I have often wondered what the hordes of civil servants do down at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I have often marvelled at where all the squillions go - especially since farmers in England, for whom DEFRA is responsible do not seem to be getting as much money as farmers in Wales and Scotland. Now we know. They have just spent £750,000 investigating how to prevent cows farting - or at least 'weaken the mixture' by reducing the methane content through diet. And it seems that in future Defra are planning an 'emmissions trading scheme' for farmers by which they can buy and sell 'farting quota' for their cows. I suppose that if this scheme is successful, it could be extended to other species, including farmers themselves.
I am grateful to Dan Munford, newly appointed Conservative Spokesman on the Economy in Wales for telling me about this. I have to admit that during the 15 years I worked as the herdsman in the family farm business, I didn't notice this potentially unpleasant bovine characteristic - despite the 'milk' end of a cow being roughly proximate to the 'methane' end. But then, we sold the dairy herd 35 years ago, and standards of behaviour have fallen dramatically over that time.
Dan tells me that the Lib Dems are also onto this. Chris Hulme, their environment spokesman has said that "flatulent livestock emitting methane are beyond a joke, and are a major and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions". Mike German has promised us one new policy every day until the Assembly election on May 3rd. He should be able to come up with some innovative way of utilising all this gaseous energy going to waste - perhaps mini heat and power generators for each individual cow which could be downloaded at milking time. Mike will need something for April 1st.