22 June 2001

Beckett sets out her stall

MARGARET Beckett has published a list of draft aims for the new Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which includes a promise to deliver a sustainable, diverse and dynamic farming industry.

At a briefing, the secretary of state said she would be putting the aims out to consultation. As they stood, they set the shape of the new department, but were not set in stone, she said.

The aim for agriculture is to promote "sustainable and diverse farming and food industries that work together to meet the needs of consumers."

Key tasks which have been identified include eradicating foot-and-mouth, reform of the CAP and promoting a competitive and integrated food supply chain.

The briefing marked the start of a busy week for Mrs Beckett who met NFU president Ben Gill for the first time and also attended agriculture council in Brussels.

Mr Gill said he thought his meeting with the minister had been a successful one.

"We are both urgently committed to achieving a sustainable recovery plan for farming after more than three years of desperate farm incomes and foot-and-mouth disease," he said.

Mr Gill said the secretary of state had expressed her determination to eradicate the disease as swiftly as possible.

But in her first statement on foot-and-mouth, Mrs Beckett hinted that farmers concerns would not take precedence when decisions needed to be made about the issue.

"The impact of foot-and-mouth disease has not just been on the agricultural community, it has had major effects on other sectors of the rural community," she stressed. &#42