27 May 1998
Agriculture unites under Rural Charter banner
BRITISH agricultural and rural industry bodies met in London today (Wednesday) to sign the Rural Charter, setting out nine demands to Government.
The Charter – an NFU initiative – calls for Government action to lower the value of the Pound, reduce interest rates, cut red tape, promote rural opportunities and ensure equal treatment for producers across Europe.
“When the farming industry is hurting, so is the rest of the rural economy,” said NFU president Ben Gill, speaking at the Charters launch.
“We are calling on the Government … to act on the Rural Charter to ensure a vibrant rural economy for future generations,” said Mr Gill.
Underlining the plight of UK agriculture, he pointed to farm incomes almost halved in 1997; a 37% drop in agricultural investment expected this year; and the 9% of the population that was involved in farming and allied industries, and whose jobs could be in danger.
Scottish NFU president George Lyon said 150,000 Scottish jobs were at stake – never before had he seen levels of repossession and bankruptcy among farmers as high as now.
Jake Vowels, director general of the Agricultural Engineers Association, said machinery dealers were closing on a weekly basis, leading to a rural skills shortage due to a flight of skilled people to the towns.
While Jim Reed of UKASTA warned against food imports – pointed especially to poultry for the catering trade.