Charles Clover’s £398

farmchequeI like Charles Clover but I don’t (by any means) always agree with him.

His column in today’s Sunday Times is entitled ‘Greedy farmers a-milking it, no turtle doves and no partridges either‘ and describes Peter Kendall as ‘the cocky ambassador of agri-business‘.  Wow! Even I am more polite about PK than that!

Charles Clover, not a fellow traveller of mine on the Left of politics writes along the very same lines as my earlier two blogs of today: susbidies are bad, countryside wildlife needs help, the government should be looking for payments to farmers to deliver public benefit rather than private wealth and the government should not compromise on its promised 15% shift in payments.

Hear hear!

As I wrote earlier – it’s very difficult to justify the present scenario whatever your politics or view of life.  Only the recipients of unjustified subsidies appear to be shouting loudly for their retention.

By Copyright by World Economic Forum, by Remy Steinegger. [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Copyright by World Economic Forum, by Remy Steinegger. [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
David Cameron will look like an NFU poodle if he budges by even a half a percent from the 15% modulation.

Assuming that David Cameron isn’t already having a snooze – why not give him a nudge here.




15 Replies to “Charles Clover’s £398”

  1. I have just read Mr Clover’s article. Hard hitting and spot on. I hope our Government is listening.

  2. Charles Clover can be a bit too grumpy but I have to say I warmed to him for his stunning book on world fisheries – I learnt a huge amount, not least about probing and hard working journalism, and felt Charles has rather lost out to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s equally commendable and TV driven even higher profile campaign. Between them they have achieved real progre3ss for the environment.

    What Clover’s comments tell us is that this is no more a simple party political issue than forest sales was – where it was his Telegraph that ultimately was the newspaper that really mattered. We now face a stark and simple choice if the Government do not go for 15%: between on the one hand, handouts for the rich to get richer, on the other grounded payments for things we all need and for which land managers should be rewarded.

    Its not just us – its the same, or much worse, right across Europe where the rural crisis is leading to large scale depopulation on a scale we can’t imagine in the UK. This is the break point: it is time to decide whether our countryside and the wildlife that lives in it is more than simply a neo-liberal factory floor.

  3. The problem in my view is that even 15% modulation will take us nowhere near far enough. Modern farming, GM or otherwise, is completely at odds with ecology. Farming technology is designed to remove anything that competes for resources with the product, and even outside the farmed area, the tiny proportion of unmanaged resource that is left is impacted by the leakiness of the industrial system – nutrients, pesticides etc.

    We need a fundamental debate about how and where we should produce food, and how we can better balance food production and nature. In some places, maybe we should be subsidising production, but in others we should be subsidising land management only on the basis of it providing high nature value, with payments made for ecosystem services, not on the basis of income forgone; In general we need more regulation, not of the box ticking hoop jumping type, but of the you will not plough to within 10m of a watercourse or you will manage your unfarmed areas for wildlife type.

    It would be great if the NFU acknowledged the scale of the crisis and the need for visionary change. But I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Think one thing you have not mentioned is that farmers provide lots of cheap food of course that is something conservationists ignore and do not spend enough time being nice to farmers which is a shame as if conversationalists spent more time being nice to farmers they would do more to help wildlife and perhaps be prepared to take a cut in pay like other professions but think conversationalists prefer just to criticise.
    What I don’t understand it is why freelance writers, nurses, refuse collectors, rural postmen and teachers don’t just save a bit of money and buy a farm themselves then they to could be getting payments for producing cheap food of course don’t think they would be able to cope can you imagine a nurse working a 70 hour week or refuse collector being able to put up with lifting or funny smells or a freelance writing having to do all of the paperwork or a postman having to get up early?

      1. Retired farmer but still act as a policy adviser to NFU when I can drag myself away from my badger free TB free hedgehog sanctuary.

  5. Help- I must be living in a parallel universe where everyone has lost their perspective. NFU and RSPB both completely lost it claiming that the difference between 9% and 15% modulation will either destroy all life on earth or ruin farmers for eternity and to cap it all ( no pun intended ) we’re basing this on who gets out of bed first, postmen or farmers ? Help I’m loosing the plot here !

  6. Hi Mark,nothing to do with me I assure you and for sure you could not say I have the NFU air about me,I have said all I need to on this subject but for sure even RSPB hope farm do not make much profit even with all the benefit of free money to buy the farm so it stands to sense the average working farmer is not enjoying massive profits even including his SFP.
    How I wish the two sides would get a better relationship and everyone gain from it,both sides in my opinion equally to blame.
    This contentious issue in my opinion would be put much better if wildlife people asked for a cap of £15,000 which would mean large estates etc did not get colossal amounts.
    Even with that sum it is fair to say that the average farmer would get nowhere near the income that several of the top bods at the wildlife organisations I support get annually and in their own field they work at least as hard,have more experience and at least as good at what they do(producing food)as those drawing huge salaries.

    1. Dennis – I would go for a cap too. I think I would put it a bit higher than you suggest but I’m sure you and i could sort that out if they put us in charge.

  7. Mark,always nice if you more or less agree and best of all that my idea of setting a cap a bit lower than yours.
    It is really sad that farmers and conservationists are so far apart and yet when they do things together both sides get lots of satisfaction also speak to individuals on both sides and almost always they come across as reasonable people.

    1. Dennis – there is lots of joint working between farmers and conservationists. i don’t know any wildlife organisation that doesn’t work with farmers. But the NFU has a completely different view from that of most wildlife-friendly farmers and that is where the conflict arises. well, that’s my view, anyway.

      With Peter Kendall moving on in February there is a chance for farmers to vote for a more wildlife friendly, environment-friendly and taxpayer-friendly NFU President – but only if such a candidate exists. We’ll see.

      PS I always prefer it when I agree with you, too.

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