26 January 2000
Blair lets down farmers, says paper
by FWi staff
LABOUR has let down British agriculture during Tony Blairs first 1,000 days in office, claims a leading newspaper.
Failings outnumber achievements in the The Daily Telegraph assessment of the governments performance on agriculture.
The failure to persuade France and Germany to lift their bans on British beef and a failure to appreciate current farming crisis leads the newspapers criticisms.
Resolving the dispute could take at least a year, despite Mr Blairs earlier belief that he could persuade his French counterpart Lionel Jospin to lift the ban.
Many rural dwellers believe the “townie” government is unsympathetic to their problems and the worst farming crisis for 40years, the paper says.
The traditionally pro-farming newspaper also points to the governments apparent reluctance to claim compensation to offset a reduction in farm subsidies.
It claims the government is reluctant to prevent job losses caused by the strength of sterling, and “misleading” farmers on levels of new cash aid.
Ministers have failed to protect producers from cheaper foods produced under inferior animal welfare regimes, the paper adds.
It has failed to reassure farmers who fear they will be worse off under moves to environmental-linked subsidies.
The paper complete its critique by accusing the government of failing to stop the exodus from the land and a move towards larger cost-driven units.
However, the government is praised for setting up the BSE inquiry, pledging a food standards agency, and setting up the computerised cattle database.
Persuading the Europe to lift its ban on British beef, providing extra cash for organic schemes and boosting rural development are seen as achievements.
The Telegraph claims there is a gap between the governments rhetoric and its achievements.
But it concedes that the government is in the strongest position of any post-war administration.