4 January 2002
Beckett’s speech pleases some
By Tom Allen-Stevens
A SPEECH by Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett received a mixed reaction from delegates at the Oxford Farming Conference.
Most were encouraged by her emphasis on ensuring that farming retains a central role in the rural community. But some reacted with cynicism.
“I was pleased to hear her strong statement about the need for farming to be profitable,” said president of Centaur Grain Norman Coward.
“But a real weakness is that she was not willing to say that she will not pile legislative cost on to UK farmers that others in Europe do not have to bear.”
“Its very encouraging that she accepts farmings pivotal role,” said Caroline Drummond, head of Linking Environment and Farming.
“But I would like her to take stock of the positive steps farmers have already taken.”
Christine Tacon, Chief Executive of Farmcare said: “I think shes a very level-headed person and Im delighted she cares and wants to be farmer-friendly.
“Now she seems to have grasped her brief and has a balanced view of the rural community, lets hope she remains in her position for a long time to come.”
But Devon farmer Raymond Burrough was unconvinced by Mrs Becketts insistence that the government wanted to work with farmers.
“She was playing to the gallery,” he said.
Fellow Devon farmer and foot-and-mouth inquiry campaigner Robert Persey agreed: “I dont believe the conciliatory stance shes taken today.”
Gloucestershire farmer John Tingey said: “Im concerned at the importance shes putting on the outcome of the commission into the future of farming.
“Will the view of the National Farmers Union, which speaks for many, get the weight it deserves against the myriad of minor, single-issue groups?” he asked.
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