These reflections arise from two events
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These reflections arise from two events


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Learn all about the services we offer
32 Pages


An Unsafe Distance An examination of relations between Governments and Farmers This booklet reviews farming-government relationships in historical context, with particular reference to the UK but also drawing on international case study material. It argues that these relationships reached an all-time low during the past decade in the UK. The urgent issue of climate change and its inter-relationships with farming offers both impetus and wide reasons for striving to improve farmer-government relations. The paper concludes with pointers towards this end. (Keywords: Farmers; Government; Relationships; Extension; Motivation; Theology). Written and compiled by Christopher Jones with contributions from Dr Dan Taylor Rev Ivor MacDonald Assisted by many others, all of who are blameless for the contents herein. 1 Christopher Jones gained a first class degree in Agriculture from Oxford University in 1959. He has a long association with CMS: from 1963-68 he was involved in agricultural development work with CMS, Nigeria; from 1969-70 he had a similar role in Kenya; in 1971 he was with the Christian Council of Nigeria as Agriculture coordinator for war affected areas; and from 1972-74 he continued agricultural development work. Since 1975 he has been farming in Northamptonshire, UK. From 1984-94 he was Chair of the CMS standing committee, and from 1994-2007 was national coordinator of Farm Crisis Network. He was also chairman ...



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   An Unsafe Distance   An examination of relations between Governments and Farmers
  This booklet reviews farming-government relationships in historical context, with particular reference to the UK but also drawing on international case study material. It argues that these relationships reached an all-time low during the past decade in the UK. The urgent issue of climate change and its inter-relationships with farming offers both impetus and wide reasons for striving to improve farmer-government relations. The paper concludes with pointers towards this end. (Keywords: Farmers; Government; Relationships; Extension; Motivation; Theology).     Written and compiled by Christopher Jones with contributions from  Dr Dan Taylor Rev Ivor MacDonald   Assisted by many others, all of who are blameless for the contents herein.  
Christopher Jones gained a first class degree in Agriculture from Oxford University in 1959. He has a long association with CMS: from 1963-68 he was involved in agricultural development work with CMS, Nigeria; from 1969-70 he had a similar role in Kenya; in 1971 he was with the Christian Council of Nigeria as Agriculture coordinator for war affected areas; and from 1972-74 he continued agricultural development work. Since 1975 he has been farming in Northamptonshire, UK. From 1984-94 he was Chair of the CMS standing committee, and from 1994-2007 was national coordinator of Farm Crisis Network. He was also chairman of the UK Food Group from 1996-98.  Dr Dan Taylor has been Director at the Development Agency Find Your Feet since 1995. Before that, he was Director of the Centre for Low Input Agricultural Research and Development, which provided agricultural support to low resource farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He has a degree in agriculture and a PhD in Anthropology (on local agricultural knowledge and practice of low resource farmers in South Africa).  Rev Ivor MacDonald is presently the Presbyterian minister at Staffin on the Isle of Skye. Previously he was an agricultural extension worker with the Scottish agricultural Colleges. He is the author of “Land of the living”- Christian reflections on farming and countryside.             This work was enabled by the Agricultural Theology Project
FOREWORD by John Wibberley1  The urgent issues of food supply, global climate change and sustainability, highlight the need for action arising from proper relationships between farmers and government. In the UK, these have reached an all-time low in the recent decade, while in so-called „developing‟ countries attention to agriculture and agricultural extension has become neglected.2 Both the impact of agriculture on climate and its impact on agriculture call for both adaptation and mitigation policies and practices. This offers an immediate incentive, for the sake of intergenerational sustainability, for an improvement to be achieved in farmer-government relations. The adjustments required within farming, though of a different order of magnitude, are analogous to those agreed to be required four decades ago, when conservation on farms came into focus.3conditions in the 1940s required similar approaches that Indeed, wartime recognised activity required on farms well beyond those of short-term profit motivation. From this springboard of climate change urgency, this account reviews the historic changes in the relationship between farmers and government and their ensuing practical consequences. It describes these changes and then considers the possible reasons for them, before going on to suggest factors likely to contribute to better and more fruitful relations.  This review relates to wider work on climate change and agriculture. The consensus of researchers on climate change internationally is that human activity has become a prime contributor to global warming.4 causes are increases in carbon dioxide, Major methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Agriculture is both a cause of some of this, and a means of mitigating it. Farmers are both victims of it, in terms of more extreme weather patterns and in some parts of the world perhaps least in the at medium term potential beneficiaries of it in terms of yield increases and in providing various renewable energy supplying opportunities, and ecosystem services. What this means in practice is that farming will have to change to varying degrees in order to play its part in addressing this global challenge. This requires a thriving two-way relationship between farmers and government in a context of appropriate public policies. Theological underpinning of thinking is needed about the principles and practice involved in meeting these challenges.5    The November 2008 Agricultural Christian Fellowship conference“Cherishing the Earth: the challenge of farming, food and climate change”noted that in adapting to and minimising climate change, governments have a key role in leading, co-ordinating and encouraging responses and in laying down vital basic rules. This is as true in relation to farming as in other spheres. However, it is farmers who will have to devise ways of applying these rules and principles and provide feedback on their suitability. Partnership between governments and farmers was seen as the way forward: partnership of listening, thinking and doing, not just at top national level, but reaching right down to the grass roots.                                                   1FRAgS serves in agriculture & extension in the UK & overseas.Professor E. John Wibberley, PhD,  2 Why no thought for Food?of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture,Report January 2010 3 with Wildlife: a study in compromiseFarming , Silsoe, 1970. 4Houghton, J. (2009); IPCC (2007).  5 TheologicalWibberley, E.J.(2008) Global Climate Change: Agricultural Implications & Reflections. Rural Theology 6(2), 75-89.
Also in 2008 there emerged the report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, the fruit of a remarkable worldwide evidence-based exercise, involving experts from international agencies, governments, commercial bodies and civil society. One of the key findings was: -“Targeting small scale agricultural systems by forging public and private partnerships, increased public research and extension investment helps realise existing opportunities.” 6 Agricultural extension work is seen as crucial to the co-operation of governments and farmers.Experience shows that catalysing farmer interaction and group relationships is central to achieving sustainable extension.7  In Christian terms, none of this is too surprising, both because relationships are seen as the central reality of life and because leaders are to serve rather than“lord it over” people (Mark 10 v. 42).  
                                                 6 IAASTD “Global Summary for decision makers” key finding 12 p. 6 7See Wibberley, E.J. (2008) Farmer-Interactive Extension for Improved Management throughFARMS (Farm Asset Resource Management Study) Groups: an International Perspective. 12 pp. InGlobal Entrepreneurship: the Role of International Agricultural and Extension Ed ucation. AIAEE 24thAnnual Conference, Earth University, Costa Rica (March 2008).a.wweeaigro.w 
Foreword  Executive Summary  Chapter 1 Partnership Withers  Chapter 2 Some Reasons Why  Chapter 3 A brief look at the wider world  Chapter 4 Preparing the Ground  Chapter 5 Germs of Hope  
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Executive Summary   This booklet underlines the nature of the challenges in food supply, environment and climate now facing agriculture are underlined, together with the important role of relations, at all levels, between governments and farmers. It explores some Christian perceptions about such relationships are advanced.  Their decline over the last twenty or thirty years in the UK and in England, in particular, is described. A situation, characterised by extensive and productive grass root interaction, mutual trust and exchange of ideas, advice and experience, has been replaced by one in which almost all grass root interaction relates to regulation, inspection or eligibility for the Single Farm Payment. There is extensive “buy out from government aims together with mistrust, and little opportunity for feedback from farm experience to government. The reasons for this are discussed. These include an impoverished conception of agricultural extension work, a simple failure to recognise the importance of relationships where transactions must occur, the increasing role of regulation, the frequent exhaustion of farmers and the fragmented structure of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and it‟s agencies. These bodies seem to be designed for a one-way flow of information and control. It is also suggested that government‟s conceptual framework around the significance, role and nature of agriculture underlay these problems.  The discussion moves on to look at the wider world, with examples from Egypt, where government farmer relations seem to closely parallel those in England, and from Malawi, where the instruments for productive relations still existed but were apt to be dormant. The role of the Department for International Development (DFID) vis a vis this subject is considered and it is suggested that this is coloured by many of the underlying assumptions that have handicapped Defra probably assumptions affecting government as a whole and the cultural ambience within which it thinks.  Some points are then made about bringing about change about its importance and potential, and about the constraints and possibilities on both sides, with positive examples. The discussion moves on to the role of third parties, including a description of a rekindling of extension activity in Malawi and discussion of the insights and roles of Christian bodies.  Finally there is a review of some hopeful signs of a refreshed approach in the UK and the wider world, which together with the importance of these relationships might provide an opportunity for change.
 Chapter 1  Partnership Withers  Some recent Experience in the United Kingdom   In UK terms, what prospect is there for such partnerships? This discussion has to start from the real situation and not from where we would like to be or from where we wishfully think we are.  For England there are a number of overviews of the Government‟s relations with farmers, in terms of both the systems and agencies put in place, and of the actual practice. Whilst referring to other sources we will draw primarily from two. The first arises from one of nine Land Management Initiatives, established and implemented by the Countryside Agency and others from 1999 to 20048. The aim was to demonstrate how England‟s land management and farming systems could respond to the changing demands on agriculture in sustainable ways. One of these, the Norfolk Arable Land Management Initiative (NALMI), worked with 31 arable and mixed farmers of all ages. In gauging the responses of this group of farmers to initiatives aimed at converting them to more sustainable farming methods, the researchers investigated their relationships with government personnel from the early 1970s through to 2005. In recent years, devolution has meant that in Scotland, and in some ways in Wales, the pattern of official relations with farmers has diverged from that in England. Alongside reference to the NALMI study, therefore, we will incorporate some parallel Scottish experience.  Our second principal source is the experience of Farm Crisis Network (FCN). In addition to supporting the farming community through periods of challenge and personal crisis, this voluntary organisation has toiled in the interface between farmers and government since 2001. Whereas the NALMI study primarily reflected the experience of arable and mixed farmers, FCN‟s experience has been predominantly with livestock farmers.  The NALMI Findings  Norfolk Farmers Changing Relationships with Government9.  These reports make sober reading. Using ethnographic and grounded-theory approaches10 seven years, the NALMI research r overevealed how farmers‟ relationships with government agencies have changed substantially over the last 40-50 years. Relationships once described as close, friendly and trusting were now characterised by physical and social distance between farmers and government agencies, professional disrespect for the service farmers received, increasingly                                                  8Appleby, 2004; Hall and Pretty 2008a.b; Hall 2008) 9Appleby, 2004: Hall, 2008; Hall and Pretty, 2008a,b 10De Ulzurrun, 2002; Svendsen, 2006; Hall, 2008
divergent agendas and distrust. Whereas in the past, government support had been influential in substantially changing farmers‟ land management, now a general decline inled to defensive relationships, which caused a delay in farmers‟ transition totrust more sustainable land management. This was particularly marked among those farmers considered as policy targets, for example, polluting farmers. Key to this change was a decline in the social networks that once existed between farmers and staff working for, what farmers called „The Ministry‟.  There are telling examples of personal recall which illustrate the relationship with government agency staff in the past:  “He sat don now, in this office, for one and a halfown in that chair you are sitting hours and at the end of it there was a six year plan for the farm”11.  “He was like a folk hero amongst the fa ”5 rmers  “You used to look forward to them coming”.5   The NALMI study reports that up to the 1980s there had been open, honest and trusting relationships and continuity of contact with known and knowledgeable staff able to adapt their message to individual farms and farmers. Most of the farmers felt that during the 1970s and 1980s they were effectively helped in a transition on their farms. This took them towards higher productivity and intensification.  In hindsight this was congenial change farmers liked producing more and at an individual level it safeguarded income though, of course, at a collective level it probably reduced it in the long-term by leading to overall surplus. Nonetheless much was achievedsometimes against their farming instincts9”.  The study describes processes in which farmers and government agents jointly found ways forward. It would have been interesting to know how myriads of such discussions and processes were filtered upwards into government thinking.  A parallel Scottish view of this period comes from the Rev Ivor Macdonald describing his time as an agricultural advisor of the Scottish Agricultural Colleges. My own experience relates to agricultural extension work with the Scottish Agricultural College. When I joined the advisory service there was an expectation that advisors would integrate with the farming community. Younger advisers participated at different levels in the Young Farmers Movement, there were weekly visits to the auction mart and we were encouraged to make regular visits to farms at suitable times even when these visits were n ot requested. A network of farmer discussion groups was established which had a social as well as an informative character. The strong identification with the farming community was a huge resource, which enabled the uptake of advice. The good relations that existed throughout the 1970s and 1980s were largely a result of clarity of purpose. The vision for agriculture was one of expansion. There was recognition that food security was important and that to achieve that it was necessary for farms to expand production. Looking back it is possible to see that the advocacy of oil -based inputs to the exclusion of more sustainable approaches was a mistake. There were advocates of a more                                                  11Hall and Pretty, 2008:399    
balanced, integrated form of agriculture we would have done well to have heeded and incorporated within the mix of agricultural advice”.  The NALMI study moves on to describe a “distancing” process, ending in a situation not only of distance but also of distrust and disrespect. Nearly 2000 of the farmers‟ comments about their relationship with government agencies were analysed. 87% of these were negative whereas of the comments about the earlier period, 97% were positive. Many of the farmers interviewed traced the start of this process to the privatisation of the farm advisory service, ADAS. Ivor Macdonald also sees the introduction of privatisation as beginning the erosion of social relationships between the advisory service and farmers.It was inevitable that fee charging, detailed time sheets and the focus on revenue earning aspects of land use would undermine the trust built up over the years. A price was put on everything apart from some of those aspects that had made the advisory service most effective, namely social contact, understanding and advocacy. Others, in Norfolk pointed to a kind of withdrawal of contact from government offices as they moved from District to County to Region and later of course to national call centres. As the physical distance increased, casual „dropping in‟ virtually ceased and administrative staff became less aware of locally distinctive farming practices and terminology. Physical distance, therefore, tended to increase social distance. Another focus of comment among the NALMI farmers was the way in which government staff became more preoccupied with regulation and checking up and less with partnership and advice. Communication was now all one-waymore than that there was “Dread related to difficult tasks contained within the letters and reports”. Henry, an arable farmer, was typical in thisrespect “piles and piles of books arrive every day and there is no time to read them. Huge volumes of material come through.  It just makes me feel guiltynever have time to read it.”. Many farmers‟ comments indicated professional disrespect “targeted primarily at unprofessional and incompetent administration (65%) but also at inexperience dealing with farmers and part technical knowledge of farming”. However these farmers felt that no mercy was shown to their mistakes. Some of this is also echoed in Scotland. There has been a similar alienation between farmers and crofters and the government bodies responsible for delivering grant aid. These government bodies are more and more conceived of as policing the system so as to identify abuse and minimise payments rather than maximise support.the name change from the Department of Agriculture“Even and Fisheries for Scotland to the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate is telling.” (Ivor MacDonald) The authors of the NALMI reports conclude that the relationship between NALMI farmers and government agency staff in the period 1999 to 2004 has become less trusting and was characterised by distrust and „Buy-Out‟ to government policies. „Buy-Out‟ was defined as “farmers‟ deeply internalised hostility to the government‟s governance of agricultural and rural policies. “Buy-Out” results from (and subsequently increases) physical, social and emotional distance between the farmer and government agencies. It is characterised by professional disrespect for the standards of service received and, as a consequence, results in agendas for the farm that diverge from government policy”.12                                                   12Hall and Pretty, 2008:409
„Buy-Out‟ was one of the most significant findings of the NALMI research. These findings raise the issue of whether or not the NALMI area was unique or whether the conclusions are valid for other areas of England.  The experience of Farm Crisis Network  Much of the experience and attitudes described in the NALMI reports relate to arable farmers in East Anglia and to the period up to 2005. By contrast the experience of the Farm Crisis Network has been predominantly, but not exclusively, with livestock farmers, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In terms of the interface between government and farmers it runs from 2000 until the present time. FCN was set up as a Christian support network consisting of volunteers, knowledgeable about farming, to support or “walk with” farming families in difficulty. Volunteers are not advisors, but  they are listeners, gentle questioners and sometimes advocates. FCN works co-operatively with Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute (RABI) and the ARC Addington Fund, each performing functions complementary to those of the other two. From 2000 onwards, FCN has been drawn inexorably into the interface between Government and Farmers.  In 2000, there was an epidemic of swine fever in East Anglia. This was FCN‟s first experience of the mix of effects and side effects of these epidemics. At the heart of the issue is the agony (or potential agony) of abruptly losing livestock, which may have been reared for generations within the same holding, together with the overwhelming impact of restrictions on livestock movement. The inability to move livestock involves cutting off the farm‟s income stream, whilst steadily increasing the size and or numbers of livestock being fed. The Government policy was to provide compensation for the value of stock compulsorily slaughtered, but no official help with the losses and expense induced by movement bans. There were complaints of incompetent slaughtering and of pig carcases being left on farms, the inexperience with pigs of the extra government vets drafted in, and of a failure to understand the impact of movement bans. There was a feeling that people out of touch with the local realities directed the Government activity from London. When farmers were called to a meeting with Government officials it was unclear whether the two parties would long remain in the same room. This occasion marked FCN‟sbaptism in the widening gap between government and farmers. Everyone did stay in the room! However the situation was tense and relations, by now as we have seen poor in East Anglia were further threatened.  The epidemic of foot and mouth disease in 2001 brought farmers and government together in a galloping calamity. Over four million animals were slaughtered in the struggle to eradicate the disease, and another two and a half million for welfare reasons. Government spent £1.4 billion on compensation for these. Farmers are estimated to have lost £2.4 billion and the tourist industry £3 billion. Recording became impossible but I calculated that, at times, FCN must have been receiving, through its Helpline and various local contacts, fifty or sixty calls an hour.  General relations started badly as no ban was imposed on the movement of animals for a week after the outbreak started, although FMD was clearly already present in Northumbria and Essex. After that the epidemic stayed ahead of the control measures for months, while statements were made about it coming under control. Most of the problems stemmed from things that had already happened.  
“In the 1980s, government had culled the public extension service, leaving the UK as one of the few countries in the world without a system of knowledge development and transfer connecting up farmers, scientists and policy makers. This reduced connectedness and linking of social capital would contribute to the havoc in the FMD crisis.”13  This meant that there was little capacity for local, negotiated application of the control measures. A rigidly centralised process determined everything. Thus there was a continual rush of cases where people were trapped between the rules and disaster:- for example people whose sheep were lambing in mud but who were unable to take them over a road to buildings. Even when an official was contactable they often lacked the discretion to make decisions. In fact one Ministry official caught in such a situation ended by ringing FCN! Vets, MAFF staff, soldiers and farmers struggled in the chaos of carcases and fearssometimes heroically. this made a profound impact on all All of them. Much has been written but I will leave it with two quotations:- “Being on the farm at the time, one of the most shocking thingsas soon as we told the vetwe were no longer in control of our own house, business, environment. Second class citizens. People in white suits coming in. Talking about you to not you „How‟s the farmer? Is he all right?‟ „Yes I think so‟ It‟s still like that. Freedom taken away. You feel pretty strongly about it at first – animals taken away and slaughtered. You are controlled.”  “My conversation with farmers, both during FMD and in my own farming life, constantly reveals a deep lack of faith in the levels of knowledge and experience of experts and policy makers. This amount of cynicism breeds disengagement..  “Government and its offices occupy a paper land, created by stepping away from the job itself. Real land is where the farmer lives and works.”14  Mistakes made by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) figure in some of the NALMI comments. This body was charged with maintaining a database of all cattle and their movements. In 2002, with no priorconsultation with farmers‟ organisations, the newly formed Rural Payments Agency (RPA) started using the BCMS‟ database to check farmers‟ application for cattle subsidies. The trouble was that the database was not always correct. Most farmers were unaware of this and many had no means of checking up on the information it held. The seriousness of this was magnified by the fact that the penalties the EU applies to errors in applications have a sort of inbuilt multiplier. So if a farmer gets say 5% of it wrong, he loses say 10% of the claim, if 10% wrong he can lose say 40% - that sort of thing. Thus very quickly he can lose a large chunk of income15. This type of self-multiplying penalty was to be a huge factor                                                  13 Jules Pretty in “The social and cultural impact of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK in 2001”, Manchester Univ. Press, p.247 14 Pamela Sandford in “ The social andcultural impact of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK in 2001”, Manchester Univ. Press, p.38  15The particular rules about cattle subsidy are now obsolete and the exact details are beyond recall. However, the principle is still used in respect of, for examp le, declarations of land areas: an error under 3% simply means a payment reduction equal to the error. Beyond 3% the payment withheld is equal to