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Farm-Workers Stand Together

NFU Scotland is calling for abolition of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) and for agricultural workers' pay and conditions to be determined under general employment law. Much of the media is reporting the position of the National Farmers Union (an employers’ association and not to be confused with a genuine employees union). UNITE is the union representing the interests of agricultural workers. It has told the Scottish government that compromising the powers of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) would start a race to the bottom on workers’ wages, rights and safety across the rural economy.
Scottish agricultural workers are not directly comparable to other workers in Scottish industry. Whilst other sizable groups can enter into collective bargaining agreements on a workplace or individual company basis, farm workers cannot, in the vast majority of cases, meet the threshold for statutory trade union recognition rights. Previous statics have illustrated that of…

The Great Lamb Robbery

The NFU of England and Wales has highlighted  that while farm-gate prices have dropped by nearly one- quarter, and wholesale prices for UK legs of lamb are down by 17%, prices in the shops for UK product have only fallen by 2% in the same time period. Figures also show the wholesale price of New Zealand lamb has dropped by 23% (year on year), and yet the retail price for consumers has only come down 12% in the same period.

Are the supermarkets thinking it's better to be hung for a sheep than for lamb in their profiteering?

land up in value

In 1986 Scottish farmers had an estimated net worth of around £5.8 billion, land valued at £4.8bn, representing 68% of total assets. In 2011 figures reveal that total assets had grown to £38.4bn, of which land and buildings had increased as a percentage to 88%.

They also now owe lot less.  In 1986 liabilities were 17% of total assets. 2011 it i now only 6%

food for thought

New data from the United Nations reveals that there has been progress in reducing the number of hungry people worldwide. But an estimate that nearly 870 million people, one in eight, suffered from chronic undernourishment over the last two years. The vast majority of these people, 852 million, live in developing countries, which means that 15 percent of the developing world suffers from hunger, while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries.

The FAO estimates that childhood malnutrition causes the deaths of more than 2.5 million children every year.

The situation is particularly bad in Africa, where the number of hungry has grown in the last twenty years from 175 to 239 million.

Food is transported all across the world. Even though according to researchers we currently produce food for 11 billion people there exists food shortages and millions starve.  Yet 1.3bn are obese, condemned to artificially cheap, calorie-rich, nutrient-poor processed food. Today's hung…

Who is being milked?

Milk has probably played an important role in many a youths personal history, whose first paid job was perhaps as a milk-boy delivering it to door-steps. The importance of milk in the global food story can’t be overestimated. Mankind first learned the value of keeping animals alive for dairy production as early as 9,000 to 7,000 B.C.

Dairy farms are on the verge of extinction. The price farmers are paid for milk is set to fall. The latest cuts will see farmers being paid around 25p a litre for milk, compared to more than 30p it costs to produce.  Today’s milk business is dominated by a handful of large supermarkets and processing dairies, Wiseman, Unigate and so on. Milk is plentiful and cheap, with supermarkets frequently using it as a loss-leader. Dairy farmers sprayed thousands of liters of milk outside the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, creating a "milk lake" to protest against low prices. Protesters from around Europe, including Italy, Germany, Ireland and …

The Crofters' Wars

“The land under sheep and deer is my property and I can do with it what I like.”Lady Matheson

"Treasa tuath na tighearna." (The people are mightier than a lord)
- Highland Land League slogan

The common people of the Highlands and Islands had been cleared from large areas of their ancestral lands. The Highland Clearances had crammed the surviving remnants  into crammed crofting townships on very small areas of land where they were very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their landlords. Many lacked even crofts of their own and became cottars and squatters on the crofts of other people. Landlords turned most of the land over to use as sheep farms and deer forests. The creation of sheep farms, often comprising large tracts of empty, uncultivated and often fertile land, which hemmed in the congested townships on their boundaries, created social tensions, which unavoidably led to revolt among the disadvantaged. The farms established on Tiree in the 1840s and 1850s, having…

Getting back the land

Around 60% of Glaswegians live within 500m of derelict land, according to a new survey – the highest percentage of any local authority in Scotland.

That can be bad for their health, according to Professor Juliana Maantay, Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, as many derelict areas – she calls them dismissed lands – are contaminated post-industrial sites. "Very often the levels of vacant and derelict land coincide with the worst health. For example, in the poorest areas, one fifth of babies are of low birth weight, and that correlates with vacant land." she explained, although adding "That is not to say that the vacant land is causing the bad health, but there is no doubt that contaminated land is not good to live near."

Her survey identified 1,300 hectares of "dismissed" lands in the city which are contaminated or need some kind of remediation, on 925 sites.

Empty land can provide other ecological services, she adds, inclu…

The Guardians of the Countryside ?

Eggs are crushed, chicks trampled, nests smashed, baits poisoned, birds trapped and shot – and all to line the pockets of the landowners. Birds of prey are being routinely killed to protect the sporting estates of landowners – and perpetrators have tried to cover up evidence of their crimes, according to the Herald.

An authoritative new report for Government advisers shows thousands of rare and beautiful hen harriers are being illegally persecuted across huge swathes of the country. But publication of the report has been blocked by the landowning lobby. Another expert study, due to be unveiled in the next few weeks, suggests as many as 50 golden eagles are being illegally poisoned, shot or trapped every year in Scotland. This is far higher than previously suspected.

"It is the grouse industry that is responsible. They simply won’t tolerate birds of prey on grouse moors.” said Mark Rafferty, a former police officer who now investigates wildlife crime for the Scottish Soc…

Scottish sheep no longer radioactive

Remember the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986 , now the last Scottish sheep farm affected by it has been released from movement restrictions imposed by the Food Standards Agency Tests last month revealed the levels of radioactivity in Scottish sheep have finally dropped below the safety limits allowing the FSA to lift all restrictions on the movement, sale and supply of sheep.

Initially 73 areas in Scotland were under restriction. In April 2009 there were still 3,000 sheep at five farms in Stirling and Ayrshire under restriction but over time the radioactivity levels have continued to decline. The final Scottish area was removed from restrictions on 21 June 2010 but England and Welsh sheep farmers remain affected.

In North Wales 330 holdings and approximately 180,000 sheep remain within a restricted area and a further eight holdings in Cumbria are also still under restriction.

In wake of the revelations of gross and grotesque safety infringements by nuclear companies in …

Market Madness

Capitalism is a system that if it doesn't make the profit , it doesn't get made .

Low prices led to sheep on hill farms being slaughtered because they could not be sold and faced a shortage of grazing with the onset of winter. Mr Picken of National Farmers Union Scotland said the difficulties facing livestock farmers could see grassland being ploughed up and left fallow.

But when it comes to making a buck , there is always an alternative .

Mr Picken said the UK was lagging behind other countries in the production of biofuels. "So there is a bit of room so to speak for growing energy crops."

Ineos Enterprises' proposal to build one of Europe's biggest bio-diesel plants in Grangemouth was given the go-ahead . And there are pending plans by DMF Biodiesel for a processing facility in Rosyth . And there will be another at Motherwell , partly financed the Scottish Parliment's Regional Selective Assistance .

So as elsewhere in the world , it is will now be a matte…