25 September 2000
Farmers show Brown they’re helping themselves

By Isabel Davies

FARMERS have shown the government that they are fighting to help themselves by staging a farmers market on the first day of the Labour Party Conference.

More than 20 producers took part in the market, held just off Brighton seafront.

It commenced with the arrival of three red tractors festooned in the British Farm Standard logo, which drove past the conference centre.

Opening the market, farm minister Nick Brown said there was an enormous amount of public support for Britains farmers and farmers markets.

“I think the farmers market movement is a great way forward for British agriculture, it brings local produce directly to local consumers and it gives consumers choice,” he said.

National Farmers Union president Ben Gill explained the purpose of the event was to show that farmers were committed to developing their marketing.

“It demonstrates to the public – and the government – that farmers are not taking the current crisis lying down.

“They are fighting for their survival in a host of ways,” he said.

But he added that farmers needed the government to do their bit as well, by working in partnership to tackle the problems of red tape and the strength of Sterling.

Mr Brown donned a British Farm Standard sweatshirt before touring the market, spending over an hour talking to producers.

Derek and Vicky Crush of Daylands Farm, Steyning, West Sussex, told Mr Brown that they used to sell to the wholesale market.

But they now sell vegetables and flowers at two to three farmers markets a week.

Mr Crush also took the opportunity to tell the minister about the difficulties created by the decision to reduce the number of abattoirs taking Over Thirty Month cattle.

His nearest plant was now a four-hour drive away, he said.

Elizabeth Field of Slash Farm in Arundel, West Sussex, told the minister that he and his colleagues needed to try a bit harder to help.

“It was always known years ago that under a Labour government agriculture did better,” she told FWi afterwards. “But they have killed that completely.

“They are not interested in the rural areas, they are not interested in rural life and all they are concerned about is upsetting their European partners.”

Farmers were not there to ask for handouts, she stressed. “All British farmers want is a fair days wage for a fair days work.”