17 August 2001
Curry’s farm commission under fire

By Isabel Davies

THE governments commission into the future of farming is under fire after claims that it involves too many people from single-issue pressure groups.

The government has named seven out of nine people who will work with farmer and former Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Sir Don Curry.

They include representatives from the RSPB, National Trust, National Consumer Council, Unilever and Sainsburys – but only two other farmers.

Tenant Farmers Association chairman Reg Haydon, said: “I am amazed at the proportion coming from single-issue pressure groups.”

He added: “It does not appear that there was much advanced thought used in deciding the make up of the commission.”

Small and Family Farms Alliance chairman Michael Hart, said the commission would fail to address the real issues facing producers.

“There are no average British family farmers on this team.”

But National Farmers Union deputy director general Ian Gardiner said it was inevitable that the commission had a broad sweep.

“The question is whether they can gel and make it work.”

National Consumer Council chairman Deirdre Hutton said she was happy with the group, but voiced reservations that Sir Don would head the committee.

“The commission is both timely and welcome, but we would have preferred its chairman to be independent from the food and farming industries,” she said.

Sir Don acknowledged that there were “advantages and disadvantages” to his appointment, but said at least he understood the issues involved in agriculture.

The committee includes Sainburys chief executive Sir Peter Davis, Ian Ferguson of Unilever, and Deirdre Hutton from the National Consumer Council.

Conservation issues in relation to farming will be high on the agenda of Fiona Reynolds of the National Trust, and Graham Wynne of the RSPB.

The two farmers on the committee are Soil Association chairman Helen Browning and Lincolnshire cereal and vegetable grower Mark Tinsley.

The commission into farmings future was announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett on Thursday, 9 August.

It is one of three inquiries arising out of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The other two are an investigation into at the lessons to be learned from the disease and a scientific review into contagious livestock diseases.

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