Brown sets out his stall with beef ban end as a priority
By Jonathan Riley
FARM minister Nick Brown has set out his priorities for his first year in office with the lifting of the beef ban and better communication between producers, retailers and the public the main targets.
The new minister has devised a series of meetings with producers across the country during September before meeting the big retailers.
"British farming has a good story to tell and I want to see the industry recognised by the public for its high welfare standards," Mr Brown told farmers weekly.
"The public has a right to know more about how meat is produced and wants reassurance that meat is produced ethically. The British agricultural industry is ideally placed to meet those demands and I intend to play a key role in getting this message across to retailers and consumer groups and ensuring that more information is provided by the retailers."
He said that strengthening relationships with EU ministers was also a priority because then and only then could the governments efforts to secure the lifting of the beef ban be put over effectively.
As well as working on a strategy for his first year in office, Mr Brown has met delegations from the pig industry on the crisis facing the sector.
"We are still considering the option of aids for private storage to take pigmeat off the market. But at the moment the time is not yet right because the large scale release of stored pigmeat in a few months time may prolong or add to the downward pressure on prices."
Also on the agenda for this autumn is the annual review of hill farming incomes.
"Hill farming is at the forefront of my mind. My predecessor Jack Cunningham did secure help for hill farmers and I dont want to give the impression that the door is closed on further intervention by government. But we are looking on a wider basis at deprived rural areas generally."
He intended to look at the country region by region and judge which areas needed support that could be provided on environmental or regional grounds or for transport. "I am aware this goes slightly wider than the departments traditional scope but the department has a legitimate stake in debates on the rural issues."
And, while he was aware of speculation over the formation of a department of rural affairs in place of the department of environment and MAFF, he said merging the departments would not make sense. "There is enough work to be done here to ensure that the departments stay separate."
• See also page 10