TORY LEADER Michael Howard has said Britain‘s farmers are currently caught in a no-win situation.

Addressing a dinner on the eve of the Oxford Farming Conference (Jan 4), Mr Howard said it took a lot to drive someone away from farming but it was happening more and more.

“Farmers are caught in a series of catch-22s,” he said. “You sell to supermarkets – but the supermarkets continue to drive prices down.

“But even as prices decline, costs – in the form of ever more stringent regulation – increase. Those of you who have pared yourselves to the bone find you have to pare a little further.

“And then there are the external events which you cannot plan for, which bear down on farming like a hurricane – events like BSE and foot-and-mouth.”

Mr Howard promised a Conservative government would make cutting back on red tape for farmers a priority.

It would also take action on food labelling, seek further reform of the CAP and take steps to halt the 17,500 tonnes of illegal meat product entering the country each year.