Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Cost of Green

In an interview in the Telegraph yesterday the President of the Nation Farmers Union Peter Kendall  talked about the economy, food, farming and the environment. All thing's he should know about.

He said that with the economy "on it's knees" consumers who are already "massively squeezed" will not be willing to pay more for free range or local foods.

I only do paid work for two days a week while I volunteer for environment groups the other three days. On this pay I manage to buy organic local veg, British fruit and milk and free range and British meat as much as supermarkets allow me to. It's true that, at least for meat, this is the most expensive way to buy food. Last weekend we had a discussion while out shopping, trying to decide between the chicken bits that were £2 or the free range chicken bits that were £4. We decided that it was worth having less chicken and paying more if we could be sure it hadn't been kept in a tiny cage in the dark all its life. This was an active decision to pay more for better quality food.

I'm not trying to support a family on my two days a week, and I know there are many more squeezed than me, but I managed this type of shopping the whole time I was at university when living on £5k a year which is less than a lot of people who don't buy ethically. I'm probably in the minority but please don't try and tell me how I'll shop Mr Kendall, you clearly don't know me.

The article also says that a recent poll shows 4 out of 5 adults believe farmers have a duty to look after the landscape for future generations. This is a great statistic but we all have this moral responsibility, whether directly by how we use the land or indirectly by showing our support for ethical, sustainable farming practices. I wonder how many of those people are voting with their feet and actively buying ethical food products, if 4 out of 5 people only bought free range and local foods we'd have a revolution on our hands!

In the poll 78% of people asked want farmers to get more support to make farming more environmentally sustainable, like leaving land fallow for birds (an obligation to have set-aside was removed in 2008). This is good news since the CAP funding for farmers is under review and the government are looking at whether farmers should get more incentives for environmental farming. I hope they see this poll too.

Peter Kendall also said that

If our biodiversity is the same in 30 years time then that is a fair achievement but if our food production is the same that is a problem.
We may need to increase food production, although there is so much food waste and obesity currently that I'm sure we use more food than we need. But I find it worrying that the public voice of farmers shows such blatant disregard and lack of responsibility for the land and wildlife that we all have an responsibility to protect.


  1. A truly fantastic blog entry. I found out about this blog from the NWGP newsletter. Just out of curiosity, will you be attending the hustings in Preston and the party conference in Liverpool?

  2. Thanks for that comment Robert! Glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately I cannot attend the upcoming hustings due to other commitments but do go along as it's sure to be an interesting meeting. I will definitely be going to the Conference and hopefully we'll be organising a meet up for Young Greens from the North West during that weekend. Keep an eye on your emails over the next week or so for more NW YGs info!