Three stories about the countryside dominate the news today.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has announced the Government will delay a planned cull of badgers in England until next summer, following widespread protests.
Dairy farmers have launched renewed blockades at the Muller Dairy, in Shropshire, as part of their on-going campaign to get a better price for their milk. And plans for a new super dairy in Powys have been rejected by councillors.
There is a common theme running through all stories: the extraordinary level of difficulty facing rural communities who strive to make a living in our countryside.
Take the putative badger cull, which has now been put on hold. The decision to reprieve several thousand badgers from being shot has been welcomed by many townsfolk and protestors who inaccurately perceive badgers to be cute, cuddly creatures who should be protected at all costs.
Those in the countryside see them in a different light, viewing them as animals who can spread TB and cause extraordinary damage to the lives of dairy farmers. The U-turn represents an embarrassing reversal for the Government and bad news for agricultural workers.
It is a similar story at Muller, where farmers are at their wits’ end in trying to secure a rise in prices. Their protests earlier this summer were largely successful and many supermarkets agreed to increase prices. But now they are being warned they may be shooting themselves in the foot.
Farmers may have been squeezed by retailers, but they now need to work with them for the benefit of all. Blockades simply weaken the dairy sector, allowing cheaper European imports to make their way into the UK.
Finally, the decision to reject plans for a 1,000-cow super dairy at Lower Leighton Farm, near Welshpool, may be welcomed by some, who do not want cows to be housed inside for 250 days of the year. But, in truth, farmer Fraser Jones was simply trying to find an efficient and profitable way of working – the sort of idea embraced in urban environments.
The truth is, the countryside is a place of work for many people and must be treated as such. The longer it is treated as an idealised, chocolate box-esque place of leisure for non-workers, the greater the struggles will be for people who live, work and die here.