14 January 2000

Lets put farm industry back at top of tree

With the organic farming

movement still gaining

ground, the Soil

Associations packed annual

conference at Cirencester

was told to guard against

unscrupulous traders

jumping on the bandwagon,

encouraged to bypass

middlemen and told that

organic production methods

could help re-establish public

respect for farming.

John Burns reports

IT is time to return farming and farmers to the top of the league of national importance and public respect, and the Soil Association intends to lead the way, says SA director, Patrick Holden.

Mr Holden told the associations Renaissance of farming conference at Cirencester, Glos, that farmers and the public had a choice.

Primary industry?

They could continue, like the government, to regard farming as commodity producers supplying world markets, with a bit of greening at the edges, or they could reposition it as one of the great primary industries with more in common with the education and health sectors than with the iron and steel industries.

The organic movement was founded on the belief that human health depended on food produced on healthy soil and so it chose the latter option, said Mr Holden. And he believed it was also increasingly the wish of the consuming public although it did not entirely understand it yet.

Over the past 20 years the association had developed markets for organic food, helped set standards, and set up producer organisations. It had proven ability to put ideas into practice and to communicate effectively with the public.

The results of campaign against genetically modified organisms had shown the public that it had the power to change things.