FOR years farmers have lamented the lack of understanding of rural issues shown by our political leaders – the new regime promises to be different but it is now time to stop talking and start walking.
In principle, the Coalition's commitment to "localism" is a positive first step. When it comes to regional issues it is important to be supported by Westminster – not dictated to.
However, ideas drawn up in government have a habit of looking bullet-proof on paper, but struggle to survive the test of practical use.
Any move to break the culture of buying cheap, imported goods is to be welcomed and the trend to buy meat and groceries from local producers should be encouraged. However, the argument to buy British produce should not be confused as only supporting small scale specialist farms.
If a drive to support one aspect of the countryside is to the detriment of another – in this case large scale British farming – then it is clearly counter productive.
Peter Kendall, the NFU president, warns that the Government's commitment to localism could be too narrow minded and may hurt bigger and more efficient farming. The Government must give his words careful consideration,
The population of Britain is set to top 70 million by 2030 and with the greatest will in the world, that many mouths are not going to be fed by those eking out a living on a smallholding with a handful of rare breed sheep.
Imported goods can provide choice, variety and in some cases produce that simply cannot be grown in this country. But imports cannot be allowed to flood the market at the expense of British produce. The damage to the economy would be a disaster.
Large-scale farming is a vital part of the regional and national economy and welfare standards in Britain are among the very best in the world. The skill and dedication of our farmers is second to none, we should be proud of them and they deserve the support of their Government.
That support can only come with strong, clear leadership. The Coalition must back up its words with action, they must make food production a strategic priority and give British farmers the tools to support British food demand.