Tories court rural vote

By Andrew Watts

THE CONSERVATIVE Party has launched an election manifesto for British farming, which it claims will reassert the position of Britain”s farmers within the marketplace.

Launched by Tim Yeo, shadow DEFRA secretary, and agriculture spokesman Jim Paice on Tuesday (Mar 22), the document pledges to introduce legislation that will protect the interests of farmers, the environment and consumers.

“We believe that farmers are the best custodians of the British countryside and produce food to some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world,” said Mr Paice.

“The Conservatives will give them a fair deal in the marketplace and enable them to do the job that they know best – preserving our food security and protecting our environment.” The party”s pre-election promises include a commitment that all publicly-procured food would meet the standards established by the Little Red Tractor.

It also says the ban on commercial planting of GM crops would continue, until or unless the science shows that GM crops are safe for people and the environment, and until or unless issues of liability and crop segregation are resolved.

Farmers” attempts to get closer to the consumer would be boosted with the introduction of legislation requiring clear labelling on food products, says the manifesto.

The information would need to contain references about the country of origin of the major ingredients, how far the food has been transported and whether it meets the standards required of British farmers.

The manifesto also outlines a number of measures that would stimulate co-operation between farmers, such as a review of the corporate and tax framework to promote the generation and retention of capital for investment.

Promises the party has already made about tackling bovine tuberculosis are also reinforced in the document, which claims the Tory Party wants to see a healthy cattle population alongside a healthy wildlife population.

The manifesto points out that the government expects to spend 2bn over the next 10 years tackling TB, but without getting the disease under control or finding a cure.

“We would issue culling licences to farmers in hotspot areas and investigate work being done in America using PCR technology to detect infected animals,” said Owen Paterson, Tory animal health and welfare spokesman.