Most of the video I have seen in the last few weeks of the English and European farms where the foot and mouth disease outbreaks have occurred look almost third worldlish or circa US 1930 in terms of agricultural datedness. Is this simply a incorrect impression based on the small farms being visited or are the Europeans and the English farms really a generation or two behind the US in agricultural technology?
In technology, they are not behind, at all. However, with far more people (per square mile/hectare) than one finds in North America, they tend to have much smaller farms and the technology they use is geared smaller. My father-in-law and brother-in-law in Michigan each farm as “second jobs” and their equipment appears “primitive” compared to a typical Kansas agri-business. (We went to an historical farm exhibit one time and, walking down the line of restored “antique” tractors, my father-in-law noted that the two tractors he used, daily, were represented in the group.)
There is also, actually, a matter of fashion or style here, as well. Much of the European equipment “looks like” older styles (much as Chrysler/Dodge has been building retro-looking cars and trucks, lately).
Another serious aspect of what is shown on television has been that the recent outbreak of hoof/foot-and-mouth have hit smaller farmers more heavily than the larger outfits, so even among the Brits the photos are taken of the smaller operators with less capital and older equipment.
Farmers in Europe have been the subject of much heated debate in the UK because of the subsidies paid to them by the European Comission’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
In much of the UK farming is an agri-business and is very much an industrial concern with economies of scale, it is very highly mechanised and this has resulted in changes to the landscape to accommodate the larger machines.
This is not seen as a wholly desirable thing as far as environmental issues go, but the result is that UK farmers can produce far more economically than nuch of Europe.
The problem is that when CAP was set up the UK was not a EEC member, and those countries that were feared change and wanted to preserve their rural traditions. This meant subsidising small family farms, hopelessly inefficient and outdated, with very little regard to modern farming techniques.
Farmers were guarunteed a price for their goods no matter what their world price was.
The result was that the subsidies were set up to keep these uneconomic units going, however, all that happened was that the produce was high priced and unwanted, in the UK when it finally joined, farmers made a fortune out of producing goods for a guarunteed price wether the world price was low or high. This cost the UK and Germany immense amount of money and there was a net flow toward Ireland, which has benefitted absolutely enormously, Italy and lastly France-which was largely responsible for setting up the system of subsidy in the first place.
Many small European farms are too small and survive as part-time hobby farms, especially in Germany, but the people who own them are well informed and are well capable of swinging elections in which direction they wish and so it has been very difficult to implement change.
You will find that there is a mix of backward and struggling small farms that don’t account for a great percentage of value in total and that will probably be out of business soon and huge conglomerates that are as modern as anything in the world here in the UK