Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell has paid a visit to the Royal Show to promote a new set of policies for rural areas which include badger culling in TB hotspot areas and clawing back support from what it terms ‘CAP millionaires’.
Mr Campbell’s visit to the show came ahead of one planned by the new DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn, who is due to make an appearance on Monday morning (2 July).
The Tory’s agricultural team, led by Jim Paice MP, will also be out in force on Monday and Tuesday.
The Conservative Party is due on Tuesday (3 July) to outline initial recommendations from its Quality of Life Report which covers a range of policy matters, including agriculture, food and rural issues.
The Liberal Democrat’s paper, A Fair Future for Rural England, highlights that 20% of rural citizens are living in poverty.
It emphasises the need for the creation of sustainable rural communities supported by good schools, medical and bus services, and thriving local businesses.
But it sets out key proposals for farming which include:
- Speed up the reduction in export subsidies and the replacement of production subsidies with payments for social goods, such as contributions to landscapes, the environment, animal welfare and sustainable rural development.
- Continue support for Less Favoured Areas schemes to allow for traditional farming methods, such as hill farming, to thrive – while ensuring the funds reach as many farmers as possible.
- Urge European member states that have not yet fully decoupled payments, such as France and Spain, to do so as a matter of urgency in order to provide British farmers with a more level playing field.
- End the discrepancy of CAP millionaires by clawing back CAP funds from the best-off farmers to address higher priorities elsewhere.
- Cut the red tape surrounding the administration of the single farm payment, for instance, by imposing a minimum payment threshold of 100 euros.
- Simplify the overly-complex application packs for agri-environment schemes to allow more farmers to benefit financially from their green action.
- Lobby at EU level for a more proportionate, risk-based approach to fallen stock processing.
- Take decisive action on bovine TB through an immediate and focused programme of badger control in hot spot areas, while maintaining pre and post-movement testing of cattle.
- Create a tougher, legally binding supermarket code effective for the whole food chain from farm to fork to ensure all supermarkets do not exploit suppliers, farmers or consumers.
- Establish a Food Trade Inspector with powers to investigate proactively abuse of market power.
- Press the European Commission to monitor more effectively the importation of cheap imports whose health, animal welfare and environmental costs are not fully counted (e.g. untraceable Brazilian beef).
- Ensure that food labelling reflects the health, animal welfare and environmental standards of food imports to enable consumers to make informed choices.
- Press for changes to the EU regulations regarding ‘country of origin’ labelling so that in future food labelled ‘British’ means it is British, while supporting counties and localities that wish to introduce more localised labelling schemes.
- Set higher standards for public procurement of local food to reduce the ‘food miles’ resulting from the high – and rising – amount of food imported by many Government departments.
Mr Campbell said: “The popular image of a rural idyll hides a darker reality of rural hardship.
“Our rural communities are suffering from inadequate transport systems, local schools and services like post offices closing down and housing that is no longer affordable.
“Labour does not seem to care about the countryside, but we also remember the damage suffered by the rural economy under the previous 18 years of Conservative rule.
“Farming remains at the heart of the rural economy and rural life. Farmers are often the custodians of the countryside that we love. That is why we have developed long term policies for the future of agriculture.”