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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

Agricultural Colleges Changing With The Times

British agricultural colleges were today accused of failing to teach the basics of farming.

‘They’ve become centres of excellence in the teaching of many skills and crafts,’ said the Government Chief Inspector of Colleges, ‘but the management of crops and animals seems to have dropped off the curriculum.’

A spokesman for the Association of British Agricultural Colleges admitted that there had been a necessary change of emphasis in their teaching. ‘No British farm can be financially viable if it relies solely on what it grows or rears,’ he explained. ‘Farmers and their families have to be trained in ways of making money from other types of employment in order to subsidise the huge losses made by their farms.’

Giles Tractorson, a livestock farmer from Hereford, agreed that he had found skills learned in college to be of great value. ‘We studied vehicle mechanics, plumbing, bricklaying and other trades,’ he explained. ‘These are always in demand and bring in the much needed money.’

Fears have been expressed that a lack of basic knowledge about crop management and animal husbandry by farmers has damaged farm productivity. ‘That doesn’t really matter,’ concluded a representative of the British Young Farmers’ Association. ‘If all the crops on a farm fail, or all the animals die, then it reduces the financial losses because it brings down production costs. Foot and mouth and other diseases are a real boon due to compensation payments.’ He added that most farmers had a book about farming somewhere in their homes in case they ever wondered what had gone wrong.

British supermarkets have been blamed for using their buying power to force the price of produce below economic levels. ‘We don’t feel we’ve driven down the profits of those bumpkins far enough,’ admitted a representative of the Confederation of British Supermarkets, ‘unless we get a good crop of bankruptcies and suicides. Our members can then buy their land cheaply,’ he added, ‘for distribution depots and more supermarkets.’

The manager of a major supermarket in Kent noted his amusement at the irony of farmers stacking shelves in his store to make ends meet.

Responding to criticisms, the agricultural colleges say they will be extending their courses to contain some areas of horticulture. ‘These may include opium and cannabis production,’ speculated a spokesman for the Association of British Agricultural Colleges. ‘The supermarkets don’t have a stranglehold over the sale of those commodities,’ he added, ‘and fair prices are paid because bosses of organised crime have the good sense to protect their suppliers.’