18 February 2000
Buy British, or get off our land, RAF told

By Nigel Burnham

YORKSHIRE sheep farmers have banned the RAF from using their land for training exercises because the Ministry of Defence catering buyer sources 98% of its lamb from abroad.

The Dales farmers have allowed the RAF to use remote moorland in the heart of the national park for rigorous survival exercises since the 1980s.

But this year they have told the RAF to stay away until the MoD resumes buying home-produced lamb for Britains Armed Forces.

The farmers spokesman, Michael Foster, said farmers were angry that the MoD would not support them in their current financial plight. Two hundred hectares of Mr Fosters land, at Winterburn Wood Farm, near Malham, is normally used by the RAF pilots –

“Were in the worst crisis in living memory and the MoD is buying lamb from overseas,” he said.

“Their policy is indefensible.

“Weve never charged them a penny for using our land and yet they wont give us any help in return.

“I dont understand why they say they cant afford to buy our lambs when weve been selling them for 28 – which is 12 less than the 40 it costs to produce them.”

An MoD spokesman described the farmers decision as “regrettable”, but said that the ministry had to find “the most cost-effective solution” to its requirements.

“Its a sad fact that British lamb is more expensive than the overseas lamb we buy,” he said.

But Mr Foster said the farmers were making their point effectively.

“This is inconveniencing the RAF,” he said. “Theyve already asked us if they can come back.

“I think weve got them rattled.”