Change your attitude to agriculture, MPs told

Farmers voiced concerns about the future of the CAP during a special meeting at this year’s Royal Show, promoted by Farmers Weekly to give producers the chance to talk to policy makers.

Fourteen individuals appeared before members of the influential environment, food and rural affairs select committee to talk about the government’s vision for the industry in 10-15 years’ time.

The 12 producers and one consultant were picked to appear after making written submissions to the EFRA committee about the government’s Vision for the CAP document.

The document, published by DEFRA and the Treasury last year, recommended phasing out all direct payments and market support for agriculture by 2020.

Gillian Herbert a rare breed lamb and pork producer from a small farm near Bromyard, condemned the vision because of its assumption that food would always be available.

She added:

“For most of the report you could substitute the words ‘washing machine manufacturers’ for farmers and it wouldn’t make any difference.”

Other subjects that emerged during the two-hour session included biofuels, the power of the multinationals, problems in hill areas and the need to better promote British farming and food.

Essex farmer Guy Smith told the committee he thought the government had a political obligation to help the industry promote itself more effectively to the public.

He went on to challenge the MPs over their attitude towards agriculture.

“There is almost a culture in this country to demonise agriculture as responsible for myriad problems.

I think that is often well reflected in Westminster and I would like to see a change in that culture.”

Committee chairman Michael Jack told the farmers that they had made a superb contribution to the inquiry.

“It is of genuine benefit to us to hear from people who are not the normal representatives.”