19 July 2002

…but leaders doubtful

INDUSTRY leaders have voiced doubts about whether the governments spending review will lead to significant improvements for the farming industry.

NFU president Ben Gill welcomed the introduction of a broad and shallow agri-environmental scheme but repeated his concerns about funding it by diverting money away from direct payments.

"There are positive elements of the spending review announcement. For example, we have long pressed for funding for electronic identification of livestock and for better protection from illegal food imports," he said.

But Mr Gill said he was also concerned about a reference to making sure that farmers and taxpayers make a fair contribution towards the costs of dealing with future disease outbreaks.

"Like all the other elements of this announcement, this proposal will need close examination. As always, the devil is in the detail."

Bob Parry, president of the Farmers Union of Wales, said compared to departments such as defence and transport the increase in the agricultural budget was quite small.

According to the Country Land and Business Association the government had made a good first step but it would need to do more to revive the rural economy.

"It is essential that for the future of the rural economy that the government takes up the Curry commissions wider recommendations, to help secure a better return from the marketplace, to help their marketing and enable them to develop their businesses into new enterprises." &#42