31 August 2001

DEFRA objectives wrong priorities

PROMOTING sustainable farming is ranked only fifth in a list of objectives released by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A consultation paper released by the department ranks issues such as protecting the environment and tackling social exclusion above agriculture.

The Country Land and Business Association has accused the new department of having its priorities wrong. Nick Way, CLA policy director, said: "The first priority should be thriving communities and communities in rural areas. There can be no successful sustainable development of environmental conservation without them."

Richard Burge, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: "If these are all listed in order of priority, then we should be very worried. These should all be equal objectives. This is a crucially important document."

The consultation paper states the first objective should be to protect and improve the environment and conserve and enhance biodiversity. Tackling social exclusion comes next, followed by promoting a sustainable and competitive food supply chain which meets consumers needs.

The fourth objective is to improve enjoyment of the countryside and to maintain strong rural communities. Only then does it pledge "to promote sustainable, modern and adaptable farming through domestic and international actions and further CAP reform."

Deadline for responses to the consultation paper is Sept 28. &#42