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LEAF Speak Out: Difficult Questions - General Q&A

Why do farm­ers get paid sub­sidy when oth­er indus­tries don’t?

There are many rea­sons, which all stem from the Com­mon Agri­cul­tur­al Pol­i­cy (CAP) which is a series of poli­cies man­aged by the Euro­pean Union. These include:

  • Keep­ing the price of food low­er. Typ­i­cal­ly, UK cit­i­zens spend just 7% of their annu­al incomes on food, ver­sus 40% in the 1940s.
  • To sup­port liveli­hoods to retain peo­ple liv­ing in rur­al places.
  • To sup­port the man­age­ment of the coun­try­side for a host of tar­gets, includ­ing wildlife, inver­te­brates (e.g. bugs and bees), birds, pub­lic access, soils, water qual­i­ty, flood mit­i­ga­tion and many more.
  • To sup­port edu­ca­tion of chil­dren and the wider public.

Why do farms smell?

At cer­tain times of the year, for exam­ple in the win­ter when cat­tle are inside, or when the wind is blow­ing in a cer­tain direc­tion, such as towards your house, or when farm­ers are doing cer­tain things such as spread­ing muck or slur­ry, smells can waft from farms.

These smells gen­er­al­ly come from farm ani­mals, their feed e.g. silage (pick­led grass) or from oth­er facil­i­ties on some farms e.g. an anaer­o­bic digester used to break down organ­ic wastes.

It is very hard for farm­ers to con­trol these odours, just as it is for a sewage treat­ment plant and for humans when they use the bath­room for num­ber twos!

Why are trac­tors so slow/​do farm­ers hold up the traffic?

Trac­tors and oth­er farm vehi­cles are built for pow­er, not for speed. Some vehi­cles are also restrict­ed on how fast they can trav­el. Farm­ers some­times have to take farm vehi­cles such as trac­tors or com­bine har­vesters on the road, for exam­ple to move them from field to field. Most farm­ers are very con­scious and try to pull over into lay­bys to let oth­er road users past. This isn’t always pos­si­ble to do. We ask that you be patient, usu­al­ly they won’t be going far!

Are you a rich farmer mak­ing lots of mon­ey? Why do you farm when so many farm­ers say it’s unprofitable?

Some years we make a prof­it, in oth­er years, for exam­ple when it rains dur­ing har­vest, or when the mar­ket prices for grain are low, we can lose mon­ey. Farm­ing is a busi­ness, just like your local garage or your local shop. Like them, we need to make a prof­it to invest in new tools, in train­ing so that we are com­plaint, to pay wages or to buy a new pair of welling­ton boots [hold up an old sole-less pair to make light of the question].

We car­ry on farm­ing because this farm has been in the fam­i­ly for many years [tell your own farm sto­ry] and because we love it, it’s our way of life. We also believe in car­ing for the coun­try­side and take pride in pro­duc­ing great qual­i­ty food.

Why do farm­ers keep peo­ple off their land?

Many farm­ers open­ly wel­come peo­ple onto parts of their farms e.g. foot­paths or to events like this. In Scot­land, they have a right to roam’ law which allows wider coun­try­side access.

There are many rea­sons why farm­ers ask the pub­lic to keep to the foot­path, or away from cer­tain parts of the farm, for exam­ple to keep you and your fam­i­ly safe. If there are new moth­er cows with calves, they can be pro­tec­tive and fright­en­ing if you get too close. There may be machin­ery work­ing in a field, or trees being felled, so we ask that you keep away for your own safe­ty. It is also to pro­tect sheep from dogs being walked on farms. Dogs, even if they don’t usu­al­ly chase, can chase sheep and, in some cas­es, maul younger sheep and lambs and even kill them or cause preg­nant ewes to miscarry.

Do you agree with large-scale farming?

[We are/aren’t’ large scale farm­ers. Tai­lor how you answer depend­ing on this but try not to under­mine oth­er systems.]

Larg­er scale farm­ing has become nec­es­sary in today’s soci­ety. Peo­ple have become used to pay­ing £10 for three packs of chick­en breasts or mince. It isn’t eco­nom­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble for farm­ers to do this in a free-range chick­en sys­tem, or graz­ing beef cat­tle on grass, which is why free-range chick­en in the super­mar­ket is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more expen­sive than non-free-range.

But large-scale farm­ing doesn’t mean bad farm­ing. There will be very high stan­dards of health and ani­mal wel­fare, the ani­mals’ diets will be very close­ly tai­lored to their needs and their envi­ron­ment (e.g. tem­per­a­ture, ven­ti­la­tion, bed­ding) will be com­fort­able for them.

If we didn’t do’ large scale farm­ing in the UK, it is like­ly that more cheap food would be import­ed from abroad where we have less con­trol over the stan­dards of wel­fare or production.

If, as a con­sumer, you want to sup­port small­er scale pro­duc­ers, go to a farm­ers’ mar­ket, butch­er or farm retail­er and find out who and how your food is pro­duced, then make a deci­sion about which sys­tem you approve of and whose pro­duce you want to buy.

In a super­mar­ket, you will also have choice – for exam­ple, there are wel­fare- and envi­ron­men­tal­ly-friend­ly brands such as RSP­CA Free­dom Food, Free-Range and LEAF Mar­que, all of which have unique guar­an­tees about how that food is grown or reared.

If you are con­cerned, do more research and ask more ques­tions, then base your buy­ing deci­sions on what you discover. 

Sup­port­ed by the Crop Pro­tec­tion Association

Dif­fi­cult ques­tion topics:

Gen­er­al Q&A









Why is it impor­tant to farm sustainably?

Why do farm­ers keep peo­ple of their land?

Do chem­i­cals used in farm­ing make peo­ple ill? — sure­ly its bet­ter to be an organ­ic farmer?

Sure­ly large-scale farm­ing is real­ly dam­ag­ing the envi­ron­ment, destroy­ing the soils and wildlife on the farm, and reduc­ing the num­ber of birds?

Why does it mat­ter where my food comes from?

Sup­port­ed by:

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