spain, Germany and Italy, all do considerably better than the UK when it comes to handing out the €56 bn CAP fund.

      PS. The fund pays out in Euro, so UK farmers income goes up as the Pound drops. The Brexit divorce bill sadly is going up in Pounds for the same reason.

      • forthurst
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Of course the French do well out of the CAP; it was invented by them for them. Because of the Code Napoléon, a typical French farm is a similar size to a postage stamp, consequently it is obvious that farmers’ incomes should not be based on how much they produce otherwise French farmers would go bankrupt and English farmers would not, on the whole. Therefore the ingenuity of the CAP is that it hardly based on what farmers can or could produce but on other factors and as there are far more French farmers it is a consequence that they would get more in toto.

        If we ever leave the EU, then clearly our farmers need to revert to being paid for what they produce, albeit with subsidies where necessary for essentials such as wheat and feedstock where world prices although fluctuating may be below the costs of production here generally or where our laws on husbandry prevent production based on cruelty.

        • steve
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          forthurst

          “….otherwise French farmers would go bankrupt and English farmers would not.”

          You know what that is ?

          I can tell you: Tough !

          I can also tell what it is not, viz: not our problem.

  4. Here and Now
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    All very worthy. And all utterly irrelevant to Brexit. Land use, innovation in production, funding of farms, green energy and tree planting are all matters for national governments, and in no way impeded by EU membership.

    • Edward2
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      here and now
      You plainly do not understand how the Common Agricultural Policy works.

  5. Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    One thing – solar arrays. Yes, in a few sunny days in summer their output can even rise up to 25% of our needs. Usually – especially in winter – it is much lower. At night or on overcast days it is negligible. Don’t waste our fertile lands please!
    I am going to reference this incredibly useful site because in a discussion on global warming last evening on LBC the interviewer had obviously no idea about it!
    https://gridwatch.co.uk/?old=

    PS In sunny Queensland, my daughter has virtually free electricity (for the A/C) all day because of 4 panels on the roof.

    • Andy
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Not true. Solar panels work on overcast days. You could have virtually free electricity too if you invested in solar panels and batteries.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Sure they “work” but the power output is often 10% lower than in full sun and further South.

        IT IS NOT FREE. You have to buy to solar cells and forgo an alternative investment return which would probably be far better. They make little sense without artificial tax payer subsidies rigging the market. Especially in cloudy & northern UK.

        • steve
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic

          “Sure they “work” but the power output is often 10% lower than in full sun and further South.”

          You have to scale up the capacity to account for that. Not good on a commercial basis I agree, but it works fine on a domestic installation.

          Ok I can’t run my 40A appliances such as oven etc with my set up, but the 13A circuit is perfectly happy with a 2kW inverter and deep cycle storage batteries. Grid usage is substantially minimised and my electric costs is about £10 – £20 a month, due to the dish washer and washing machine.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          I meant 10% of the level in full sun (not just 10% lower) sorry!

      • Edward2
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        But it isn’t free.
        You have to spend many thousands to set up.
        You say you are in business so work out the return on capital.

        • Andy
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          Sigh.

          You lot are deliberately contrary aren’t you? Of course you have to buy solar panels / batteries upfront. But after installation the electricity it generates is essentially free. You do not pay for fuel.

          Staggeringly there are huge upfront costs of building power stations too. The difference is that you then have to continue paying for fuel as well. Who knew?

          As for people who say solar panels don’t work in the UK- they’re flat wrong. I’ve had solar panels on my roof for most of the last 15 years. They work perfectly well here.

          • Anonymous
            Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

            I calculated that it would take twenty years to recoup my outlay. I do not intend to be in this house that long. I doubt the new buyer is going to pay me the cost of installation.

            I spent money on lagging, a new boiler and more efficient cars instead.

            Believe me. I do not wish to waste my money.

          • Edward2
            Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

            Well (sigh) I already have mains electric and gas.
            The monthly cost to heat my home and cook is reasonable and reliable.
            You want me to invest about £10,000 or more in a solar panel and battery system.
            To gain perhaps £150 a month in free electricity.
            To me the deal seems very poor when I could take that same £10,000 and invest it in a business and get a much better return over a much shorter timescale.
            As a hobby for a rich early adopter like you Andy it is just a bit of trendy virtue signalling fun.
            And I note you don’t mention the ridiculously generous grants you would have got until a few years ago.

      • Fred H
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        rubbish. 20% of what you need, maybe. Free? – Laughable.

      • APL
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        Andy: “You could have virtually free electricity too if you invested in solar panels and batteries.”

        I’m guessing you don’t comprehend what you have just written? If you have to invest to obtain something, how can the product of that expenditure, be virtually free?

        • steve
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          APL

          True, it wouldn’t be virtually free, but the advantage is not being held to ransom by energy companies. That makes a massive difference to your monthly finances, and of course the satisfaction of sticking it to the energy cartels.

          I run my 13A circuit off grid with a 2kW inverter which works fine, as for example TV’s and LED lighting these days draw very little current. Washing machine and dish washer I still run on grid but with key meter.

          The outlay was approx £500, though I did get the panels cheap through a friend.

          • APL
            Posted October 13, 2019 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

            Steve: ” the advantage is not being held to ransom by the energy companies.. ”

            OK, but that is a different argument.

            I’d like to get an idea of the true cost. Your solar array Sq footage and therefore cost.

            The inverter – a pure sign wave inverter?

            2Kw, you. Don’t have much headroom there. If you wanted to draw more, you will have to replace an expensive component of the system.

            The deep cycle batteries – what was the cost and what capacity?

            Have you built any redundancy?

            And what provision for maintenance have you made?

            Do you have to get up on the roof each month to keep the solar array clean of dust and dirt?

      • Fred H
        Posted October 14, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Andy ‘ Solar panels work on overcast days.’

        But are way down on efficiency. I happen to walk by an industrial installation almost every week. The devices hum encouragingly when full sun in summer. Without going into techy details they register 16 units of charge on those days, but down to 2 on cloudy non-summer months. They certainly do not pay back on outlay for many months of the year.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Yes, in a few sunny days in summer their output can even rise ……. well summer at midday (just when electricity demand in the UK is rather low).

      Clearly if we do make solar arrays it makes sense to put them somewhere very sunny and not in cloudy, northern, Glasgow!

    • steve
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Mike Stallard

      Solar does work, on a small scale. In my house the 13A stuff runs quite well from a moderately sized array feeding a bank of deep cycle batteries and a 2kW inverter.

      I have an electric cooker on the 40A but hardly ever use it as I cook on an AGA, sometimes even on a primus for convenience.

    • Posted October 13, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      And speaking of ”wasting our fertile lands” – how about stopping the building on good agricultural land? I understand there are plenty of brown field sites that could be used – but of course that would mean extra expense for developers in cleaning them up. How much better for a developer is a nice, flat, clean, well-tended field that has been used for centuries for growing food?

    • Dennis
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Mike – ‘free electricity (for the A/C) ‘ is that air-conditioner or alternating current?

      Can DC current from solar panels be easily converted, efficiently, to AC?

      • steve
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        Dennis

        “Can DC current from solar panels be easily converted, efficiently, to AC?”

        Yes Dennis, that’s what the inverter does.

    • Mark
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      In his final interview, Prof David Mackay, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to DECC made clear that solar is a very poor choice for the UK (and he criticises wind too). Indeed, in his book available on the internet (Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air), he explains why that is so. Since subsidies were withdrawn for solar there has been very little investment in solar in the UK, as you can verify here:

      https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/solar-photovoltaics-deployment

      Without subsidy it is uneconomic.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Indeed and a very good (and free) book it is – written by a sensible Cambridge Engineer (all be it one who had rather too much faith in the alarmists exaggerations and advised government). One who alas died at just 48.

        He crunches the numbers and shows all the many problems – practical, environmental & economic with wind, solar, electricity storage, hydro, wave, tidal ….. Clearly not something the St. Greta and BBC think types understand one little bit.

    • dixie
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Based on the last 2.5 years of operation our roof panels provide roughly 75% of our power needs and 90% of fuel needs over approx 10 months of the year. For the coldest and darkest 2 months we get around 25% of our energy needs. A battery would likely change the 75% to 95-100% based on the experience of a neighbour but these are a bit expensive at the present.

      The issue around intermittent supplies is what you do when they are in surplus. Batteries allow the power to be made available when sun and wind aren’t available but there are other ways to use the energy and CDU based on exploiting CO2 chemistry at scale looks promising. You can even generate plastics, diesel and jet fuel feedstocks from CO2 wit the right catalysts, these fuels could then be used for backup/dark hours generators.

      We need to do things smarter.

      • Posted October 13, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        As you say (almost) we have to do things more smartly.
        And surely that should include considering the overall impact of the manufacture, transportation, erection, maintenance and eventual disposal of these batteries, panels, turbines, etc.

        • dixie
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          So long as you do it for all forms of energy generation and distribution – you missed out consideration of nuclear fuel disposal and decommissioning, dealing with oil spills and the like.

          Before you attempt to put words in my mouth I do not believe renewables are viable as the sole source of power in the UK and we will need a mix of sources – nuclear and gas. But I also believe we will have sustainability problems if we blindly rely on oil and gas.

          I run panels and EV to see for myself the practicalities and drawbacks rather than rely on gut instinct as some of the more “conservative” contributors appear to.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

        Charging and discharging batteries wastes 30%+ of the energy.

        • dixie
          Posted October 14, 2019 at 5:24 am | Permalink

          If the energy were coming from a power station then wastage would matter.

          But it would be coming from my solar panels, from the sun, and so isn’t wasted at all, quite the opposite.

          Please provide evidence/reference that details how house battery systems charged from solar are only 70% efficient.

          • Mark
            Posted October 14, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

            At least initially, they are a bit better than that. Tesla’s big grid battery in South Australia operates at about 80% round trip efficiency, but that is expected to decline as the batteries age, perhaps by about 1% a year. They are mostly operated at around 25% of charge/discharge capacity, which improves performance compared with either high or low rates of charge/discharge, and rarely are operated to high levels of charge or discharge, which also preserves performance.

          • dixie
            Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:58 am | Permalink

            @Mark Charge/discharge efficiency, longevity and charge retention/delivery are different things. A 2017 paper by researchers in New Zealand Z put PV-Lead Acid house battery efficiency at around 92% using DC charging and 86% using AC charging.

            How this and charge capacity changes over time depends on a number of factors but there is no single value for all applications, chemistries and management systems.

  6. Cheshire Girl
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, a lot of our agricultural land is being taken to build housing. A factor of our burgeoning population.
    I don’t see this changing any time soon.

    • margaret howard
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Cheshire Girl

      Less than 10% of the country is being used for housing. Some say it is as little as 3%.

      As for our ‘burgeoning population’ it has increased by about 0.60% in the last ten years. Probably more to do with people living longer and more babies surviving.

      • Dennis
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        MH 0.6% of 60 million is 360,000 – in the last 10 years? – that is absurd.

        As for burgeoning the UK population is already over burgeoned by IMO 50 million an unsustainable (for many reasons) insane number.

      • Edward2
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        That 10% figure is an odd statistic.
        You can’t build houses on beaches, mountains, lakes, canals, forests, marshland, sides of hills, rivers, roads, railway lines and so on.
        People want houses where there are jobs and facilities.

        Population, we have had the biggest increase in our population in our history since 1997.
        New arrivals at a rate of several hundred thousands per year.
        A new city the size of Southampton needed every year to cope.
        63 million at the last census.
        Some supermarkets and water company data makes them conclude our population now us well over 70 million.

      • formula57
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Per the ONS, 2009 saw a UK population of 62,260,500 and in 2018 66,435,600 – so an increase of some 6.71 per cent. in that ten year period.

        In its most recent report on the UK population, the ONS states: –

        “For the majority of the 20th century, natural change was the main driver of UK population growth, with net migration a secondary factor. In the 1990s, however, net migration increased in influence and has been the main source of growth since 1998.”

        • Edward2
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          How does the ONS get the 2008 figure?
          Did I miss the last census.

          If you have about 300,000 new arrivals per year from about 1997 onwards who settle here and start families then does the ONS define that subsequent growth as “natural change”?

      • libertarian
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        margaret H

        Fair play , youre fairly correct . Less than 10% of UK is built on ( includes all buildings, roads, rail, airports etc) 6% is housing

      • a-tracy
        Posted October 14, 2019 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        margaret, you only have to look at the land mass in Scotland and Wales to see how that land would disrupt the statistics for housing in the UK. I wonder what % of Greater London is built on for homes and industries? What % of Greater Manchester inside the ring road. If you build out in rural areas where land is plenty there are no public services, road connections or things for people to do.

  7. Lifelogic
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Some Tory dope (or liar perhaps) on radio four was yet again making totally false claims about how much UK energy comes from “renewables” in the UK 38% or similar. Politicians always seem to confuse electricity production with all energy rather like they endlessly “confuse” (to be kind) “repaying the debt” with “reducing the deficit slightly as a proportion of GDP”.

    Worldwide wind and solar are actually less than 1% of energy demand, so almost irrelevant and very expensive and unreliable too.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      Electricity is less than 1/5 of total energy demand so even if all of it came from nuclear, hydro, wind and solar it would still be fairly irrelevant in saving much CO2 output.

      Nuclear, hydro, wind, biofuels and solar still produce carbon dioxide to build, run and maintain them too.

      • dixie
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

        How do solar panels, wind generators, nuclear or hydro produce CO2 while running?

        • Fedupsoutherner
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          Dixieland they don’t but the power stations have to be ramped up and down to compensate for the variation in power from renewable and so produce more CO2 than they need to.

          • dixie
            Posted October 14, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            Gas turbines are used to cover variation in demand above nuclear as well, in that sense renewables are no different.

            Lifelogic claims to have a scientific background so is (s)he fibbing or simply being lazy?

            If you simply want to rant I’ll leave you to it, however if you wish to debate then you need to realise that lazy generalizations and fact free rants only provide ammunition for those who wish to damage our country and economy.

    • Richard1
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Indeed I heard this, it was an absurd conversation. A Tory minister ‘versus’ a green fanatic. The green fanatic arguing for shutting down economic activity and the Tory minister claiming that 35% of UK energy needs now come from renewables “up from 8% in 2010”. Both figures were nonsense. We don’t get anything like even 8% of total energy production from renewables now.

      The only low-carbon energy production method with any chance of providing the sort of volumes needed is nuclear. But greens re opposed to that.

      But how can we get sensible policies if even Conservative ministers are so ignorant of the basic facts?!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Indeed – also the transport minister thinks electric cars are zero emission!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Indeed needless to say the BBC chairman (an English graduate) did not have a clue either.

  8. Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Agree John,

    Import substitution will be very important. However, once you realise that the only constraint a country has is its skills and real resources. Then you quickly understand imports are a benefit and exports are a cost in those terms.

  9. Everhopeful
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    What a relief if now we must rush to the side of the room labelled “ We need farmland” …away from the side proclaiming “ Build on every blade of grass.”
    I can think of three different locations where hundreds of acres of greenhouses were smashed up. All for houses.
    And beautiful farmhouses and farmyards and land ripped up and built on for “London ..Overspill” remember all that obfuscation? Woolpulling as ever!
    This volte face had better happen soon or what with Cameron’s planning laws there will be no land left for one single chicken.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      Regarding trees…govt had better do some swift de programming.
      At some point people were made terrified of trees
      Their leaves falling on cars
      Their height
      Their proximity to neighbours’ gardens
      Their interference with various signals
      Fruit falling on pavements.
      The shade they offer…never mind Ombra mai fu
      All thanks to govt …probably Blair. Meddlesome.

      • steve
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        Everhopeful

        You forgot the frustration caused to the rail network by a leaf landing on the track.

  10. Sea Warrior
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Lots of good ideas there, Sir John. But the Conservative Party – and I’m a member of it – seems intent on building on farmland to meet housing demand created by out-of-control population growth. Across England and Wales the Green Belt is being dug up so as to accommodate 400,000 new homes.

    • steve
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Sea Warrior

      Yes and what they build these days is cheaply built crap, and none of it has character.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      As it is coming from you, Andy, “of course” that is incorrect:

      https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/452

      “12. The result is that the UK population increased by 6.6 million between 2001 and 2016 and migration (3.1 million) together with a natural increase of migrants (2.3 million) accounted for 5.4 million or 82% of that total.”

      With a few special exceptions* children with immigrant parentage who are born and/or raised here are not to be regarded as foreigners – even if a minority of them prefer to behave as if they were foreigners – but nevertheless their presence in the country is the consequence of the immigration which has occurred in recent decades.

      * For example, the children of foreign workers posted here for a long period but not permanently.

    • Edward2
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      There has been immigration of several hundred thousand extra people every year since 1997.
      A new city the size of Southampton needed every year.
      But in your strange world andy these many millions have not added to population growth.

  11. Lifelogic
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Rees-Mogg: Trust the PM, he won’t concede too much to EU – in the Telegraph today.

    Well but both he and Mogg did vote for May’s rancid W/A treaty on the last occasion. We shall all see very soon if we could trust him. I still need some convincing.

    • Mark B
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      What J R-M means is, that the PM will not concede too much on the Backstop but will keep everything else.

      That is not Leaving !

    • Posted October 13, 2019 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      It’s the words ”too much” that are galling. Why should the UK go on ”conceding”, either not much or very little? This is outrageous.

  12. Mick
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Once we leave hopefully on October 31st 2019 we will be able to stop the policy of taking land out of production to reduce crop surpluses “set-aside “, we could do what other countries in Europe do by putting up massive poly tunnels on the land and grow vegetables and fruits what we want for us and also export , it’s not rocket science

  13. Anonymous
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Farm land being built all over around here. Factories knocked down and whole housing estates built on them – massive ones.

    No extra schools and hospitals.

    Crime and ‘county lines’ increasing whilst police are reduced.

    Please see that Beaconsfield and Lewes takes their share of this.

    • Andy
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      There’s a £350m development of new homes being built in Beaconsfield right now, with hundreds of new homes and a bypass. I have no problem with it. We need new homes for our young people because old people hog the existing ones. Beaconsfield is surprisingly multi-cultural as well. You should come to visit. It might deal with that almighty chip you have on your shoulder.

      • steve
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        Again you come on here inciting hatred of the elderly –

        “We need new homes for our young people because old people hog the existing ones.”

        JR – the guy is causing offence, as he did earlier today. Is there not some way you could block his access to the site ? In my opinion he should be blocked. I don’t think any of your regular contributors approve of extremist views such as his toward the elderly.

        • dixie
          Posted October 14, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          Don’t ban him, he demonstrates the true values of the EU remoaner mentality, instead revel in his ignorance and bigotry as a mark of their desperation.

          He professes deep love for the EU yet clearly does not even believe in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

          Article 21 – “Non-discrimination

          1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.”

      • libertarian
        Posted October 14, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Andy

        Old people “hog their homes” because complete idiots like you imposed taxes and duties which make it expensive to buy & sell homes.

        I live in a very rural position with no neighbours two of the three fields that surround my house have just been given planning permission to build 120 houses . I have no problem with this. Except the road cant take the traffic, the local school cant cope with the pupils and our doctors surgery 10 miles away will not be taking on new patients . Its necessary to build more housing and I support that , but we just dont have the infrastructure to support it currently

        You wouldn’t have the first idea about a multicultural place , come and visit us in Kent where we really do have a multicultural environment .

        Andy is etc ed

  14. steve
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Lifelogic

    Well said. I’m not convinced either. He’s remaining tight lipped for a reason.

    He shouldn’t be talking to Varadkar, or the EU.

    Instead should be warning Macron to get all french fishing vessels out of our waters by 31st – same for Dutch and the rest, and putting in place plans to ruin the Irish economy.

    What he should not be doing is assuming dispensation to swan off grovelling to countries that have insulted ours and being secretive about it. This is May all over again.

    Time to send the conservatives down with Corbyn and Swinson. I’m done with giving chance after chance, Farage gets my vote.

  15. Andy
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    All this will be quite hard when Brexit will put many farmers out of business. So say the National Farmers Union who know more about farming than you or I.

    • Coote
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I have little sympathy for farmers, who largely voted Leave. But they are now learning how all the Brexit promises are false. Once farms have to close, they won’t blame themselvesfor the way they voted, they will blame the people who told them that after Brexit we hold all the cards. If I were a prominent cheerleader for Leave, I’d be getting nervous now. Trying to blame the EU, the judges, the civil servants etc won’t wash as the truth emerges and the UK’s weakness is exposed

    • steve
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      You fail to mention how many farmers went out of business, and how many went to the barn with a single cartridge during the Blair years, long before brexit.

      Then again all you do is spend your life trying to blame everything on brexit. I find your take on things rather queer to say the least.

    • Edward2
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      They are just making the argument to put pressure on the govt to continue their generous comfy subsidies

  16. Martin in Cardiff
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Good morning John.

    The great Tory mantra of the 1980s forward was “extending choice”, whilst removing for instance, the choice for energy customers to buy their gas or electricity from a not-for-profit, publicly-accountable supplier.

    You seem now to be advocating a shrinkage of options for people as to the range of affordable foods with which they will be confronted.

    “Seasonal” in the UK means large parts of the year without the fruit and vegetables to which people have become accustomed and like to buy.

    Perhaps they’d love having a choice only between Hirondelle or Blue Nun again at the off licence too?

    We could ask them with a vote, couldn’t we?

    • Edward2
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Lots of choices outside the EU.
      Lots of alternative suppliers.
      Are you now claiming they will actually refuse to supply the UK after October 31st?

    • dixie
      Posted October 14, 2019 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      You are perfectly entitled to buy EU sourced food at higher prices than that from outside the EU if you wish, just don’t demand I subsidise your choice and restrict mine.

    • APL
      Posted October 14, 2019 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      Martin in Cardiff: “Perhaps they’d love having a choice only between Hirondelle or Blue Nun again at the off licence too?”

      Since those days you can get a wide selection of excellent grape varieties from the New world, USA, South America, Australia and New Zealand. The reduced choice you put forward being a result of BREXIT is false.

      Mic: “. Seasonal “. Other countries offer citrus fruits, Israel, Turkey, the USA et al.

      Again you present a false choice.

  17. GilesB
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Combined Food and Power plants (sic) could use carbon dioxide from electricity generation to boost growth of food crops.

    Growing vegetables and fruit at allotment scale is inefficient in direct economic terms, but not when the health, education and social benefits are taken into account. Knowing where food comes from is the only way to have an informed public.

  18. formula57
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Food security (alongside energy security) ought to be major priorities for the Government in this dangerous, hostile world but I do not see much evidence from it that it recognizes this.

    • Ian terry
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      formula57

      Recognition?….. Therein lies the problem. Too many of our elected members of Parliament sadly show on a too regular basis they do not have a clue about energy let alone its security and the same can be said about food production. It is a clear case of round pegs and square holes. Really knowing your portfolio and attention to detail seems sadly lacking.

  19. steve
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    In a nutshell; we need to be as self sufficient as possible.

    People need to grow their own fruit & veg, generate or supplement their own electricity, manage personal finances better and stay well away from credit.

    Learning how to repair and look after things properly is also a wise move. I’m of the generation who had to, there was no choice. But then I’m not held over a barrel by anyone.

  20. David L
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Driving from Edinburgh to Wokingham yesterday I saw a lot of marginal agricultural land on hillsides where sheep were grazing. Removal of animals from agriculture would render such land unproductive for food, cause wool for textiles to be completely replaced by synthetics (or nettles?) and seriously deplete the bio-diversity of that land. That’s why the utterances of certain lobby movements currently in the news regarding a move to carbon neutrality make no sense to me.

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      In my view eating sheep/lambs is no different to some in Asia eating dogs. Their inhumane live trans shipment abroad is disgusting. If Brexit means less sheep farming so much the better.

  21. BOF
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    More common sense ideas. Unfortunately it does not appear that Parliament or most of the Conservative Parliamentary party, or the Government is going to allow us to leave the EU in any meaningful way anytime soon. Until then it is a wish list.

    Parliament has truly declared against the people.

  22. RichardM
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately this government gas driven away migrant workers with anti immigrant policy and brexit nonsense. There has been a 30% shortage in labour so much fresh fruit has been left to rot.

    • Earley Riser
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. Where are the farmers supposed to find the labour? Automation will come but not quickly or cheaply enough.
      We will be importing labour in the form of produce.

    • steve
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      RichardM

      It was project fear and remain doom mongers to blame for that. The leave side made very clear migrant workers are welcome to stay.

    • Edward2
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Odd claim.
      Immigration is still several hundred thousand net per year..
      Haing had this level since 1997 you might have thought there were enough people now in the UK to pick some fruit and veg.

    • Fred H
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      evidence?

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Richard why not get the Extinction Rebels to pick it all. They would be helping everyone instead of being a pain in the backside.

  23. agricola
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Yes farming inevitably will need to absorb changes, one of which will be a change in demand. As an example we should consider slowly importing more cane based sugar to replace the beet sugar we process at present. This would free up a lot of beet growing land for other purposes. Then there is the bank of land already doing nothing in” Set Aside. “The banking system should be made available to the farming community at very low rates of interest, only marginally higher than the rates they pay depositors of money. Banks need to be re-programmed to benefit the commercial sector. This would boost greater mechanisation and the introduction of AI to pick raspberries, reducing our need for imported overseas labour.

    Supermarkets need to be restrained from profiteering . They will use every excuse in the book to jack up their margins. I say this having experienced currency changes in past years. Pound to metric, Peseta to Euro, all taken full advantage of in the past and potential food for the remoaner back lash. I would also encourage financially farmers who wish to enhance the value of raw product such as milk to cheese for instance. My experience across Europe is that UK supermarket meat is of low quality with exceptions. Selling 28day hung beef as if it were special is a con. Any proper butcher will tell you that this should be the base norm. It is why Argentinian beef was superior, it spent many days in chilled ships getting to Europe. For British beef farmers I would advocate enhancing the value of their end product by changing it from meat to farmer Giles’s topside. Give it identity. The better restaurants buy on this basis so why not the whole country. Much could be done by putting trained fishmongers into UK supermarkets and stopping said supermarkets from rampant profiteering. Said with the knowledge of what fish and shellfish cost in my part of Europe and much of it sourced in the UK.

    Just to please the Sturgeon, Scotland is full of space to grow trees and produce wood, so go to it Forestry Commission and get the place covered and profitable.

  24. Tom Rogers
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    All these domestic issues: farming and rural life, immigration, housing and health, are interlinked. In a sense, these are all spatial issues.

    If you want more space for farming, then stop immigration and encourage the use of vacant and empty housing in lieu of house building. There will still be opportunities for house builders and trades in renovation, remodelling and maintenance.

    Also do something about transport. The problem with building more public roads is that it increases induced demand. and doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Instead, insist that new roads must be capitalised, built, maintained and funded privately entirely with no involvement from the state. by Insist that all UK roads have bicycle lanes, like the Netherlands – this will encourage people out of their cars.

    More space, means a healthier population in lots of way that I needn’t enumerate here. If we can produce more of our own food – at home, in allotments and via various types of producers, farmers, smallholders and market gardens – this should also lead to a re-growth of independent food retailing, some of it perhaps involving producers. Supermarket food contributes to obesity and street scene homogenisation and blandness.

    When New Labour spoke of joined-up government, they had a point – though it’s really about joined-up thinking on the part of all. Brexit could [should] be a catalyst for a rethink of our whole society.

    • James Bertram
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Good post, Tom.
      If only our politicians had such common sense.

  25. Dominic
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Considering what is happening as we speak this article appears utterly irrelevant

    If Johnson is brought down by Europhile MPs British democracy is dead. An article on farming simply doesn’t cut it

    You need to address issues that are of an existential nature

    • Coote
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Totally unfair. Mr Redwood is concentrating on concrete issues. I dont agree with his arguments, but he is addressing things that matter. No one hungry ever asked for sovereignty, they want food

      • Edward2
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        More hysterical remain Project Fear 2.0 now claiming we are going to starve.
        Hilarious nonsense.

    • dixie
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I would have thought an ability to grow your own food and source your own energy is critical when you have such a disconnected and corrupt establishment.

  26. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Sorry John. I find your posts really informative most days but today it is a joke. In so many counties you only have to look while travelling around to see the vast amount of farm land being given up for house building. Locally here where I live the farmers are always applying for permission to build housing estates and one by one they are succeeding. If it’s not for housing then a quick buck can be made to produce crops solely for biomass. It’s gone mad. Government policies are so muddled now. You go on about heating greenhouses on a massive scale. What will that do to reduce CO2 which is another pointless exercise? The more governments interfere the worse things get. Anyway, are we really sure we are actually leaving on the 31st October? As far as I can make out we will still be technically a member of the EU so how much of what we would like to do will we actually be allowed to do? Even if the EU give us a so called deal I doubt parliament will pass it. It is all a total mess and we will probably find ourselves still arguing about it all in years to come and getting nowhere. To think I have to wait until 2022 to vote for the BP!!

  27. Dave Andrews
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    If there is going to be more farming, there will need to be more farmers and farmhands. So where are they going to live when all those picturesque dwelling places have been sold off as second homes and holiday lets? A young person wishing to go into the farming industry just won’t be able to afford a place to live and work.
    I heard recently that it costs more to inoculate a lamb than the lamb is worth at market. Does that mean lamb farming will always require subsidy?

  28. William Long
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    But all of this will only happen if the minister responsible is interested in food production rather than kowtowing to the green blob. Mr Gove was hugely active but in the review he produced, production of food played a very secondary part. It is to early to be sure what at the priorities of the present incumbent, but if we are to have ahope of achieving the excellent objectives you set out, it might not be a bad thing to re-apoint Owen Paterson.

    • Ian terry
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      William Long

      Re appoint Owen Patterson?

      Essential. The present encumbent does not have the right personna when it comes to getting the farmers total on his side. To many knee jersey reactions more for the media and. Not the people it impacts on.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Owen Patterson is indeed one of the few sound real Conservatives.

  29. Caterpillar
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Today’s diary is interesting but as previously mentioned the term ‘food miles’ is misleading and has little (some indicate negative) correlation to impact. I suggest avoiding this debunked term as it is does not capture any of the issues of profit/health/security/progressiveness/sustainability/emissions from farm to mouth. These would be better discussed as is.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      It is interesting that the UK (mainly Scotland) exports large amounts of fresh farmed salmon (often by air) while the UK imports a similar amount from outside the UK. Is one salmon really that much different to another one. Can we not save at least some of these flights?

      • Caterpillar
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic,

        Your’s is one example of why trade policy has to be fully debated once/if UK has return of sovereignty and democracy.

        There is a tendency to believe free trade is fundamentally good (e.g. comparative advantage). This fails on at least three aspects, possibly four. (1) Much trade is based on unnecessary choice due to monopolistic competition (as in your salmon example if it is not seasonal based), it does not add experiential value to people’s lives and sucks talented creative people into advertising and similar (How much toothpaste choice do we need?). (2) Much trade is based on reaching scale economies to perpetually drive down costs. This usually leads to uncontrolled monopoly power (over individuals and govts) and an increase in returns to capital compared with returns to labour with consequences of inequality, reduction in social mobility etc. (It can though lead to reduction in energy use and emissions for the same total consumption) (3) The comparative advantage argument itself only holds under the assumption of scarcity. With technological improvement and/or human choice to consume below production possibilities (i.e. an assumption of abundance) then the CA argument is invalidated. Essentially if a nation wishes to consume inside its production possibilities frontier then CA can be irrelevant* (4) A fourth possible failure (though this is more general than trade) is that financial constraints dominate physical, so trade considerations are argued financially (e.g. when Remainers argue that leaving the EU will lose 500,000 jobs related to exports but also state there will not be sufficient resources for care homes and police force – the current financial system does not ‘correctly’ represent the real constraints on the system)… assuming scarcity leads to a fallacy of under-consumption.

        *A thought experiment – Imagine a country under autarky and sketch a PPF of Capital Products vs Consumer Products. Put a point inside the PPF and suppose that is all the country chooses to consume and all the capital replacement that is needed to maintain the same level of efficiency. How should the country decide what to do? What should it do?

        • Caterpillar
          Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

          yours

  30. BillM
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Interesting that the clever Dutch pump huge amounts of CO2 into their greenhouses to promote growth. I wonder what the deluded disciples of XR have to say about that.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the extra atmospheric CO2 is greening the planet very nicely indeed and giving increases food yields. One of many probably helpful negative feedbacks on climate.

      Viscount Matt Ridley has it fairly spot on.

  31. Rule Britannia
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    EU subsidies have made the farming sector inefficient. Many businesses exist to claim those subsidies and are paid not to farm.

    New Zealand had a subsidies system for milk farmers a while back and a socialist government ended it at a stroke. They forecast many bankrupt businesses, but in practice they adjusted such that only 1% of them went bankrupt, most becoming much more profitable.

    At the time, they produced 50 milk-related products, now they produce over 2,000.

    I’m not sure Canada and Scandinavia are direct comparators in wood production though. Simply in terms of land area, we cannot compete. However, we may be able to grow enough for our needs if we do it sustainably, perhaps in remote areas of Scotland since most of England is one big housing estate these days.

  32. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I was pleased to hear this morning that whatever Boris Johnson comes up with Labour will “assess the deal on its merits” before rejecting it and demanding a second referendum to overturn the first referendum. Much better than the attitude of the SNP and the Liberal Democrats, who already know that it will be terrible and so can say now that they will reject it without bothering to assess it on its merits … meanwhile Jo Swinson said she is the only party leader fit to become Prime Minister, which made me laugh, but only briefly before I thought that while that was unlikely it was not necessarily impossible and could actually happen … questioned by Andrew Marr, Nicola Sturgeon thought that after she had won the repeat independence referendum Scotland would have various options in the interim, that is while going the formal process of acceding to the EU, with one such option being to join EFTA, presumably with the existing EFTA states readily agreeing to waive all the accession formalities just to oblige her, and somehow neither she nor Andrew Marr remembered anything about the need for Scotland to have its own national central bank and national currency, which would then be supplanted by the euro …

    • Mark B
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Johnson will offer a second referendum where, the choice will be between Remain and the May Deal, followed by a GE.

  33. James Bertram
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve written much on this topic over the last few months so I’ll try and keep this short.

    Brexit, both out of the CAP and out of the Single Market, is a fantastic opportunity for a new agrarian revolution – however, it also has the potential for disaster.

    We need to move wholesale to a farming system that works closely with natural processes, that holistically improves our soils, water, air quality, wildlife habitats and animal welfare, and dramatically improves human health (estimated it would more than halve our current NHS bill) – systems such as organic, pasture-fed, small-scale rotational mixed-farming, re-wilding, agro-forestry etcetera.

    We need to abandon large-scale industrial farming which has caused so much damage to human health, our environment and wildlife. We must produce much more for Home consumption and move away from the big agribusiness model of import/export; and we must make sure that lower quality cheap imports do not undercut our farmers. We must waste far less of what we produce. More of the food price needs to go to the farmer, not the retailer; and consumers need to pay a fair price for quality.

    There are many excellent Research Reports on the Compassion in World Farming website. This is one that is particularly relevant to today’s topic:
    Food Farming Animal Welfare post Brexit Compassion in …
    https://www.ciwf.org.uk › media › food-farming-animal-welfare-post-brex…

  34. John S
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The Netherland market gardeners have special power subsidies to heat their greenhouses which puts us at a disadvantage. I read this in an article by Christopher Booker many years ago.

    • steve
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      John S

      Indeed so, and who meets the cost of all these EU subsidies ? Yep…the British taxpayer. Mugs ain’t we.

  35. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, I still find it difficult to understand why it is so readily accepted by most of the UK political establishment that the EU and the Irish Republic should be allowed to set rules for the goods that can legally circulate in Northern Ireland, or indeed in the whole of the UK, when the EU/Ireland could – and by all common sense should – only concern themselves with the goods that actually cross into their territory. I can see why Theresa May welcomed that pretext for the continued EU economic control that she always preferred, but I cannot see why it is also accepted by many of those who genuinely wish to see the UK set free. By far the best solution to keep the Irish land border as open as now would be for the UK to provide a guarantee that even if the Irish authorities did resume routine interception and inspection of goods as they crossed the border they would never find anything untoward, or if not never at least so rarely that it was not worth the effort of making routine checks. What would it be next? The EU telling other third countries like the US what goods could be permitted to circulate within their territories?

  36. Mark
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I now live in an area with diverse farming. We get access to top quality local produce – meat, vegetables, dairy and fruit and wines, beers, ciders and cordials. However, more and more land is being taken up with energy crops: rape, maize, etc. Any sensible analysis of these shows that they are not very green at all (and even less so for palm oil imported as biodiesel blending component at the expense of Orang Utans in Indonesia), and depend on high levels of subsidy for anaerobic digesters and biomass consuming power stations, and mandates on biofuel content for petrol and diesel that reduce mpg and are damaging to engines and fuel pumps. We need a proper evaluation of these flawed ideas.

    The same will doubtless turn out to be true of the new Environment Bill that is being included in the Queen’s Speech. Are we going to close Heathrow and London’s hospitals because of their NOx pollution, or use it as an excuse to ban ICE cars? Is the pollution really as damaging as is claimed anyway? The evidence is far from convincing.

    • Ian terry
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Mark

      Evaluation and evidence of these so called sacred cows of our green parliamentary representatives?

      Too bleeding true it is a case similar to that of the emperor new clothes.

  37. MakingWaves
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Farming for the future?- is a good topic but for next year maybe

    Meantime what you’re proposing is to turn the clock back to the 1960’s- it’s not going to happen

    Alternatively we need to build more merchant ships to import all of this cheap food we’re going to need. Farm machinery by itself is not going to do it we would need agricultural workers in large numbers-it’s not going to happen. The farmers and land owners have gotten too used to watching cattle and sheep grazing and collecting their big fat cheques from the CAP.

  38. John Partington
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I do not believe Boris’s deal is for one moment the deal that 17.4 million voters voted for. More like it is a regurgitated hybrid of May’s total capitulation withdrawal bill which will not fly with Brexiteers. So the British people, I hope, will not be conned by this BRINO agreement.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately the British people might not have any say in the matter – until after handcuffs are on!

  39. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Where is this extra land for farmers and tree planting going to come from, especially since the Conservative Party won’t promise an end to immigration and ZPG. If the population increases, it will need more land for housing.

    I checked the internet and found a paper by DEFRA stating that the UK is 76% self sufficient in food. That paper was dated 21st March 2016 but I assume that the current figure is somewhat similar. That’s enough. The thrust of our policy should be to replace food imports from the EU by food imports from cheaper safe sources of supply. America and New Zealand would be two of those sources.

    This is yet another example of the difference between you and me. You, Sir John, are an English Nationalist. I am a UK Nationalist and an economic liberal. Given that I am Glasgow born but stopped living in Scotland a four years old, what choice do I have?

    • Prigger
      Posted October 18, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I’m unsure whether JR is an English Nationalist as you put it. I think him normal

  40. steve
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    JR

    Thank you for taking notice of my earlier post, much appreciated.

  41. rose
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    We also need to pay attention to our soil if it is going to be used even more. We need animal manure, obviously, but we also need to think about the mineral content which is depleted now, having also been leached away. Perhaps we should be grinding up rocks to sprinkle on the land. I always think the Dutch vegetables very tasteless compared to our own organic veg.

    • rose
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      PS someone needs to explain the the Extinction rebels that a land without animal manure will turn into a dust bowl.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        XR nead someone to explain rather a lot to them. But it is a religion they are not interested reality or real science and engineering they have “beliefs” that cannot be changed. They have no solutions.

      • a-tracy
        Posted October 14, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        XR puzzles me, they want less farm animals but never mention horses, cats and dogs, would an XR future result in no pets because at least cattle and sheep are grown for several purposes not just to eat, leather, manure for the land, I wonder what happens to their bones and blood? They say they want less humans but don’t want to take the draconian methods necessary and when say the UK produces less humans the global governments decide we need to import double what we would have produced anyway importing more poverty and requirements for more homes and displaced families.

  42. Martin King
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    In reply to J Bush’s earlier comment. Permanent grassland is used for production of animal produce – dairy products, beef and sheep. It is not just used as a means of claiming a subsidy without work! Similarly not all land is suitable for arable crop production. Some is too steep or too prone to flooding etc.

    • James Bertram
      Posted October 13, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      Martin – I hope you had a chance to read ‘Grass-fed Nation’ by Graham Harvey that I mentioned previously (and perhaps the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association website), and found it useful. Too, I think you will find some interesting Research Reports on the Compassion in World Farming website.
      Good luck.

    • a-tracy
      Posted October 14, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      The land that is not suitable for arable crop production, could it be put to use for growing woodland for use and would this help the water table (flooding) in that area?

  43. Martin King
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    In reply to Making Waves. Cattle and sheep raising operations do not just involve watching them graze. They need regular weighing to monitor progress, regular treatment for parasites and daily observation for health issues that may then need attention. Much of the time, they also need supplementary feeding, with hay, silage and concentrates, in order to maintain suitable growth rates.

  44. K Jig
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    All very well, unless our government intends to betray our independence!

  45. gregory martin
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    British Agriculture has the spatial capacity to increase output, despite the average age of farmers being 59. What they need is a fair market price that provides a realistic return on the costs ,both capital and production , so that they do not need subsidy at all. Unfortunately for them, the marketing and processing industries have a tight grip on the prices they will pay. There are only a few processors who supply the fewer supermarket chains, between them they account for more than a reasonable proportion of the end price to the consumer. They also have the ability to substitute imports from countries where the rigorous welfare standards we expect are flagrantly ignored.
    It has long been the case that farming , in the traditional, socially accepted manner, has been ‘a great way of life’ but not an acceptable way in which to make a proportionate return upon investment.

  46. Martin King
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    In reply to Gregory Martin.
    As a farmer, I think that your paragraph sums up the present state of British Agriculture in a nutshell. I believe most farmers would prefer to make a sensible return from a sensible market price for their produce rather than be seen as “subsidy junkies”. This also ensures that resources are directed to the right areas of production. I’m not sure how this can be achieved without making food more expensive for the poorest members of society.

    • James Bertram
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, best if subsidies are phased out, that a fair price is paid for quality food, and that farmers get a bigger share of that price. That probably means food needs to be more expensive, and that the poorest members of society are ‘subsidised’ to buy it. This Compassion in World Farming report gives some idea of how this can be achieved:
      HOW TO TRANSITION TO A NOURISHING, SUSTAINABLE, EQUITABLE AND HUMANE FOOD SYSTEM (see their website – research).

  47. RupertP
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    As an owner of a arable farming business, I agree with Gregory Martin and Martin King.

    Most of the public have no idea how capital intensive a farming business really is, how little the farmer is paid for their output is (e.g. £150 for a tonne of milling wheat – About 12 pence for 800 grams of wheat that might be in a loaf of wholemeal bread) and how poor the returns are on that capital investment. Arable farming is highly weather dependent and to operate at scale, it needs a lot of expensive land, buildings and agricultural machinery. As things stand, without subsidy, a lot of existing UK farming businesses are simply not viable.

    The removal of the existing subsidy is going to push a lot of farmers into bankruptcy, unless the prices for farming output increase. Unfortunately those prices are set in international markets, not just the UK, unless our government chooses to put tariffs on agricultural imports, which they look like they mostly will not do.

    UK farmers are in competition with farmers all over the globe, many of whom are able to out compete the UK farmer through having better weather, more subsidy, less stringent regulations to follow and much lower costs than is possible in the UK. Strutt and Parker have done analysis on the impact of subsidy removal which shows 75% of farmers do not make a profit on their farming alone. They only maintain their income through subsidy and diversification (e.g. renting out buildings – not farming!) – See https://www.struttandparker.com/knowledge-and-research/the-future-farming-funding-gap-paper-2

    • James Bertram
      Posted October 15, 2019 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Rupert, have a look at page 20 of the report I mention above: Compassion in World Farming – research – HOW TO TRANSITION TO A NOURISHING, SUSTAINABLE, EQUITABLE AND HUMANE FOOD SYSTEM. It gives the example of Kingsclere Estates – a conversion away from intensive arable agriculture.
      Another inspiring book you may like is ‘Wilding’ by Isabella tree – a conversion of their 3.000 acre estate – basically they were on an investment treadmill with intensive agriculture – and got out by doing something different.
      or ‘The Way of the land’ (1943) by Sir George Stapledon (favouring grassland over arable).

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

    Promoted by David Edmonds on behalf of John Redwood both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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