Growing concern

Hundreds of acres of cultivable farmland will be cleared to make way for houses as far as the eye can see. In the coming months, Mid Sussex District Council will hear applications from developers wanting to build 1500 houses between the villages of Ansty and Cuckfield. As well as residential properties, there will be shops and amenities in addition to a headline-grabbing 30% allocation of social housing. Whether or not the developments will ever release as much as 30% for social housing remains to be seen, but it needs to be there at the outset..

This major development plan faces problems, however. To begin with the new homes will generate additional demand for water in a part of the world where demand for water is already comparabl;e to desert regions.The loss of 250 acres of farmland is nothing short of disastrous: the UK cannot afford to throw away productive land.

Hard cheese

Irish dairy farmers are seeing huge falls in demand and output in the wake of Brexit. The Irish Creameries’ Suppliers Association ICMS this week revealed that this was an ongoing situation and not a passing phase. Not surprisingly, the ICMS has some very substantial members who between them exported more than 80,000 tonnes of block Cheddar a year to the UK. Allow 13 tonnes of milk to make a tonne of Cheddar and store it for a year or two at a creamery, and it adds up to a significant business commitment.

Those with long memories will remember former farm minister Liz Truss regaling the 2014 Tory party conference with a hatchet job on British cheese imports. Surprisingly little change from today’s outbursts, really. Shows how little she learnt at DEFRA.

Westminster faces customs stalemate

The Scottish parliament is accusing Westminster of intransigence over the halted building work at the Scottish car ferryport of Cairnryan. Work to build a Border Controls Post (BCP) started after getting a government green light last year. Since then, construction has ground to a halt, as Westminster has refused to give a binding commitment to fund the BCP in full.

Sailings from Stranraer were transferred to the nearby Dumfries and Galloway port of Craigryan back in 2012, for operational reasons. Wholly-owned by Larne Harbour Ltd, Craigryan is a part of the P&O landside portfolio. It can operate up to 16 sailings a day, serving destinations in Northern Ireland.

While Brexit negotiations were in progress, Westminster was committed to funding border infrastructure in full. The Scottish parliament is concerned that it may end up footing part of the bill for port infrastructure on a privately-owned facility. There are also political sensitivities about a requirement for customs facilities on what is currently an internal border.

The implementation of Sanitary and PhytoSanitary (SPS) checks that are the reason for building a BCP in the first place has not happened. Successive start dates in 2021 and 2022 were announced and cancelled: Westminster is currently planning to start SPS checks on livestock and animal products in July, although the BCP site at Cairnryan might not be operational by then.

From a commercial point of view, ferry traffic patterns have changed since Brexit, making the business case and the requirement for a BCP a moot point. The introduction of inbound SPS checks for the UK cannot be evaded forever.

Datacrumb 2

Farmed birds need to be robust to survive the rigours of modern agriculture; this is reflected in veterinary inspection standards. Spare a thought, then, for the lovers of caged birds, such as canaries. Veterinary regulations for travel between trading blocs require the birds to be swabbed in the vent and on the tonsils. Since swabbing a canary’s tonsils will kill the bird, they are no longer traded between the EU and third countries, such as the UK.

Investigating hydrogen

For the past eighty years scientists have been rolling up their sleeves at the Glensaugh research farm and finding robust answers to the problems facing the agricultural sector. Perched on the east coast of Scotland not far from Aberdeen, the site is set to become a carbon neutral farming environment once its building programme comes on stream, pencilled in for 2025.

BBC journalist Nancy Nicolson visited Glensaugh for an edition of On Your Farm, which aired on April 30 and is still available on BBC Sounds. Water is the key to the project, using an industrial scale electrolyser to generate hydrogen that will power tractors and heavy machinery. This will in turn be powered by an array of green energy sources, such as turbines and solar panels.

A headline figure for the project is four million pounds: this is explained in part by the additional cost of being early adopters of technology that is still in development. This project will cast a light on the current operational energy needs of a one thousand hectare estate. Investment on this scale in one agricultural location is based on the assumption that the rest of the national economy will still be functioning in the future, in a recognisable form. We are still a long way from converting urban centres into sustainable economic entities.

Listen to Nancy Nicolson here:

Taking sides with bacon

Until the latter years of the twentieth century, bacon followed a parallel path to the rest of the pig sector, taking its share of knocks on the way. Processors could sell as many loins of bacon as they could get their hands on, but they were held back by a balancing act, otherwise known as balancing the carcase.

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Glass of water

Thank you for your input. Clearly there is a little bit more to this scenario than meets the eye. Since you are (hypothetically) working in a bar, drinks are your core business and source of income. You can opt to overlook the cost to the business, which is, let’s face it, not a huge sum.

You could risk being taken for a hard-nosed bar steward and make up a price for the service of filling a glass from the tap. Your guest might have medication to take and need a swig of water to help it on its way. In that case, it could be seen as unfriendly.

Point blank refusal could lead to a scene, but might be necessary. In France, a law passed in 1967 backs bar owners who do not want to compromise their core business. A bar earns its keep from selling drinks in whatever form they come.

Had the fictitious customer gone to a restaurant in France and ordered a meal, the establishment would be expected to provide a place setting, which would include a carafe of water and bread. This is because the meal forms the core business and the place setting is part of the service.