3 July 2000
Farming is the countryside, claims NFU

By FWi staff

THE National Farmers Union has stepped up the debate over the future of rural Britain by insisting that agriculture must be at the heart of the countryside.

Speaking at the Royal Show on Monday (3 July), NFU president Ben Gill launched what he described as a major campaign to lobby the government.

“Above all, we need the Government to act on the recognition that farming is the countryside,” Mr Gill told listeners at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

His comments came the day after the Archbishop of Canterbury called on the eve of the show for greater unity between rural and urban communities.

Mr Gill said ministers should use the governments forthcoming Rural White Paper to unlock the potential of farmers to innovate and compete.

“The countryside is not a benign frozen Constable water-colour, but a vibrant, living and breathing, ever-changing food chain.”

A summer campaign by the NFU will invite MPs on to farms in a bid to show politicians the problems faced by farmers suffering from the agricultural crisis.

Mr Gill said the Rural White Paper, expected to be published in the autumn, must be a realistic blueprint for the future of farming and rural Britain.

“It must seek as a priority to unlock the enormous potential of rural areas, and especially farmers ability to innovate and compete,” he said.

Earlier, Charles Runge, chief executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, rejected the idea that farming is no longer the focus of the Royal Show.

Some agricultural shows, including the Royal, are increasingly exhibiting lucrative rural lifestyle attractions in a bid to ride out the crisis in farming.

The Country Lifestyle area at the Royal Show includes stands selling Jacuzzis and antiques rather than demonstrating the latest farming techniques.

But Mr Runge said: “The Royal Show is still very much a show with agriculture at its heart.”