Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI:


Tee hee:

We have an alternative policy framework to suggest. Let’s just not have a policy. No subsidies, no payments, no department, no Minister, nothing, nowt, zippedy dooh dah. The New Zealand option. You’ve had it good for a century or more now there’s yer bike and have a nice ride.

We would not swear that this is true but we have heard that it is so – British farming has long passed Parkinson’s Event Horizon. There are now more bureaucrats “managing” farming than there are farmers farming. Let’s not pay the farmers anything and thus we don’t need the bureaucrats paying it – a double saving. Instead of £2 to £3 billion a year in taxes going to the farmers, plus whatever the amount again to pay it to them, we could just keep that what, £5 billion? And go and buy food from whomever.

Sounds like a plan really and we recommend it to all. Let’s use Brexit to right some of the wrongs of our current system. One of those wrongs being the incessant whining and demands for bribery from the farming sector.

The correct design of the new domestic agriculture policy is that there isn’t one. And nor is there any funding for either it or its absence. In short Meurig, go away.

This has been picked up by The Farming Forum. Which means at least the possibility that a farmer or two will hear of the plan. Who knows, possibly even Meurig?

29 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. If we are out of the EU then we would be managing our agriculture, the number of bureaucrats could be slashed. It seems sensible to grow a reasonable amount of our own food, not all of course but you never know when trouble will come along. Also a lot of agricultural spending is to manage the land, might be nice to keep it ‘green and pleasant’.

  2. It’s worse than you think. I live on a farm which I own but I don’t run it or farm it. We extended our garden by about 4 yards or so further out (it’s not very wide either) into scrubland that has never been used as farmland. This is on the edge of a 400 acre farm.

    Apparently this involves a hugely bureaucratic measuring process because the exact dimensions of what is “farm” and what isn’t have to be done to insane levels of accuracy, resubmitted etc etc etc.

    I would guess the are is maybe 20 square metres. Out of something like 1.5 million square metres of the farm. The measurement errors on the rest of the farm (e.g. how close to the edge you plough etc.) massively outweigh this amount.

    It’s just a job creation scheme for numpties.

  3. @Eddy: “you never know when trouble will come along.”

    What sort of trouble is this? It’s no good refighting the last world war. The next time we have similar difficulties we will be fight the sort of war you can have between meals without losing your appetite.

  4. It’s ok, once Corbyn is elected all those glass wearing intellectuals will be forced onto the farms and we’ll have endless supplies of food with no need for subsidies. We can kill all the birds too, that will end well.

  5. Abolish subsidies for forestry as well otherwise it will be sitka spruce as far as the eye can see.

  6. ‘What sort of trouble is this?’
    Who knows, some massive volcano reduces temperatures for a few years or a new disease hits a staple crop. I’m not sure blithe optimism is a good long term policy. Some level of insurance against Gaia’s evil ways seems sensible.

  7. Ronald Reagan told the story of visiting the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in D.C. . . . as he was walking down a hall, he heard intense sobbing. He stepped in to the office, there was a man face down on his desk, crying uncontrollably. President Reagan managed to get his attention, and asked him what was wrong. The man looked up, and said,

    “My farmer died.”

  8. Bloke in Germany

    But what oh what will happen to the Tory party if they can no longer subsidise their voters?

  9. Bloke in Germany

    Eddy’s right of course. The gargantuan waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy of the CAP is basically an insurance policy. At, what, 0.2% of EU GDP per year – it seems good value for never running out of food, or finding your supply in the hands of Mugabe, Gaddaffi, and Hussein, oops sorry, the non-countries that they no longer run.

    Of course, silly me, the fact that no Europeans whatsoever have starved to death for over 50 years, and are now all grossly obese and even those on welfare can eat all the cheap meat they want is, like the absence of war for the last 70 years, one of those pure coincidences that has nothing whatosever to do with the attempts at finding a single structure that Europe can work out its collective problems through.

    Indeed, we look around and it’s certainly those places without a functional agriculural policy (like most of Africa) that are doing great, isn’t it, and places with agriculture ministries like the USA, China, EU, that are destitute and hungry. Yeah.

  10. Abolishing the subsidies sounds attractive, but what would be the consequences? I suppose that EU agricultural subsidies would remain in place, with the result that UK farming would be largely wiped out. Have I got that wrong Tim, or is it an outcome you’re content to see?

  11. I think more than 2000 people work in government administering agriculture, the Rural Payments Agency alone have 2100+ working for them. And there aren’t 450k farmers, thats all people who work on farms, full and part time, including employees, family members and business partners. Actual people who are in business as farmers is more like 100-150k.

    I still very much doubt there are more civil servants administering farming than there are farmers though.

  12. ” I suppose that EU agricultural subsidies would remain in place, with the result that UK farming would be largely wiped out. Have I got that wrong Tim, or is it an outcome you’re content to see?”

    I think that was the outcome he was advocating.

    The point is that farming in Europe is an expensive and inefficient way to grow food, so we should stop wasting money, reallocate the resources to something more productive, and benefit the whole of society.

    The only reason farmer’s don’t (or rather, can’t) do that anyway is planning law. If you could build houses on farmland, the farmers would all retire rich, we’d solve the housing crisis within a year, and the boost to the economy from everyone not having to pay such inflated mortgages in future would be good too.

  13. ‘Europe can work out its collective problems through.’

    Collective? Adjacency does not make commonality. The European Union of Dissociated States.

  14. BiG,
    But the EU has moved on to actually creating problems, such as the Euro, through massive over-reach.

  15. “Indeed, we look around and it’s certainly those places without a functional agriculural policy (like most of Africa) that are doing great, isn’t it, and places with agriculture ministries like the USA, China, EU, that are destitute and hungry. Yeah.”

    Mmm. The USA and the EU are not destitute and hungry because they can do other high-tech things they can trade for food.

    But part of the reason Africa is poor is that the EU uses tariff barriers to keep African competition out of Europe; make food more expensive for consumers, keep French farmers in business doing stuff that the Africans could do more cheaply, and keep government bureaucrats doing that vital work funded.

    it’s like having a building full of poor unemployed folk sat next to a building full of highly trained PhD scientists, who set a tariff on any outsiders coming in to clean the toilets, so that the scientists who they currently employ cleaning toilets can keep their jobs. Obviously they have to tax outside competition highly, because the scientists employed to clean toilets are obviously a lot more expensive, so you need to add a large cost to make the outsiders more expensive than employing internally. And you can see the economic wisdom of doing things this way, because the building full of scientists is rich enough to be able to afford to do this (and is guaranteed clean toilets in the event of a general toilet cleaner’s strike), and the unemployed people next door are all poor.

  16. with the result that UK farming would be largely wiped out

    Do you think that people will stop farming land and just leave it idle?

    What will happen is many farmers and agri-businesses will take a hit on their capital. They may have to farm less industrially as a result.

    New Zealand withdrew almost all subsidies to farmers. The result was the farmers went on farming, but weren’t constrained to produce what the subsidies were for. So the Kiwifruit industry took off, for example.

  17. Do you think that people will stop farming land and just leave it idle?
    If they can sell their produce only below cost, then yes, sooner or later they will.

    Under the single farm payments system, UK farmers aren’t constrained to produce any particular crop. If it were possible to grow kiwifruit profitably at much higher latitudes than New Zealand’s, they’d be doing it.

  18. Happy news: I live at 500 feet in Northumberland and after 6 years of trying, two of my four vines are producing grapes this year. Admittedly they are currently about the size of those tiny decorations on cupcakes. Can I claim a hand out? Or a reduction in the cost of diesel if travelling to the garden centre or Lidl to buy some more?

  19. New Zealand does have a ministry – the Ministry of Primary Industries. It is a horrible kafkaesque nightmare seemingly staffed by recruits from Indian call centres. I’ve just spent 6 months registering a food company with them, supposedly a 20 day process. Farmers tell me the agricultural department is even worse. They are the worst bureacrats I’ve ever felt with and I lived in Russia for 17 years.

  20. Bloke in Germany


    There’s a slight strategic difference between food and almost everything else. If we run out of smartphones or yachts for a year or two, no one will care.

    How quickly we forget that during the financial crisis many net producers slapped on export bans – yes – export bans, not import bans or tariffs. It doesn’t take a vindictive Putin to make problems for net importers of food – nature and markets can do it as well. It might well be “market efficiency” for Tanzania to export food while its citizens die, certainly Brits thought that about Ireland in recent history, but a responsible government won’t allow it.

    So some form of insurance policy against running out of food, by having domestic (over)production doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

  21. So we’ve been subsidising for what, 60 years? And still only grow 60% of our food?

    That’s a strategy that works well then.

  22. That insurance policy can be exemption from business rates for your buildings. No further insurance needed.
    Curiously the EU country with the highest per hectare subsidy is Greece.

  23. Tim: the UK has a high population density compared with most European countries. It not surprising we’re net importers of food.

    (Surely you must get this. The net contributors to the EU are countries with high population density – Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, UK. Because the EU takes contributions according to GDP and pays agricultural subsidies according to farmed land area.)

    Before we eliminate agricultural subsidies in the UK we should understand what the consequences would be. And they’re not going to be that we become like New Zealand, not unless we have ourselves towed 15 degrees south and a thousand miles out into the Atlantic, reverse our seasons, and reduce our population by 94%.

  24. Yet another Steve

    It’s good to see that SJW and BiG at least admit that their fellow remainers are talking bollocks about food though since apparently Brexit will cause us to not have food because of no farming because of EU subsidies instead of not having food because the subsidised EU farms won’t sell us food.

    SJW get out of the damn city and take a look at the countryside. There is more than enough land for the UK to grow what it needs and import what is environmentally stupid to grow.

  25. Bloke in Germany

    @Tim, the UK hasn’t been self-sufficient in food for centuries. Irish famine, severe war rationing (despite an import operation that made the Berlin airlift look like a minor exercise in paperclip logistics), etc.

    The question isn’t if you get self-sufficiency from subsidies but whether you get adequate insurance against shit happening again. Is it worth it? I don’t know and for the kind of catastrophe it is insurance against – nobody does. Maybe it’s a waste of money. My house has never burned down so perhaps the house insurance is a waste too. But insurance is like hedging – we want to lose money on it. Few insurance customers consider buying insurance as a profit-making enterprise, those that do go to jail.

  26. Bloke in Germany

    On the subject of jails, why do we subsidise jails? We force the taxpayer to pay for them, they don’t make profits for any capitalists, therefore it is a subsidy. Presumably to those who are too dependent on the state to run their own personal justice department.

  27. “There’s a slight strategic difference between food and almost everything else. If we run out of smartphones or yachts for a year or two, no one will care.”

    This is the same argument as insisting that our building full of PhD scientists should make their own sandwiches in the canteen, instead of employing non-scientists to do it, because if there was ever a war between the two the scientists would instantly starve, while the non-scientists would not suffer for a temporary lack of science.

    The solution is to ensure that the scientists know how to make sandwiches, or have enough stores on hand to be able to learn, but they don’t actually have to do it every day. Then should the non-scientists ever be stupid enough to declare war, and the scientists stupid enough to completely miss any warning signs, then the non-scientists would quickly learn that yes, scientists are perfectly capable of buttering bread, and moreover, are they now face to face with a multi-gigawatt death-ray laser and a demand for cheese and tomato baps.

    Or to put it another way – we’re perfectly capable of building the infrastructure to produce our own food – it would just be a lot more expensive than it’s worth.

    It’s something a few people do actually take seriously. You can take a survivalist mindset and ask whether you could survive if all the services other people provide you with were cut off. What if your electricity, gas, and water got cut off? How about if there was no food in the shops, and a zombie army on the streets? How long would you last? Can you make your own electricity/gas/water/food? Some people buy solar panels and wood-burning stoves and own their own wells precisely for that reason.

    But I don’t think that’s what this is all about. People just can’t imagine a world without protectionism. So if anyone suggests we get rid of it, they sit down and invent all the possible excuses and reasons not to.

    Every industry threatened with closure due to cheaper foreign competition rolls that one out – we have to keep our coal mines open because we don’t want to be dependent on foreign coal. We have to keep our steel works open because we don’t want to be dependent on foreign steel. We have to run North Sea oil at a loss because we don’t want to be dependent on foreign oil. We have to Buy British because we don’t want to be dependent on foreign imports. And so on.

    But they would say that, wouldn’t they? They’re trying to preserve their own jobs, and the fact that we’ve long passed the point of essential interdependence has passed them by. It’s the efficiencies allowed by that interdependence that grants us our 21st century prosperity. Doing everything for ourselves is certainly possible, and in a post-apocalyptic zombie scenario, we’d no doubt be forced to, but as anyone who’s ever tried survivalist subsistence farming knows, it’s far more expensive and difficult, and results in a pretty poor quality of life that most subsistence farmers given the opportunity are only too glad to escape from.

    The principle is the same. What’s obvious at an individual level (that survivalism is stupid) is still true at a national level. We trade interdependence for prosperity, and are happy to accept the risk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *