Church urges help for crisis-hit farmers

Regulatory controls are necessary to help UK farmers when the market isn’t working, such as the current situation in the dairy industry, according to a leading Church of England bishop.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, said the situation facing milk producers was unsustainable and that action was needed to get the sector back on an even keel.

Speaking at a meeting in Dorchester on Thursday (11 February), Bishop Holtam, who is responsible for environmental issues in the Church of England, said: “There are some very big problems facing our farming communities and we don’t yet seem to have got the policies in place to sort them out.”

See also: Farms face cashflow ‘time bomb’

Bishop Holtam spoke of his surprise that agriculture had largely not been a factor in the ongoing referendum debates over whether the UK should leave the EU, saying farming was a highly important issue that needed to be discussed.

Commenting on the government’s environment policies, the bishop said the bold rhetoric and outstanding overseas financial support demonstrated by prime minister David Cameron at the Paris climate change talks last year had not been matched on the domestic front.

“The government is giving mixed messages following the fantastic achievement in Paris. For example, it is now much more difficult to get onshore wind applications through the planning system even though is one of the cheapest forms of renewables we’ve got.

“The government has also reduced the Feed-in Tariff for solar power. It would have been fine to have done this in stages over four to five years but a 67% cut has led to thousands – possibly up to 15,000 jobs being lost in the industry and put an end to a big British success story.”

The bishop noticed that the government had also scrapped the Green Deal energy efficiency scheme and changed the legislation over building regulations making it less ambitious for construction companies to seek low carbon alternatives.

“Each of these is not that significant in themselves but cumulatively it shows a lack of commitment,” he warned.