Countryside hustings

Last night we were at the Royal Jersey Agriculture and Horticulture Society showground in Trinity. I arrived early because I was traveling by public transport again. The society had sent out a suggestion of three points to cover in our presentations. For me it was pretty straightforward to work them into the material I usually talk about at the hustings It was an interesting mix of approaches taken by the candidates whose main platform has little bearing on agriculture or countryside issues. They ranged from Lyndon Farnham who gave pretty much his usual pitch to Mr Bailhache who spoke specifically on the topic. Stuart Syvret was first up and spoke about resilience and the significance of peak oil to out future and the industry. Unsurprisingly same of that was also in my presentation at number 11, along side climate change, food security and world population growth leading to the need for more self reliance in energy and food.

The first question was from John Heys. He pointed out only 0.5% of GDP was agriculture and shouldn't the balance be different and what to do about increasing that percentage. A lot had already been said by the time it got to me. I commented, uniquely, that food production and security is a strategic issues not just a commercial one. It is not the first time we have faced this situation. In 1608 we passed a law to prevent men knitting during the vraicing and harvesting seasons. Even four hundred years ago people understood that earning good money was one thing, but looking after the essentials,like having adequate food to eat, was also necessary. learn from history.

Mike Dun asked why we had agricultural workers living in portakabins, but this was unacceptable in finance. There was consensus that it was not acceptable.I also poor housing conditions for anyone was a cost to society in latter health problems, and that needs to be factored into looking at the costs and affordability of upgrading or replacing accommodation.

We were asked whether to much money and consideration was given to 'middle class dinner plate' topics rather than real agriculture and fishing. Most seems to be agreeing that might be the case. I refuted the premise of the question on the basis that the soil and cops are part of ecological systems and the external elements like pollinators and saprophytes are important. Removal or loss of a key species can totally alter the balance.

Peter Le Maistre asked who on the panel would be bold enough to support genetic modification of the Jersey Royal to protect from blight and eelworm. Easy one for me that. My fields are certified organic, I'm a supported of the Jersey Organic Association and the UK Soil Association . They are against GMO and so an I. The surprising bit of that was the amount of applause from the audience for my reply.

Tom Gruchy has posted a link with the speeches by me, Mr Bailhaches and Mr Cohen. 'Tom' has a different take on the best use of the land - housing- and prefers to see agriculture in purely financial contribution terms than as a strategic food security provision.


Tom Gruchy said...

"Tom" was trying to indicate that there are other demands on the land.
In this Island with up to 10,000 working adults (and their children) denied the right even to occupy proper living accommodation by virtue of the Housing quals law - the argument that spuds and cows should have priority is difficult to accept.
Of course, it's not that simplistic but the failure, election after election, of the candidates to address that issue does cause me concern about their motivation.
The fact that there are also people with quals who are inadequately housed, is hardly an excuse. The "rent" derived (or denied)from the 10,000 is the very investment that is removed from the house building fund for all. Denying the 10,000 participation simply starves the housing market and inflates prices.
With 10,000 people now living outside of Jersey who have quals the whole housing policy since 1949is a proven farce.

The pressure on land use in Jersey is more complex than can be discussed adequately here but the idea that Jersey in the 21st century might revert to 18th century food growing patterns (with a population of 20,000) is just baloney. It led to starvation revolution and exodus then and would do so again.

Mark Forskitt said...

I don't think anyone is proposing reverting to 18th century food growing patterns. We have acquired a lot of knowledge about plant biology to enable more efficient methods to be used without excessive inputs.

Yes we have had starvation, revolution and exodus in the past when the populations was much lower than today. Surely that only highlights the increased urgency to have a food security policy, and growing food for the local market. By your own example people are more tolerant of lack of adequate housing than they are of lack of adequate food.