By Jonathan Riley

DEFRA HAS been accused of interpreting too zealously EU laws on promoting home-produced food.

It has emerged that DEFRA told designers working on the relaunch of the Little Red Tractor logo to use colours other than red, white and blue.

NFU head of food and farming Robin Tapper said that the government wanted fewer British colours because it was afraid of breaching EU rules which prevent member states from promoting home-grown food. But Mr Tapper suggested other states were less stringent in applying the rules.

 He added that DEFRA”s position was also behind a separate decision not to provide funding for a promotional venture by the British Agriculture Marketing group.

The group aimed to produce a farming and food magazine but it claims it was refused support under the Rural Enterprise Scheme because DEFRA deemed its imagery of a farmer and his cows as too British.

The venture has collapsed as a result according to the woman behind the proposal, BAM”s Alison Fogg.

“The magazine would have reached 1m people and was a genuine attempt to reconnect the consumer with food production,” said Ms Fogg. “Half the time British consumers haven”t got a clue about the food they eat.”

She said the venture”s collapse left farmers with little choice but to fund their own promotion because the farming levy bodies were also hamstrung by the EU rules. There”s really only one way left for farming and that is to fund promotional work commercially, she said.

JOIN FORCES

Ms Fogg urged producers to join forces and fund promotion projects or to do anything they could to win over the public.

“It may not sound much but positive messages on field-sited billboards would be a start.”.

A DEFRA spokesman denied funding had been refused because the picture was too British. But he said EU rules stated the government could not use public money to support campaigns which exclusively promoted British food.