JOURNAL : Farmers Weekly
SUBJECT : CLA pops in to see Tony Blair
AUTHOR : ANDREW WATTS
SECTION : News
ISSUE DATE : 13/09/06
PAGE NUMBER : 6
COPYRIGHT : Free reuse

HEADLINE: Farm groups get the Prime Minister’s ear on red tape and sugar

TEXT: Prime Minister Tony Blair has met two groups of farmers this week, to discuss issues such as red tape, planning and the closure of Allscott and York sugar beet plants.
The Country Land and Business Association used a meeting with the Prime Minister on Tuesday (10 October) to stress the importance of a profitable agriculture sector to the rural economy and the wider rural community.
“I expressed in clear terms to the Prime Minister the CLA’s concerns about the direction of UK farming policy, especially the problem of farmers’ capacity to cope with regulatory costs,” said CLA president David Fursdon.
“I was particularly encouraged by the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement of the situation facing the dairy industry,” he added.
In addition to discussing the CLA’s submission to the Competition Commission’s inquiry into the grocery market, Mr Fursdon said he made a point of using farming-specific examples to illustrate issues over planning and negative public opinion.
Also at the meeting was DEFRA secretary David Miliband, who voiced support for the CLA’s plan to take its food labelling initiative onto the next stage by putting a new emphasis on consumers. It aims to bring about a change in the attitude of the British public by creating a culture in which people ask where the food on their plate comes from.
The CLA also pressed home the need for concrete tax measures to help increase the amount of available affordable housing in rural areas to help sustain rural communities.
At a separate meeting on Wednesday (11 October), organised by Conservative MP Anne McIntosh (Vale of York), two sugar beet growers discussed the impact of factory closures at York and Allscott with Mr Blair.
Former NFU sugar board chairman Mike Blacker said: “We had a positive meeting and he listened to our concerns surrounding the behaviour of a monopoly player and expressed our fears that, in time, British Sugar will seek to close other processing plants.”
He added: “Mr Blair was very keen to hear about the contribution sugar beet could make to biofuel production and what the future offered for the next generation. We also emphasised the need for more research into uses for sugar beet other than just sugar.”