29 March 2002

Small-scale producers look to global alliances

Global alliances between small-scale and family farms

are producers best hope of survival, according to

speakers at the Family Farmers Association Conference.

South-west correspondent John Burns reports

BRITAINS family farmers must find their prosperity in forging alliances with enough collective influence to exert real political power.

Chairman of the Small and Family Farmers Alliance, Michael Harts message was uncompromising: "We need to build more international links, to understand each others problems and what can be done. We need to work with environmental bodies, consumer groups and the tourism industry."

Most UK family farmers earn their living outside farming, Mr Hart told delegates at the Family Farmers Association conference (Mar 22 and 23) at the National Agricultural Centre Stoneleigh, Warks. "We have to challenge that. Why should food producers have to earn their living doing something else?"

An important factor would be ensuring small-scale farmers were well represented. "Family farmers have to build an alternative voice to the NFU. We tend to be presented with what the NFU has already agreed with the government. We need to get in there sooner."

Basque producer and campaigner John Nicholson agreed that the scale of the challenge facing small-scale farmers demanded united action.

"Family farms face global crisis. Today all food products everywhere are sold below the cost of production thanks to trade liberalisation and the concentration of production in fewer hands," said Mr Nicholson, a member of the European small famers group CPE.

Alliances between farming interests could win public and government attention, he added. "We are capable of launching campaigns all over the world. On April 17 there will be action everywhere against GMOs."

Mr Nicholson, who represents Via Campesina – a group campaigning for protection of the food industry using tariff barriers and for an end to export and production subsidies – asked: "Who does the WTO think it is trying to forbid our refusal to import hormone beef or GM food?"

Michael Hart is looking to forge international links to increase the prosperity of small-scale and family farmers in the UK.