Beckett dubbed ‘rain goddess’

DEFRA MINISTER Margaret Beckett has been dubbed “the rain goddess” after new EU rules have given her the power to decide when farmers harvest their crops, The Guardian reports.

The new rules give the Government the power to decide when farmers can harvest their crops depending on how much rain falls in Britain.

The Guardian reports that a new payment system will make it possible for farmers for the first time to apply for funds to grow potatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, celery, parsnips and sugar beet.

But the newspaper has seen confidential draft regulations which reveal that the amount of rainfall will decisively influence the support farmers will receive.

If they want the subsidy, they must refrain from harvesting their crops if the ground is saturated.

The EU definition of saturated ground depends on the location of puddles in a field. If the puddle is within 20 metres of a field gate, it is not standing water; if it is 21 metres, it is.

Farmers with puddles outside the 20m zone can only hope Mrs Beckett will declare that “exceptional weather conditions” apply under the regulations, permitting her to order farmers to harvest crops, according to The Guardian.

Tory MP and member of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, Ian Liddell-Grainger, described the new rules as “mad”.

“It seems absurd that farmers will have to wait until a big sister government can decide when they can harvest their crops.

“It is turning the minister into a rain goddess who decides if or when farmers can make a living,” Mr Liddell-Grainger said.