Farmers' hard work 'delivers for Britain'
AS the only county with three animal breeds named after it, Gloucestershire sits high as a key farming area in the country.
Gloucester Old Spot pigs, Gloucester Cattle and Cotswold Sheep make the county unique and, Gloucestershire NFU chairman Charles Mann says, highlights its farming strength.
Today is a big day for the farming community as The Badger Trust's Judicial Review of the Government's decision to permit badger culling pilots in England, is heard in the High Court.
The message from the NFU (the National Farmers Union) is that farming delivers for Britain and that is precisely the name of a new campaign it has launched to raise awareness of the role of farming on the economy, jobs, environment and food production.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
It is also a message Charles says he is fully behind.
Charles, who has been in the role for six months, said it was his aim to increase awareness in the county of the hard work farmers do and the impact they have on the wider economy.
After all, the NFU states, for every £1 that farming contributes to the UK economy, UK food manufacturers and wholesalers contribute a further £5.
"We've got so many people realising what farming means and the contribution it makes," Charles said.
"Farming and what we do on the land is very important.
"Employment, tourism and the environment are very strong now and there has been a lot if investment in energy."
Charles said the NFU was working hard to try to encourage permissive access in the county.
This is when landowners provide access to their land for walking, cycling or horseriding. It is given by permission of the landowner rather than as a public right.
Land is very expensive in Gloucestershire at the moment, thought to be almost £9,000 an acre. The NFU is also backing the Government's Bioenergy Strategy, which it said confirmed biomass and biofuels were expected to deliver the majority of Britain's renewable energy supply by the end of the decade.
In the short term, it could include growth in perennial energy crops directed at electric power generation, and fuel harvested from woodlands servicing the local heating sector.
Research by the NFU and NatWest has revealed that 30 per cent of farmers across England and Wales will be involved in some form of renewable energy production, use or supply by the end of the summer. Around one in five will be producing clean electricity, one in six will have installed solar PV and a further one in eight will be using or generating renewable energy, the research suggests. More than 400 farmers were surveyed. Charles said there were opinions and practices the farming community and those outside it needed to address.
"There are issues we all need to face and dairy prices are a real challenge," he said.
"Dairy, beef and arable farming is essential. We all have to understand that every inch of the land we look at has been managed by man over thousands of years.
"Farmland is lovely to look at but it's our factory floor. Trying to invest and improve the infrastructure is very difficult.
"We've got to continually grow and reuse what's there."
Charles said bovine TB (tuberculosis) was continuing to have a devastating effect on farmers in the county.
Parts of Gloucestershire have submitted applications to DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) for licenses to pilot the shooting of badgers, designed to tackle TB.
The disease forced the slaughter of 25,000 cattle in 2010 and could cost taxpayers around £1 billion over the next 10 years if not effectively dealt with, according to DEFRA.
The badger culling pilots could take place in the autumn. However, a judicial review is being held today. The Badger Trust argues that culling would not prevent the spread of disease but would make matters worse at great cost to farmers, the tax payer and badgers.
Charles said: "We can't financially tolerate any further restrictions on our cattle industry.
"The long-term loss of a dairy cow that could milk for say, another five months, is not covered by the compensation a farmer gets when their animal is slaughtered.
"We are making plans to continue forward. If the judicial review goes in our favour that's great, we'll go ahead and we will hopefully see an end. If it doesn't, we will have to think again."
He added the threat of disease on cattle was having a negative impact on all aspects of farmers' lives and that there was no respite.
"It clouds every working day and the decisions we make. It is an extreme mental burden on all dairy and beef farmers.
"Even if you get the all clear you then worry about getting it."
Flood management is also an issue the NFU has been involved with.
It has been working with bodies including the Environment Agency, Natural England, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and local parishes.
"We are all working together to make a plan, a strategy, for river bursts when sea levels rise. We are discussing management of the land, farms and how we can protect businesses while protecting households in Tewkesbury and Gloucestershire."
Charles said Gloucestershire benefited from being one of the most varied farming counties in the country. It includes a healthy growth of lettuces in Tewkesbury and the north of the county, strong arable farming in the Cotswolds, what he described as "fantastic" soil in the Severn Vale as well as decent vegetables and horticulture in the Vale of Evesham.
He said commodity prices had risen in the "right way" for farmers and was pleased the awareness of food security had climbed the political ladder of importance. Beef prices were particularly encouraging, he added.
One tool that has previously hampered farmers has been the inability to get broadband coverage.
Charles said Gloucestershire Local Enterprise Partnership's aim for 100 per cent coverage across the county by 2016, through funding from the Government and Gloucestershire County Council, should be applauded.
"The problem we've got farming-wise is the inability to use broadband," he said.
"The thought of running a business without broadband is just terrible."
The emergence of online cattle markets has allowed farmers to view, buy and sell animals, machinery, feed and even farmland, without the costs of travel or unnecessary transportation.
â Charles was born at Oxleaze Farm in Lechlade and has lived there for 61 years. He has three children and his wife, Chipps, runs art courses in one of the farm buildings. She has been a bee keeper for four years.