Farm­ing can’t go back, only for­ward

Stirling Observer - - FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY -

Dear Edi­tor

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

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