25 February 2000
Bishops to debate farm aid

CHURCH of England bishops are set to call on ministers to rethink their long-term strategy for agriculture and do more to help farmers.

The motion is included in a new report prepared by the churchs Board of Mission which will be debated at the General Synod next Wednesday (1 March).

Synod members will discuss the report, which also includes motions for better labelling, less red tape and the introduction of an early retirement scheme.

Bishops are influential because they have seats in the House of Lords.

They will be asked to vote on whether the church should urge ministers to grant help to organisations, like the Farm Crisis Network, in times of crisis.

The report suggests that the government should re-examine its decision not to introduce an early retirement scheme as a matter of urgency.

And it warns that the government may be misguided in its belief that national food security is no longer important.

In terms of “hands-on” solutions, the report suggests that local churches could play a big role in advertising local producers and farmers markets.

Schools and social events could be encouraged to use British produce, and auction markets should have chaplains on hand to listen if people want to talk.

Church representatives sitting on the Regional Development Agencies could also bring the needs of rural communities to the fore.

The report suggests they could emphasize the importance of agriculture to the environmental management of the countryside, as well as food production.