theguardian.com | Farming

Forced asset sales by banks destroying farmers' lives, Nationals senator says

1 month 3 weeks ago

John Williams wants royal commission to investigate the practice and calls for tougher penalties

The Nationals senator John Williams says liquidators need to face much tougher penalties if they fail to sell repossessed farm assets for market value.

He says the practice is destroying farmers’ lives in Australia and needs to stop.

Related: Treasury chief labels banking revelations 'troubling'

Related: Bank of Queensland admits it failed customer badly – banking inquiry

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Gareth Hutchens

A swift response to vanishing bird concerns | Letters

1 month 3 weeks ago
Readers respond to Patrick Barkham’s article about declining swift numbers

Reading Patrick Barkham’s piece (Can our swifts fill summer’s skies again? It’s up to us to help, 19 June) reminded me of an experience that made me marvel at the swift’s aeronautical prowess and makes me anticipate their screeching return each May.

A few years ago I saw a small black bird fluttering on a roadside. I stopped and on closer inspection realised that the bird was a swift, which once grounded finds it hard to take to the air again. I cradled the bird in my hands and threw it upwards where it unfurled some six or eight feet above me, caught the air and shot away, out of sight in seconds.

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Letters

Live exports licence suspended for Australia's biggest operator

1 month 3 weeks ago

Emanuel Exports stocked Awassi Express, on which 2,400 sheep died en route to Middle East in 2017

The federal government has suspended the licence of the company at the centre of shocking footage of live sheep exports that sparked calls to ban the trade in the northern summer.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources announced on Friday that it has suspended the live export licence of Emanuel Exports pending a full review of the company’s response to a show cause notice.

Related: Shocking live export conditions not uncommon, animal rights groups say

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Paul Karp

Gene-edited pigs: can we engineer immunity? – Science Weekly podcast

1 month 3 weeks ago

Pigs have been rendered immune to a disease that has cost billions. Hannah Devlin questions whether this could be the future of eliminating debilitating and costly viruses in livestock

Subscribe and review on Acast, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Audioboom and Mixcloud. Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome is the most significant disease affecting pigs worldwide. In the United States, it costs around $644m (£486m) every year, and for Europe, it’s believed that figure is almost €1.5bn (£1.3bn). There is no cure, and vaccines have proven ineffective. However, hope is on the horizon. Scientists at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh have found that deleting a section of pigs’ DNA has rendered them immune to the virus.

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Presented by Hannah Devlin and produced by Graihagh Jackson

Scientists genetically engineer pigs immune to costly disease

1 month 3 weeks ago

Gene-editing technology could be propelled into commercial farms within five years

Scientists have genetically engineered pigs to be immune to one of the world’s most costly animal diseases, in an advance that could propel gene-editing technology into commercial farms within five years.

The trial, led by the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, showed that the pigs were completely immune to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a disease that is endemic across the globe and costs the European pig industry nearly £1.5bn in pig deaths and decreased productivity each year.

Related: Gene-edited pigs: can we engineer immunity? – Science Weekly podcast

Related: Scientists on brink of overcoming livestock diseases through gene editing

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Hannah Devlin Science correspondent

How can you support farmers who are using fewer antibiotics?

1 month 3 weeks ago

There are limited opportunities to support farmers who are using less, so the most important thing is to make your voice heard

Farm antibiotic use rarely features on food labels or marketing in the UK, so it’s very hard for shoppers to know how to support farmers who are using less. For whole meat and butchered cuts, there are some rules of thumb for the conscious shopper:

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Kath Dalmeny

British fruit-growers say they are short of pickers this summer

1 month 3 weeks ago

Trade body fears fruit will rot due to government’s failure to entice seasonal workers

Strawberry and other soft fruit farmers are warning of potential shortages because they are struggling to find enough workers to pick fruit.

The British Summer Fruits (BSF) trade body said its members were 10% to 15% short of labour and expect to be more than 30% short by the autumn as the government drags its feet on a seasonal agricultural workers scheme.

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Sarah Butler

Diversion tactics: how big pharma is muddying the waters on animal antibiotics

1 month 3 weeks ago

Antibiotic use on farms is a major cause of human drug resistance. Yet slick social media campaigns – funded by the multi-billion-dollar industry – are confusing and complicating the issue

Slick industry PR campaigns about antibiotics in food are muddying the water around a serious public health risk, say critics.

Pharmaceutical and meat companies are using similar tactics to the cigarette industry, in an attempt to confuse consumers and hold off regulation, despite the fact that the rapidly growing risk of anti-microbial resistance is one of the biggest health risks of our time. It’s estimated that by 2050 10 million people might die a year because we have overused antibiotics.

They’re trying to brush us off like we’re hysterical women who need a pat on the head and a glass of wine to calm down.

Related: Animals farmed: join us for monthly updates

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Ben Stockton, Madlen Davies and Andrew Wasley

Can China kick its animal antibiotic habit?

1 month 3 weeks ago

It could be a struggle, but the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics is trying to convince its farmers to change their ways

High in the hills of Fuzhou, surrounded by acres of rustling bamboo, is a small farm that is pioneering something genuinely unusual in China. Here in Fujian province, they have turned their backs on industrial farming in favour of natural methods.

After years of working in the industrial farming sector Mr Sun (not his real name – he asked to remain anonymous) wanted to create a space to raise animals with “respect for nature, respect for life”.

Related: Animals farmed: join us for monthly updates

Related: Animal antibiotics: Calm down about your chicken, says big pharma

Related: Share your stories from inside the farming industry

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Charlotte Middlehurst in Beijing

How much does big pharma make from animal antibiotics?

1 month 3 weeks ago

Animal antibiotics are far cheaper than the human equivalent but fears are growing over their real cost

How much money do pharmaceutical companies earn from animal antibiotics?

Pharmaceutical companies are earning about $5bn (£3.77bn) a year from producing antibiotics for farm animals, according to calculations by Animal Pharm, the agricultural business analysts. The European animal antibiotics market is worth about $1.25bn a year, and the US animal antibiotics industry about $2bn a year.

Related: Animals farmed: join us for monthly updates

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Holly Watt

Food deals are the forgotten bread and butter issues of Brexit | Julian Baggini

1 month 4 weeks ago
Trade negotiations with the EU have descended into a political circus – yet the quality of what we eat is too important to overlook

Rulers, wrote the Roman poet Juvenal, survive by providing the people with bread and circuses. His observation has acquired a twisted relevance in recent years. Brexit has become a political circus without the laughs while the duty to provide bread has become criminally neglected. These two aberrations are deeply connected.

Food policy has been a central concern of governments throughout history. As recently as 1957, article 39 of the treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding document, set out the aims of a planned common agricultural policy (CAP), which included ensuring “a fair standard of living for the agricultural community”, “the availability of supplies” and “that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices”.

Related: Underreporting of toxic waste at hog farms prompts inquiry

Related: Who should feed the world: real people or faceless multinationals? | John Vidal

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Julian Baggini

High risk of food shortages without pesticides, says chemical giant

1 month 4 weeks ago

Head of Syngenta, world’s biggest pesticide maker, says rejecting farming tech could have serious consequences within 20 years

The world is likely to face food shortages within 20 years if pesticides and genetically modified crops are shunned, according to the head of the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturer.

J Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta, also said the technologies to produce more food from less land are vital in halting climate change, but that better targeting will mean farmers around the world will use less pesticide in future.

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Damian Carrington in Basel

Where have all our insects gone?

1 month 4 weeks ago
There is a crisis in the countryside – and a massive decline in insect numbers could have significant consequences for the environment

When Simon Leather was a student in the 1970s, he took a summer job as a postman and delivered mail to the villages of Kirk Hammerton and Green Hammerton in North Yorkshire. He recalls his early morning walks through its lanes, past the porches of houses on his round. At virtually every home, he saw the same picture: windows plastered with tiger moths that had been attracted by lights the previous night and were still clinging to the glass. “It was quite a sight,” says Leather, who is now a professor of entomology at Harper Adams University in Shropshire.

But it is not a vision that he has experienced in recent years. Those tiger moths have almost disappeared. “You hardly see any, although there used to be thousands in summer and that was just a couple of villages.”

We appear to be making tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life. If we lose insects, it all collapses

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Robin McKie, Observer science editor

The magical wilderness farm: raising cows among the weeds at Knepp

2 months ago

You can’t make money from letting cows run wild, right? When Patrick Barkham got access to the sums at a pioneering Sussex farm, he was in for a surprise.

Orange tip butterflies jink over grassland and a buzzard mews high on a thermal. Blackthorns burst with bridal white blossom and sallow leaves of peppermint green unfurl. The exhilaration in this corner of West Sussex is not, however, simply the thrilling explosion of spring. The land is bursting with an unusual abundance of life; rampant weeds and wild flowers, insects, birdsong, ancient trees and enormous hedgerows, billowing into fields of hawthorn. And some of the conventional words from three millennia of farming – ‘hedgerow’, ‘field’ and ‘weed’ – no longer seem to apply in a landscape which is utterly alien to anyone raised in an intensively farmed environment.

This is Knepp, a 3,500-acre farm in densely-populated lowland Britain, barely 45 miles from London. Once a conventional dairy and arable operation, at the turn of this century, Knepp’s owners, Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree, auctioned off their farm machinery, rewilded their land and, as much by accident as design, inched towards a new model of farming. Some view the result as an immoral eyesore, an abnegation of our responsibility to keep land productive and tidy. Others find it inspiring proof that people and other nature can coexist.

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Patrick Barkham

'Ethical grocer' Farmdrop raises £10m to expand home delivery service

2 months ago

Skype founder increases his investment, saying firm is using technology for good

The online ethical grocer Farmdrop has raised £10m from investors, including the founder of Skype, to take its home delivery service to the north of England.

The London-based company, launched by an ex-city broker, Ben Pugh, in 2014, wants to open a warehouse in Manchester after expanding to Bristol and Bath late last year.

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Sarah Butler

US's olive tariffs already hurting Spanish producers, says EU

2 months ago

European commission says ‘unacceptable’ Spanish olive tariffs are having major impact

The European commission has said the “simply unacceptable” imposition of high tariffs by the US on Spanish olives is already having a major effect on producers in southern Spain.

This week the US Department of Commerce announced that tariffs ranging from 7.52% to 27.02% would be needed to counteract Spanish olive prices, arguing that the fruits were being sold for 16.88% to 25.5% less than their real value.

Related: Tesco sells green lemons as Spanish supply sours

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Daniel Boffey in Brussels and Sam Jones in Madrid

Tesco sells green lemons as Spanish supply sours

2 months ago

Supermarket says South African lemons are mature but need longer to turn yellow

Tesco has started selling green lemons after relaxing its quality specifications in an attempt to avoid shortages in its UK stores and reduce food waste.

Although the skins are slightly green, the fruit is as zesty and robust as lemons that have turned completely yellow, while the flesh inside is ripe and edible.

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Rebecca Smithers

Meadow alive with colour and the sound of birdsong - country diary archive, 15 June 1918

2 months ago

15 June 1918: Colour shimmered in the sun and seemed to pervade everything

Surrey
The morning air was so light that it hardly touched the tops of the tall poplars, yet it was strong enough to sway poppies in the wheat and make yellow charlock tremble slightly in a farther outfield. Colour shimmered in the sun and seemed to pervade everything; a sense of it came with the rich scent of hay, raked, cocked, waggoned, and pronged by young women, who did everything but shape the stack which now stands on a log foundation near the wood. There timber, mostly ash, was cleared early in the year; birds who had used it as a great grove flew aimlessly across; it then lay bare, a place of the dead, and itself a dead place. Now it is a green copse alive with song; finches twitter, a yellow-hammer perches on the five-barred gate which spans the cart road, foxgloves line the ditch bank. The young sprouted ash with hazel hushes make an underwood through which you must push your way, the open spaces are green with ferns, and in the evening, from birches which were left standing, a blackcap whistles a short but strong tune.

Related: Fields of gold: the best of Britain’s wild meadows

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RC Spencer

'Australia doesn’t realise’: worsening drought pushes farmers to the brink

2 months ago

Liverpool plains farmer Megan Kuhn says cows are being slaughtered because there is no way of feeding them after years of extreme weather

In the south-west corner of NSW’s Liverpool plains, in an area called Bundella, farmer Megan Kuhn runs beef cattle and merino sheep with her husband, Martin.

They have 400 breeding cows that will calve in six weeks. Shortly, 89 of those cows will leave the property, sold to an abattoir because the cost of feeding the animals during drought has become too great.

Related: Water shortages to be key environmental challenge of the century, Nasa warns

Everywhere is worse than I've ever seen it

In the next three weeks we’re going to lose our winter crop-sowing window

Related: Farmers challenge Nationals' claim drought unrelated to climate change

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Lisa Cox
Checked
3 hours 47 minutes ago
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