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English farmers aren't very efficient...

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English farmers aren't very efficient...

Old 12th Feb 2015, 17:59
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Uneasy Pleistocene Leftover
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Thumbs up English farmers aren't very efficient...

When I read this article in last week's Economist "Dig for victory! Why British farmers are less productive than their international competitors." and saw this graphic:



I initially thought that this was a clear-cut case that UK farmers were less-efficient than their EU counterparts including even Italy, Germany and Holland. That perhaps the UK needed the EU and the much-maligned Common Agricultural Policy's subsidies even more than many other countries.

However, the graphic shows only that England's (not the UK as a whole) farmers mean ratio of inputs exceed their outputs. Included under 'inputs' are the (high costs) of agricultural land also. Perhaps (hopefully) the UK as a whole is less-deficient? But the data as it stands does prompt me to ask 2 questions:

1) Should at least all the residents of England (perhaps Conservative and/or UKIP supporters, otherwise anti-EU) think twice before abandoning the EU (and CAP subsidies) totally before casting their votes at the next election?

2) Would it not make more sense for the UK as a whole to abandon farming in England and convert most of the existing green fields into affordable housing developments?
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 18:06
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I knew an English farmer in the 90s whose business mostly consisted of growing plants to collect agricultural subsidies, then ploughing them back into the ground because they'd be more expensive to harvest than they were worth.

So, given this graph explicitly says 'excluding subsidies', I suspect that may be at least part of the problem.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 18:07
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2) Would it not make more sense for the UK as a whole to abandon farming in England and convert most of the existing green fields into affordable housing developments?
They've already done that to most of the areas within the M25, and the area is a s***hole! Once they start doing that down here, I'm off.

By the way, French farmers efficient? Still scrabbling about on a few hectares most of them, the only thing they are efiicient at is claiming EU subsidies

Cant believe the Economist published a table with England instead of UK - frankly I dont trust it.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 18:19
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MG23 wrote:
So, given this graph explicitly says 'excluding subsidies'...
Well noted!

PS. Tankertrashnav, are you what they call a "NIMBY"?
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 18:21
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Perhaps UK is efficient at Not Farming:




Secretary of State,
Dept. for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House,
17, Smith Square,
London SW1P 3JR.

16 May 2007.

Dear Secretary of State,

A friend, who is in farming at the moment, has recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs and I would like to join the ‘not rearing pigs’ business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pig not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many farmers not rearing these already?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of just how many pigs I haven’t reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best annual return he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1978; that is, until this year, when he received your cheque for £3,000 for not rearing any.

If I were to get £3,000 for not rearing fifty pigs, will I be entitled to £6,000 for not rearing a hundred? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. However, as I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?

Another point: these pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers not to grow crops, so will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals in order not to feed the pigs I don’t rear?

In order to diversify, I am also considering the ‘not milking cows’ business, so please send any information leaflets you have on that too, please. Would you also include the current DEFRA advice on set-aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis of ‘virtual’ fields of which I seem to have several thousand hectares?

In view of the above, you will realise that I shall be totally unemployed and will, therefore, qualify for unemployment benefits over and above the monies that I shall receive from DEFRA’s Rural Payments Agency.

I shall, of course, be voting for your party at the next General Election.

Yours Faithfully
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 18:24
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Noting that it uses the value of outputs as a measure, remember that in England farm gate prices for food are often artificially low (eg milk priced below the production cost) which will distort the figures. If food were valued properly it would tell a different story.

Statistics, don't you love 'em?
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 19:03
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joy ride

I wonder if many big land-owners (even HM QE II herself?) at some stage might have thought the same and benefitted also (without having to actually write any letter). Perhaps the recent Tory party fundraiser which raised £3 million on a single evening with 1 of the lots auctionned-off being "to shoot 500 pheasants" is another example of the big land-owners who don't farm anymore? Of course, the best example of building on green-field sites in the home counties must be that of the Earl of March and Kinrara at Goodwood: who managed to persuade all the necessary authorities that it made economic sense to use part of his large land-holdings in the Chichester area for a brand spanking new Rolls-Royce motor car factory...?!
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 19:26
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Airship, at my station in life my motto is:

"Don't worry, as one door closes behind you, another slams you in the face."

As you rise into more exalted echelons in UK society the sentiment in this motto magically fades
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 19:39
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Originally Posted by airship View Post
2) Would it not make more sense for the UK as a whole to abandon farming in England and convert most of the existing green fields into affordable housing developments?
No. It doesn't matter the marginal efficiency: what matters is capability.
The costs, when you consider "cost of land" is to me a misleading factor in this analysis. Forces OTHER THAN AGRICULTURE influence the price of an acre in a given locale. (In my country countless square miles of fertile farmland are paved and developed: that has to do with a variety of opportunity costs beyond the control of a farmer).
Without food, all of your other endeavors are moot.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 19:54
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May I remind everyone of Major Major Major Major's father in Catch 22*, who put a huge amount of effort into not growing alfalfa

This Passage from Catch-22 is Still Very Relevant--Over 50 Years Later

Some Canadian farms are ridiculously efficient - I know of two brothers in Alberta who farm wheat; the two of them operate 4,000 acres, with the help of some f#ck-off-big tractors.
(e.g. https://www.rbauction.qc.ca/blog/fiv...-december-2013)

Equally,many farms on PEI are still properly mixed - two or three arable crops, 50-100 cattle, maybe pigs or chickens too.

More efficient is not necessarily better. Blanket averages for whole countries are not much use.
There's also the entire farm-to-plate cost which isn't being measured here. Canada has some huge distances, but also the most efficient railways in the World.







*dangerously close to aviation content; my apologies.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 21:34
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Wind Farms, that's it. But off shore of course.

have you ever wondered why the only objections to wind turbines are against land based ones?

The area of sea around the coast is owned by Queenie, she gets the rent and subsidies for every turbine planted in that area. The more the merrier but remember you mustn't raise any objections to offshore turbines 'cos that's Queenies (and big C's) pocket money.

That's where farming makes the money.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 21:50
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In 1968, the world population was 3,557,000,000. Today, the world population is 7,217,000,000 and grows by over 200,000 daily.
The human race has lived on Earth for only 0.004% of the planet’s
history.
At some point, the "green revolution" in agricultural affairs will reach its limit. For over two decades, I've been following the effects of getting more yield per acre and seeing some sobering results all over the world in terms of salting the soil fertilization runoff and its hazards to downstream systems. My original interest in this was inspired by an article in Scientific American back in the 1980's.

Maybe there are too freaking many people already and this mad pursuit of "min max efficiency a outrance" is a hazard to the long term food supply. It takes a lot of "open/empty" space to support the densely populated ciy areas.

See also overfishing, and the death of the cod industry on the Grand Banks.

"Efficiency" seen in a stove pipe can be dangerous as a guide for action, airship, so maybe you need to broaden your view.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 21:55
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Originally Posted by Lonewolf_50 View Post
Without food, all of your other endeavors are moot.
Britain, at its current population, can't feed itself with traditional agriculture, so it's moot.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 22:11
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There's a few "sustainable agriculture communities" in the UK. All very knitted lentil caps & spirituality workshops. I worked out that replicating such a land usage would support a maximum population for the UK of around 4 million. Oddly, I've never heard the green-types talk about their plans for the other 60 million.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 22:40
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PS. Tankertrashnav, are you what they call a "NIMBY"?
Too bloody right I am. If I walk up my field I can look over most of the Lizard peninsula, where only the aerials at Goonhilly Earth Station and the occasional wind turbine would be unfamiliar to someone 100 years ago. They can sod off and build their affordable housing elsewhere as far as I'm concerned.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 23:37
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Some Canadian farms are ridiculously efficient - I know of two brothers in Alberta who farm wheat; the two of them operate 4,000 acres, with the help of some f#ck-off-big tractors.
Also ridiculously smart. Unlike cattle ranchers, who have to stick around all year, they can f#ck-off-south to NM or AZ during the winter, which lasts about six months in these parts.
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Old 12th Feb 2015, 23:48
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Florida in this case, I believe

Worked for a local farmer last harvest. He said if a job didn't get done on a Winter's day, it could wait till Spring. OTOH, at harvest time, if it doesn't get done you lose that part of the crop. Different pressures.
The cows largely milk themselves round here (well, robot milkers do it). Big lifestyle change for the dairymen. Wake up before dawn, pick up tablet from bedside table, scan barn with remote camera, roll over for another 2 hours in bed.
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Old 13th Feb 2015, 01:16
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How come Flanders is now a Country?

And

How come France isn't in the List?

Oh of course All French Farmers receive a Subsidy! And we pay for it!

So, Answer No 1 is No

And Answer no2 is also No

Anti EU? Oh Yes..
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Old 13th Feb 2015, 02:29
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Farming in Britain must be inherently inefficient compared to some other countries, like Australia.

British farms are tiny by comparison to ours, the weather is shocking and a day in winter starts late and finishes early. Larger farms don't just bring economy of scale, they also allow you to use very large machinery. Once you're out of the commuter, hobby farm belts around our cities, 30,000 to 40,000 acre holdings are not unusual. You can farm very efficiently on those acreages, especially when you can work comfortably all year round.

Beyond these single holdings there are the vast, multi million acre multiple property holdings of big conglomerates, like the Australian Agricultural Company and S K Kidman. They're in a league of their own.
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Old 13th Feb 2015, 03:28
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Australian 'agriculture, according to Kidman and the likes of Australian Agricultural Company, "turn 'em loose then sometime later round up the survivors"!
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