22 May 1998

Have Your Say questions pour in for minister

A TIDE of misery has been revealed by farmers weeklys Have Your Say campaign.

Farmers from Berwickshire to the West Country have written to FW with questions for farm minister, Jack Cunningham, telling of the personal hardship suffered because of his alleged mis-management of the UK farming industry.

Devon producer John Hillson spoke for many when he wrote: "Your (Dr Cunninghams) administration of farming matters has inflicted colossal stress, anxiety and despair on the farming community to such an extent that several farmers have seen fit to end their lives by suicide.

"The responsibility rests on your shoulders due to your intransigence, arrogance and failure to listen to farmers points of view. How are you going to carry the burden of their deaths on your conscience?"

Devon producer W Heywood wanted to know: "Why is it that the lowland livestock farmers income is less than (the cost of) the desk in your office?"

Mary Gladden stressed the vital contribution UK farming makes to the health of the rural economy. "Does the minister realise how many industries and businesses depend on the farmer for a living; from the firm that produces the spray can to the lorry driver who hauls grain? By supporting the farmer the government would support local industries."

Her concern was echoed by Sir Eric Howells, Pembrokeshire, who wrote: "It is obvious that the present government is prepared to write off British agriculture. Farming is a wealth-producing industry, producing the safest food in the world. How does the minister propose feeding the nation and finding jobs for the 20% of the population that depend directly or indirectly on farming for a living?"

A selection of readers questions were put to Dr Cunningham during the annual parliamentary debate on agriculture in the House of Commons by shadow farm minister, Michael Jack, yesterday (Thur, May 22). See full report next week. &#42