Thursday, 28 April 2011

Now wash your hands please

Who takes the rap if you get a nasty dose of diarrhoea after visiting your local swimming pool? Or you are bitten by a tick in your local park and develop Lyme disease? Or your child is infected with E coli at a farm open day? Like so many things in life, it's complicated. But local authorities have responsibilities in these and many more areas relating to animal and zoonotic disease. With global warming there will probably be new and more varied diseases reaching our shores and the people at the front line - who may be in many different departments of local government - need the most up to date information to help them combat such threats. Relu's latest policy and practice note will help - it draws on the latest research from the programme and shows how it is relevant to local authority responsibilities.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Making a splash with slurry

It's always a thrill for a townie like me to make it into the pages of Farmers' Weekly, particularly if I can mention something like slurry and sound like a genuine country person. My Talking Point article that appeared in the magazine on Friday 22 April was trying to persuade farmers to think seriously about farm-scale anaerobic digestion. Of course I can't claim any personal expertise on this. The article drew on the research that Professor Charles Banks and his team have been carrying out in the Relu programme, and an opinion piece is a good way of getting the results talked about. So I'm just doing my job and encouraging knowledge exchange. But I do genuinely think it's time we thought more seriously about this technology. It's not just about slurry. The amount of food we waste is scandalous. Since the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth we can't feed waste food to pigs - but surely feeding it to an anaerobic digester would provide some kind of alternative?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

What is the cost of clean waterways for farming communities?

Is it fair for farmers to bear the financial cost of cleaning up rivers for town dwellers to enjoy? According to Relu research, that could be the unintended consequence of implementing the European Water Framework Directive. Policies that drive land use changes to reduce pollution of waterways could have serious economic consequences, not just for farmers but for whole rural communities, and the research suggests that in general it would be towns that benefit. Putting a value on the benefits we derive from the natural world is always difficult, but it is important that all these aspects are costed in, not just the ones that are bought and sold on the market. And we have to take into account how these vary across different geographical areas. The encouraging news is that this projest has devised a model that will enable policymakers to do just that, meaning environmental investments can be targeted more effectively, to ensure that everyone gets the maximum value for money. So it's not just the people with pleasure boats, or indeed just the farmers, who benefit.