Ralph Underhill cartoon and CAP nonsense from farmers (just pretend it’s Saturday)

Cartoon: Ralph Underhill
Cartoon: Ralph Underhill


The CAP coalition, led by the NFU, the CLA and the TFA, met at the Great Yorkshire Show on 9 July to reinforce their simple message to Government: Keep sending the cheques! 

The CAP coalition claims to represent the interest of the rural economy but is actually largely a bunch of recipients of taxpayers’ money with a vested selfish interest in keeping the gravy train on the tracks. They are worried that subsidy cheques might be cut a little bit in future, having sailed through the last few years unnoticed and unscathed.

Judging from the composition of this group, the interests of the rural economy don’t, for example, include tourism it seems. Or forestry. Or small petrol stations. Or country pubs. Or post offices.  No, if you are a recipient of large CAP cheques from the taxpayer then that’s what the rural economy is all about.

CLA Deputy President Henry Robinson (who is a very nice man and must be somewhat embarrassed having to say things like this) said: “Government has failed to explain to farmers and land-managers what it intends to use this money for. We believe that it is wrong to start from the premise that the maximum amount of money must be transferred from pillar one to pillar two. What is required is a quantifiable analysis that establishes how any transferred funds will impact on English farmers.

Well, Henry, there you go!  Maybe you should put in an FoI request to Defra asking for their detailed thoughts on the subject – that always works!  Or you could just live in the real world which is in recession.  You hadn’t noticed?  Good for the CLA!  As the government hacks its way through spending on almost every aspect of our lives do you really expect them to stop and tell you their spending plans if they give your members a little bit less of poor people’s money?  It’s not really as though the poor people are going to get their money back is it?  No the money will go into reducing the deficit, or maybe, it is to be hoped, that some of it might go into reducing the decline of public services. 

George Dunn, CEO of the Tenant Farmers’ Association, said: “English farmers are rightly proud of their environmental credentials and their ability to produce world class product for the British public.” which, if true, means that English farmers are a pretty complacent bunch. George – you are sounding just like the NFU – is that what you really want? The NFU didn’t suggest that line to you did they?  Are you really proud of the fact that wildlife is bleeding from the countryside, as documented, yet again, in the recent State of Nature report?  So, you are proud that 60% of farmland species are declining? And that a third of farmland wildlife is declining strongly? And that one in seven farmland plants are on the national Red List because of their parlous state? Would you like to reconsider that remark by any chance?

The NFU, in the shape of Deputy President Meurig Raymond remained true to form and took a more openly anti-environmental approach: “I cannot stress strongly enough the feeling of frustration amongst farmers to hear on the one hand, the Government’s backing for British food production, but its determination to disadvantage and undermine English farmers resilience compared to our European competitors on the other hand. Mr Paterson wants us to focus on making the sector more efficient and productive than its global rivals. I just don’t see how cutting English farmers’ payments and channelling more money to environmental schemes that take land out of production and increase costs will do that.

With such nonsense being spoken it is tempting to think that other quotes might have been excised from the press release.  Surely these members of the ‘CAP coalition’ didn’t say these things?:

Dairy Crest and Dairy UK: ‘The taxpayer should be milked for all she is worth’.

Bernard Matthews farms: ‘All that money – it’s booootiful!’.

British Sugar: ‘It’s so sweet’.

LEAF: ‘Every time we are associated with nonsense like this our environmental credentials take a real kicking but maybe nobody will notice.  We are thinking of changing our name to DEAF because we don’t really listen to the needs of the environment; when the NFU and CLA say ‘Jump!’ we simply ask ‘How high?”.

Yara: ‘You’ve never heard of us? We are the world’s largest producer and marketer of mineral fertilisers. Yabba Dabba Doo!’.

This blog tried to get quotes extolling the value of the current CAP handouts from wildlife species but small skippers, cornflowers and skylarks were unavailable for comment.


30 Replies to “Ralph Underhill cartoon and CAP nonsense from farmers (just pretend it’s Saturday)”

  1. Henry, its also failed to explain to me what it intends to muse this money for – and I’m the one that’s paying. However, from what I’ve picked up, the assembled EU isn’t very keen on moving money from straight payouts to payouts with (environmental) strings attached and David Cameron’s single contribution to the debate has been to oppose a cap on maximum payments to individuals because it would ‘limit consolidation’ which = bigger farms which = the rich getting richer.

    And, do you know,I recognise all those people in Ralph’s as ever marvellous cartoon – they’re the people who stood up as one to protest when the Government said it was going to sell THEIR woods – the woods where they walk the dog, run the children, mountain bike, do Tai Chi and even – hopefully – find Purple Emperors.

  2. One of our top NFU lads has just got Barn Owls breeding on his farm after having a box for 4 years. The great words from his dad was ‘He won’t use rat poison on the farm as he does not want to harm the owls’. Even a Labour government will do nothing to change the system even when many country seats are now in their range to win.

  3. I think that has to be one of Ralph’s best cartoons yet. Maybe just needs the large number of marginal and upland farmers who often deliver some real benefit to the tax payer on the wider countryside representative’s side as clearly the NFU don’t give a toss about them. I however love the wedded faith some of them have in their union, despite being sold down the river on most occasions, if only enough of them would wake up. Quite timely after George’s alarming CAP quote on yesterdays blog.

  4. Introduce a cap!
    I am unsure what this should be, but I’ll chuck 500k in as a starting bid. No farm can receive more than that in any one year!

    1. MarkW – that makes sense to me too. unfortunately the french and others always scupper it in EU negotiations!

  5. So the NFU is “the voice of the countryside” whilst the RSPB is “the voice of nature”? The arrogance of both is depressing for those of us at the coalface quietly working in harmony with the land that we steward AND manage to produce food from sustainably.

    1. Daye – the NFU calls itself ‘The voice of British farming’ – see its website. This is, as you say, rather arrogant and also rather dismissive of Scotland and Northern Ireland in a devolved UK. However, Peter Kendall has been overwhelmingly reelected several times as the NFU President and it’s farmers who get to vote so it’s farmers who have to live with their considered decision.

      The RSPB used to have a strapline of ‘A million voices for nature’ which isn’t the same as THE voice for nature. You might be able to find a reference somewhere to the RSPB calling itself THE voice for nature but I can’t with a quick search on t’internet. So you got the NFU right but the RSPB wrong.

      1. Actually Mark you got the RSPB thing wrong and Daye is correct, my last RSPB magazine that came with my membership (Sept 09) says on the front cover “voice for nature” also my membership card with the Barn Owl on it says in the top left corner “a million voices for nature”

        1. Douglas – as I said, the RSPB did use, until very recently, ‘A million voices for nature’ but that isn’t the same as THE voice for nature. In fact it is very different. ‘The voice for nature’ suggests one corporate voice whereas ‘A million voices for nature’ refers to all those people who may be gabbling in different ways and different accents about different aspects of nature but all love it to bits. And there are some examples of ‘Nature’s voice’ too, but I can’t find the RSPB calling itself ‘The Voice of Nature’ as Daye incorrectly, I believe, claimed. However, all that is behind the RSPB anyway since it is now ‘Giving nature a home’ whereas the NFU is ‘still’ ‘The Voice of British Farming’ (even though it is an England and Wales organisation).

  6. Quite a hilarious blog Mark,you sound really wound up about this,it could even be with reason except for the fact that I suppose at a guess there must be about 600 million folk in the E U and in other country’s they are more dependant on farm subsidies so what you and i and perhaps another million or two in U K think is absolutely irrelevant.
    My only doubt about your blog is where you say or at least more or less say that NFU members get poor peoples money,where on earth in the UK are these poor people after all today lots are now cut down to a family getting £500 a week for sitting on their backsides and i am not sure they even pay tax on that.
    My guess is that most small farmers even with these payments are probably no better off than those on these benefits and yet have never heard a squeak from you about that,for sure those small farmers work hard for little reward and lots of abuse about farm payments from journalists who over the past couple of years have proved their worth with all the hacking etc even hacking into voice mails or something when a poor girl was murdered.

    1. Hey Dennis not every “poor” person is sitting on their arses claiming benefits, I’m one of thousands that fall into the “poor” category and yet work for a living and I do object to paying for (some, not all) farmers to pollute our rivers, swamp fields with pesticides and sneakily put cows infected with Btb into the food chain, but hey who cares we all know who’s got the power and also the money, it ain’t you or me!

    2. Dennis, that is one area where I do get uptight. The issue of benefits is misrepresented very often and the CAP is never about cutting families down to £500 for ‘sitting on their backsides’. The benefits CAP includes Child Benefit and I am sure young farmers get that as well, it includes Housing Benefit and I suspect minimum wage farm workers may well be in line for part of that. Yes there a few skivers out there but there are a lot of hard working minimum wage earners or just above as well who need some support. That support for those hard working minimum wage earners is now limited to 25,000 unlike the above suggestion that hard working farmers might have their benefits capped at 500,000.

      For what it is worth I am slightly surprised at the benefits CAP at 25,000, I would have made it lower with a more personal assessment of true need to go above that . The average mean wage may be 25,000 but the better average would be the modal wage and I suspect that is more likely to be in the mid teens or even lower.

      Some of us a certain age ought to be more open about benefits as eventually all of us get retirement benefit, free prescription benefit, heating benefit, bus benefit. I have no problem with someone who cannot get a job getting support and that could these days include a farm worker laid off because the farm owner is struggling himself or herself.

  7. What UK wants is totally irrelevant as we are in a minority vote with the EU ,personally have no problem even with a cap of £25,000 from the CAP to farmers but that will not stand a chance.Was a farm worker for many years but never considered myself poor.
    I believe Mark suggested poor people contributed to the CAP that was given to rich farmers and as poor people in the true description never pay any or very low tax then that never happens.
    No one who has a income of £25,000 a year can be described as poor.

    1. “no-one who has an income of £25,00 a year can be described as poor”
      OK then a recently qualified nurse circa £22,000-£25,000 per annum, a rookie police officer about the same. They get a job in one of the London hospitals or a job patrolling a borough of London. The average rent for properties in London £1000-£2500 per month, over 12 months….doesn’t leave you a lot does it? And thats if you’re single with no kids. THAT’S JUST MY DEFINiTION OF POOR?

  8. The£500 cap on benefits applies to whole families?! Not one person! So not 25k per individual per year at all.

  9. Douglas-compare your equation with what a pensioner gets each week,i don’t even need capital letters to show there is no comparison.
    Sorry for deviation Mark

    1. Ok Dennis I shall, Winter Fuel allowance (not means tested),Bus Pass (not means tested), Up to 25 % discount on Council Tax, Cheaper rail fares, A guranteed state pension (something my generation isn’t), Do OAP’s still get a discount on TV liscense? Some supermarket chains (A DIY chain) offers every Monday a discount of 35% (churlish I know), cheaper deals via companies such as Saga, in fact some (not all) OAP’s have so much disposable income marketing firms label OAP’s “THE GOLDEN HONEYPOT”, tonight Dennis on TV count the adverts aimed at those of a certain age (60+) and compare those aimed at those between 20-40.
      Sadly Dennis poverty is poverty regardless of age, in a country whose “Arms” budget is bigger then that caring for the not so fortunate is just criminal

  10. Dennis, Are you really supporting propaganda that switches effortlessly between strident demands to make the richest farmers richer and the plight of the poorest farmers ? CAP was meant to be a social fund – but its failing, far worse in much of Europe than here; it isn’t just people leaving the land or farms getting bigger – its whole areas becoming de-populated. Here the holes are filled by nice middle class people with urban jobs (I hesitate to suggest George Monbiot as an example !- there are many, many more like him – and good luck to them, they bring new life to our rural areas) In France, Greece, Italy its the old people who are left in dying villages. It is sad and wrong – and it makes the greed of the people who support the rich-get richer current CAP all the more culpable.

  11. Great article Mark. You could say very similar things for the marine environment and the fishing lobby. Why are the voices of the few listened to, and those of the many ignored?

  12. Douglas,the proof of the pudding would be if you try and live for a year on the amount the state pension is plus those benefits you mention,i guarantee you could not do it.For instance that fuel allowance is less than £4 per week.
    By the way nurses,police and teachers for certain in parts of London get help with housing especially with mortgage rates being at record lows,they have actually never had it so good.
    The older generation struggled with high deposits for mortgage plus high interest rates so to get whatever we wanted we did without expensive holidays,cars and of course we managed with just a landline telephone.Of course i understand the younger generation wanting TVs,PCs,games consoles,i-pads,kindles,mobile phones,holidays abroad and half a dozen other things but if they managed without most of them buying houses would be available to them,by the way some of the older generation are relatively well off because they saved money and all of us worked longer hours always working on Saturday morning and in total probably including less time off for bank holidays worked 3 weeks more each year.

    1. Your stance Dennis, is a common, hastily-adopted stance oft-adopted by those of retirement age when defending themselves against younger generations’ worries and indignation.

      As Labour told the ConDems, when handing over the Parliamentary baton:
      “There’s no money left”.

      Fact is, for the first time in many generations, the younger generations are very, VERY likely to be poorer than the older generations they replace and Dennis – it has nothing to do with foreign holidays and PCs, cars nor interest rates.

      That’s just bluster and indignation (and latent shame?) from the older generations.

      Not a nice feeling is it?

    2. Firstly Dennis as a member of the “younger” generation, I personally due to financial circumstances…remember poor…I don’t have a Kindle, don’t have an i-pad, dont’ even have a smart phone (mines a Nokia 5570…old school as they say) haven’t been abroad since 1998! Sure I have a TV and Laptop as obviously you do too. As for living on a state pension, well my mum worked as PA for a certain newspaper group, the owner took a swim in the Med and took the pension fund with him, her pension his £17 a month so I do know what it is like for someone to live on £4 per week and not get government assistance. The police and other keyworkers do get help with lower mortgages etc however that has been reducded as the Church of England held a lot property in London that was meant for keyworkers, I think it was around 2009 they sold them, reducing cheap housing stock.
      But here is an awkward truth, the only people who haven’t been effected by budget cuts are farmers and politicians.

    3. “they have actually never had it so good”

      I think that phrase would be best applied to your generation Dennis. The generation that has benefited the most from low house prices and final salary pension schemes.

      …and what has this debate got to do with the phone hacking scandal ?!

  13. Joe W,you will find that the journalist mentioned George Monbiot is always criticising farmers,if any one group of people have little right to criticise it is journalists.
    You will also find that in general house prices have always been in line with earnings and now with mortgage rates being lower than any time in history is actually if anyone puts their mind to doing it then it would be easier than it has ever been.
    Proof is mortgage is lower than rents and that has never happened.
    Guess you have never lived through those times you talk about being the generation that benefited from low house prices(untrue).A wise person once put someone who thought past generations had it easy right by saying “it was never easy”.fact is it is a matter of what priority you put on for example house ownership.

    1. “in general, house prices have always been in line with earnings”.
      Well, the addition of the words “in general” render your vague statement Dennis, quite meaningless.
      It is a matter of fact though that the house price / earning ratio might have a long term average of around 4…. but the actual ratio at any given time over the past few decades has varied from 2 to nearly 8 (more in expensive areas of course). So not entirely consistent with your “in general…. in line” statement then old chap?
      Dennis, whilst it is difficult to criticise your generalised, vague, unscientific statement, more than a cursory glance at historical ratio data might suggest to you that you are wrong.
      Very wrong some might say.
      If I was to make a similar sweeping statement, I’d probably say that the property price / av earnings ratio is still above its historical average, even after the property price fall post stock market collapse.

    2. Dennis,

      You are a card. Keep em coming.

      “you will find that the journalist mentioned George Monbiot is always criticising farmers, if any one group of people have little right to criticise it is journalists”
      I’ve read a number of articles by GM in which he has frequently criticised both the CAP and the NFU. That’s not the same as criticising farmers, as well you know. However I don’t follow his articles particularly closely so perhaps your right. However categorising all journalists in the same bracket is a lazy stereotype and is just plain wrong.

      By your reasoning the nice chap who hosts this blog should be placed in the same bracket as the deplorable NOTW hacks who were involved in the phone hacking scandal. Perhaps you should ask our esteemed host to retract all of his blogs on the Walshaw Moor scandal and those on the continued persecution of raptors. After all he now shares the same occupation of GM, so what right has he to criticise Richard Benyon or the gamekeeping profession ?

      “You will also find that in general house prices have always been in line with earnings”
      Not true. The Halifax House Price Index is the UK’s longest running monthly house price series with data covering the whole country going back to January 1983.
      The House Price – Earnings Ratio is calculated by dividing the seasonally adjusted standardised average house price by average earnings. At the start of 1983 the House Price – Earnings ratio was 3.59. This peaked at 5.86 in 2007 but has subsequently fallen back to 4.52 for the first quarter of 2013.

      “A wise person once put someone who thought past generations had it easy right by saying “it was never easy”’
      A good quote. One thing we can agree on 🙂

      Anyway, thats my final word on the subject. It’s another scorcher, I have a hay meadow to cut and some Boycott bingo to listen to. Enjoy the sunshine.

  14. You have also (deliberately?) neglected to mention deposit percentage in your basic argument Dennis. For many years deposits needed for a mortgage were lower than 5%. Now they stand at 20-25% or more if one wants to take advantage of those mortgage rates you are keen to cherry pick for your debate.
    You are quite wrong on all this Dennis.

  15. One more roll of the eyes Dennis, before I walk away, shaking my head in disbelief that there are genuinely people like you who still spout this nonsense despite all available data on the subject showing otherwise.
    You are keen to point out that renting is now more expensive than buying.
    So why do you think that is old boy?
    Play stations? Booze? Foreign holidays? Cars?
    Come off it. Purlease.

    Fact is that for now, cheap credit is only cheap if you are wealthy enough to afford it.
    (See above).
    Otherwise, as has happened all over the country, you are simply locked out of the housing market.
    Until the older generations die and release their trapped capital.

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