Farming can’t go back, only forward
I was disappointed by Keith Graham’s Country View column (November 23, 2018).
His view of farmers and their attitudes toward the environment and its integration into agriculture was incredibly archaic and lacking any real understanding.
In his article he tore into the switch from‘hay making to silage making’.
You only have to look around the Carse of Stirling to see that large areas of hay are still being made.
However, modern agriculture is being told to cut CO2 emissions and become more efficient.
By adopting multiple high quality silage cuts, farms can reduce imported feed (eg soya) which lowers world carbon emissions.
Mr Graham even alluded to this in his article when he said ‘we have a responsibility to make the world a better place’– agriculture is delivering on this.
If we went back in time to what he wishes, with large hay operations, we would require more land and inputs (fertiliser and additional feed) for significantly less output (meat/ milk).
How inefficient and environmentally unfriendly is that?
Leaving field margins, as his article mentioned, is compulsory under Scottish Government rules and all farms receiving BPS payment have these.
However, his point about sowing winter crops over spring crops shows a lack of agriculture knowledge.
Many farms would love to sow in winter but cannot due to poor weather in September and October.
The decline of farmland birds is purely blamed on agriculture.
What he does not account for, or even acknowledge, is the exponential rise in predators such as corvids which have decimated other species.
Scores of magpies, rooks and ravens do not live on seed and insects alone and farmland birds are the casualties.
What is needed is a holistic approach for the countryside.
Rural areas depend on balancing economic, social and environmental factors.
This is critical and, we cannot favour one over the other as it will have dramatic consequences for rural areas.
Perhaps if he researched the environmental efforts farms are undertaking he would have a greater respect for our industry (eg AECS schemes).
As always the carrot is better than the stick.
So in his next article it would be great for him to report on agri-enviro measures that are having a positive impact.
If he wants to see real change, lead by showing example.
However I fear he will take the easy option again and lambast agriculture from afar. I hope he proves me wrong.
David Bennie Thornhill