26 November 2000
Rural White Paper ‘will fail farmers’

By FWi staff

THE governments Rural White Paper, due to be published on Tuesday (28 November), will not tackle the causes of the farming crisis, landowners have warned.

Allan Buckwell, director of policy for the Country Landowners Association, said the long-awaited document would focus on general rural issues, rather than farming.

“It seems that this is a political act to right the governments embarrassment of being out of touch with the rural vote,” he told listeners at the Royal Smithfield Show.

“But it is a Rural White Paper and not an agricultural white paper, so we shouldnt have too many expectations of what it does for farming.”

Professor Buckwell said the governments Action Plan for Farming, unveiled by Tony Blair last March, had provided some short-term relief for farmers.

But it was difficult for the Prime Minister to resolve the fundamental causes of the farming crisis because agricultural policy is largely decided by Brussels, he added.

Professor Buckwell said that farming formed only part of the rural economy, and its problems were compounded because other many industries were thriving.

“The fact is that agriculture is in a boom-and-bust cycle and out of step with the rest of the economy,” he said.

The white paper is expected to relax planning restrictions preventing farmers from building on agricultural land and converting redundant farm buildings.

But Professor Buckwell said the move alone would not resolve the farming crisis and held out little hope that a coherent strategy would emerge from the paper.