Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Very rich hobby farmer wants poor people to pay more for food


We've known for a while that our future king is, how do we put this? Ah, yes - rather too much of a hippie for his own (and our) good. All the talking to plants, alternative medicine, organic farming and old-fashioned architecture is rather sweet. But when he talks about food and the food industry he displays the arrogance of being, not merely a hippie, but a very wealthy hippie.

Charles said the drive to make food cheaper for consumers and to earn companies bigger profits was sucking real value out of the food production system – value that was critical to its sustainability.

Now Charles might not be living in a recession but the rest of us are and telling us that food should be more expensive is really quite objectionable. Especially when it's wrapped up in all those trendy, middle-class green movement words like "resilience" and "sustainability". Worse still, our king-to-be has discovered nannying fussbucketry and the blaming of obesity on the food industry rather than on people choosing to eat too much.

What is most striking (and this is very typical of this sort of wealthy man greenery - Transition Towns being a fine example) is that Charles is chiefly interested in the producer - those farmers - rather than the consumer.

"It has also led to a very destructive effect on farming. We are losing farmers fast. Young people do not want to go into such an unrewarding profession.

"In the UK, I have been warning of this for some time and recently set up apprenticeship schemes to try to alleviate the problem, but the fact remains that at the moment the average age of British farmers is 58, and rising."

The cause of that decline isn't that we've stopped consuming farming product (especially if you take Charles' obesity point as true). The decline is because - despite the subsidies and price fixing - many of our farms are uneconomic. And whilst it's tough on the romantic notion of farming (the sort Charles plays at with his tailored tweeds and hand-crafted shepherd's stick) most of us would rather have the cheap food.

And the farming won't go away - it will intensify. Which means fewer input costs to produce the same amount of fine food. If we wibble on about soil and local systems, we are completely missing the point and worse, we'll be making food more expensive and poor people poorer.

So next time you hear this wealthy - very wealthy - hobby farmer calling for higher food prices, just remember who benefits. It isn't you and me - we're going to pay more for our food and drink. Instead it's Charles and his castle-dwelling German farmer friends who'll suck up the higher prices and syphon off the new subsidies. And maybe a few ageing, overworked hill farmers might stay on a year or two longer than they should.



Leg-iron said...

The last time we had a King called Charles things didn't go well, and the time before was worse.

The last time we had a King who talked to plants we lost the entire American colony.

This one has both attributes. It's not looking good.

asquith said...

Have you heard about this new George Monbiot book?

He was in debate with a sheep farmer on Newsnight last night (I gather much of the book is a publication of a similar debate) and it interested me enough to seek his work out, whenever I can find time for such an undertaking. I can't imagine being in any rush to agree with him but it sounds like an interesting line of thought.

Also a Welsh sheep farmer, referring to Monbiot's stint in Machynlleth (which he brought to an end because he decided the land management in the country wasn't to his liking) said he tried living in Wales but couldn't hack it! Imagine.