Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What's Happening in the UK is So Wrong

European & UK Agricultural policy regarding food production should concern everyone with a global view of future world food security. The UK & much of Europe has the soils & a very favourable climate for food production yet government policy seems to be driving food production down & driving farmers out. In a world with a rapidly increasing population & a world increasingly being affected by global warming this makes NO sense whatsoever. More than a third of the world has arid or semi arid climates where it is impossible to grow food. Water is becoming a very scarce resource. Food Production needs water, agriculture needs water.
The UK is so lucky in a world struggling for fresh water, but do we appreciate how lucky we really are?
Countries blessed with adequate water to produce high quality healthy food like grass fed milk have a moral obligation I believe to encourage not discourage farming.

What’s happening in the UK (with a near perfect climate for grass fed food production)is so wrong!
I’ve recently been lucky enough to drive thru parts of Utah, Arizona, Nevada & California all mostly arid states of the USA, Apart from the extraordinary beauty of the National Parks, surely some of the most amazing scenery in the world. Much of this arid land is unsuitable for food production without risking the fragile environment.
It was the drive down part of the “Historic Route 66” Highway in Arizona that set the brain thinking on a global scale for the future of agriculture & food production. The “Historic Route 66” has a fascinating history dating back to the 1920s when it became the first roadway from Chicago to Los Angeles …the first highway to cross the USA. Route 66 was completed in 1927 to great acclaim but it became even more famous after John Steinbeck wrote “The Grapes of Wrath” which was a story related to the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. He referred to Route 66 as the “Mother Road” in his book. The Dust Bowl resulted from over cropping of what had been native grassland with fragile soils without a clear understanding of crop rotations & top soil management.

“The health of the nation is dependent upon the health of the soil”

It’s a fascinating story & the history leaves us with an important agricultural lesson especially regarding top soil & soil organic matter protection.
One of the tragic consequences of the Dust Bowl was that 2.5 million people mainly farmers & farm workers were left destitute, their farms & livelihoods ruined. Thousands of these people migrated west to California along Route 66 looking for a new life (this was the years of the Great Depression remember). The Historic Route 66 was popularised during the 1950s & 1960s with well known songs.
Today I found the Route 66 very interesting (it no longer survives as a full highway) but rather depressing. As we drove along this famous road in Arizona we saw sad & depressing signs of rural hardship & depression. The small landowners are struggling to survive the harsh climate & current recession. The most common advert on the local radio stations was lawyers advertising their bankruptcy services. This seemed a sad reflection of tough times in many parts of rural USA today.
The arid environment of these western states of the USA also highlights the extreme importance of fresh water, not only to agriculture which in California is totally dependant on this scarce resource but many humans are also reliant on bottled water. Many of the water dams storing water were disturbingly low.
The availability of water for food production can not be over stated & this is bluntly obvious when you visit arid areas where water is a scarce resource.
In Britain we simply dont appreciate the rain nor ......"the green & pleasant land"

It was said by Chief Seattle more than 150 years ago, but is still incredibly poignant today:
"Teach your children what we have taught ours that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." A Native American Proverb.

1 comment:

  1. After having six months of drought in Northland NZ and the very real possibility we will be facing yet another I would say the UK is very lucky to have that kind of rainfall. When you don't have it you learn to appreciate every shower of rain even in the winter. Herds were dried off earlier last season. Hopefully the same won't be happening this season. Somatic cell counts were far higher due to the dry as well. Great post