19 September 2000
Remember big farms, Lib Dems told

by FWi staff

SUBSIDISING small farmers at the expense of bigger producers is not a good idea, landowners told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference.

The Country Landowners Association said introducing tiered modulation, as suggested by the Lib Dems, would put large businesses at a disadvantage.

Mark Hudson, vice chairman of the CLA, was due to tell MPs that most of the home grown produce sold in this country came from a minority of big producers.

We need these businesses in the rural economy and we must not put them at a competitive disadvantage with their continental counterparts, he said.

Mr Hudson also expressed his concern at Lib Dem proposals to put a tax on development of green field sites, saying it would increase construction costs.

This will have the greatest impact on the lower end of the market and the most likely consequence will be that new homes will be priced beyond the reach of local people.

Lib Dem party spokesman David Heath MP, was told at the Bournemouth meeting that farming could not be fulfilled by small or medium sized farms alone.

Mr Heath had addressed the NFUs fringe meeting held on Monday (18 Sept) where he argued that rural and urban policies should be more integrated.

In the main conference hall, however, there has been little mention of issues involving farming and the countryside.

The topic will get its first mention when the party votes on whether organic and non-GM farmers need greater protection tomorrow afternoon.

But a party spokesman rejected the suggestion that the lack of a debate on farming and the countryside indicated that the party was not interested.

The Lib Dems had put together ideas for farming and the countryside in their Roots to Prosperitydocument which had generated plenty of discussion, he said.