NFU opinion: Waking up to food and energy challenge

Arable farmer Richard Styles of Debenham Arable farmer Richard Styles of Debenham

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
6:00 AM

Sometimes I feel like Badger, writes Richard Styles.

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DVD cover for Wind in the Willows 80s adaptation starring David Jason, Michael Hordern, Peter Sallis, and Ian Carmichael.DVD cover for Wind in the Willows 80s adaptation starring David Jason, Michael Hordern, Peter Sallis, and Ian Carmichael.

I’m not talking about the nocturnal ones that have been on the news recently.

I mean dear old Badger from the Wind in the Willows.

Like him you would have recently found me quite often after lunch sitting in an armchair with my feet up on another chair, with a handkerchief over my face, happily dozing for half an hour, or so.

Unless I am woken up by the cat suddenly leaping onto my lap or the dog deciding to bark for no apparent reason.

Being a modern arable farmer, who is slowly but gradually reaching the average age of farmers in Britain (57 is the regularly-quoted figure) I now find myself napping at odd times during the day.

Because of the almost continuous rain over the past few months giving me little to do outside on the farm, I found myself nodding off during the early afternoon rain storms without worrying about the farm workload.

However, the sun is now finally shining and it seems to be pulling everything up towards it as if by strings.

Spring has arrived and I find I am woken early by the wonderful dawn chorus, I have vitality in my step and a feeling of wanting to be getting on with things.

How wonderful it is then to be a small part of an industry that matches my age and mood and physical condition.

It will not be long before I start putting in some long hours of work per day nurturing my crops to fruition, unfortunately no doubt breaking one of the many European rules in the process.

It’s quite sad to realise that you probably need a special permit these days to sleep during daylight hours. On average I fill in a government-related form every two weeks of my life, at the last count 27 a year, the majority of which are of very little assistance in planting, nurturing and harvesting the crops that will eventually become the food we eat.

We seem to have sleepwalked into a system of regulation where it is made difficult to start or run your own business without spending much time filling in forms, but yet we do not seem to have managed to create a coherent long term energy or food policy.

We are therefore continuing to be reliant on imported raw materials. Why this is so is beyond my simple mind.

One can only presume that our political masters over the past 20 years were asleep on the job.

World events over the recent past should serve as a warning that we urgently need new sources of energy to power our economy and new innovative technologies to feed our society.

I shall endeavour to ignore the advice from the many quangos surrounding farming and try and produce the best quality food I can for the nation’s plates this year.

But only if I’m awake and during daylight hours, and with the correct government form signed in triplicate!

n NFU member Richard Styles is an arable farmer at Debenham, Suffolk

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