27 November 2001
Crops Conf: ‘Defra is anti-farming’

By Tom Allen-Stevens

A LEADING policy analyst has accused the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of “hanging the farming industry out to dry.”

Speaking at the Crops Conference near Cambridge, Robert Gooch said Defras proposals for radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy are “laughable”.

“Phasing out support payments will not happen in the next reform, contrary to what Defra ministers are reported to have said,” he told delegates.

“If the Department had more influence over national farm policy, it would be very bad news indeed for UK agriculture.”

For 500 years, successive UK governments have embraced free market conditions and encouraged cheap imports, he said.

This is a marked contrast to continental Europe and other economies worldwide where governments have traditionally supported and developed their farm sectors.

It is only through membership of the European Union that UK farmers are now protected from further cuts in farming support, Mr Gooch maintained.

“In a breath-taking display of spin, the government has persuaded most people that the current downturn in farmings fortunes is somehow the fault of farmers or the CAP,” he said.

“There needs to be a reform of Defras administration and policies if the current circumstances are to be used as the reason for change.”

Next years mid-term review of the CAP is likely to involve compulsory modulation or cross-compliance, he said.

This would be good news for UK farmers, he argued, since they are currently discriminated against through modulation, compared to continental competitors.

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