11 June 2001
Listen to grassroots, say family farmers

By FWi staff

FAMILY farmers have called for the government to work towards a new direction for rural Britain which listens to grassroots people in the countryside.

The plea was made by the Small and Family Farms Alliance after the creation of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Alliance chairman Michael Hart said he hoped the new department would listen to grassroots rural people who have not been listened to before.

“The first few days and weeks for DEFRA will be watched carefully to see if it is a truly new department with a new vision for the countryside.”

“A balance must be sought between the various issues, and we must all work towards a balanced sustainable future for rural Britain.”

Mr Hart said he hoped ideas, solutions and policies brought forward by DEFRA would involved full consultation and debate with everyone involved.

It is also important that urban concerns on rural issues are taken into account, and that every effort is made to bridge the so-called urban-rural divide, he said.

The Small and Family Farms Alliance has been engaged for some time with environmental, wildlife and other organisations concerned with rural issues.

The alliance is a member of Rural Futures – a coalition of nine organisations with over 4 million members, which largely mirrors the new departments remit.

One of the main concerns for the immediate attention of the new department must be the problems facing farming and food production, said Mr Hart.

Four out of five people responding to the Rural Futures website were concerned about food and farming, he added.

But food and farming must not be viewed in isolation from the complex situation that is rural Britain today, said Mr Hart.

He said he would be seeking an early meeting with Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett who is heading up the new department.

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