By Andrew Watts

 THE LIBERAL Democrat Party has joined the fight for the farming vote launching its manifesto for farming and rural affairs with a number of promises aimed at wooing rural voters.

 With a possible election as little as five weeks away, the Lib Dems” manifesto includes a number of policies designed to improve the farmer”s lot and those living in rural communities. Top of the list is the promise to create more affordable housing in rural areas followed by a commitment to ensure farmers receive a fair price from supermarkets and processors for the food they produce.

According to the Lib Dems for every pound spent by consumers on food only 8p goes to the farmer. They would improve the farmer”s share by introducing a legal duty for supermarkets and processing companies to trade fairly; this would be enforced by a Food Trade officer within the Office of Fair Trading.

For those looking to buy their first property in a rural area the Lib Dems would promote several affordable housing schemes. In areas where second homes overwhelm the housing market the Lib Dems will require purchasers to gain planning permission before turning a full-time home into a holiday home.

 The party also plans to reduce the level of red tape incurred by businesses and reduce the level of tax paid by small businesses. Those with businesses with a rateable value of less than 25,000 would receive a rebate of up to 1500.

The party would not permit the growing of GM crops until evidence is produced to prove they are harmless to the environment, at the same time measures to promote organic farming would be introduced.

 On country sports the Lib Dems confirmed they have no intentions to place restrictions on fishing and shooting. There is no comment on the ban on hunting with hounds.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk