Farmers urged to look to the future

15 August 2001

Farmers urged to look to the future

By Johann Tasker

THE Labour peer chosen by Tony Blair to reform agriculture has urged farmers to look to the future or risk “living on borrowed time”.

Rural recovery co-ordinator Lord Haskins made the comments at the beginning of a six-week review of how Cumbria can recover from foot-and-mouth.

He said he would be report back to the Prime Minister about the “medium term” issues he had identified before the end of next month.

Lord Haskins told reporters at a press conference that agriculture must undergo a radical change and farmers must market local food more aggressively.

“I think that the idea of turning the clock back is not the way of dealing with the problems in Cumbria today. We have to turn the clock forward,” he said.

“The future is looking at the future, not building up fantasies of the past, like some people might think.”

Lord Haskins told farmers he had been misquoted by newspapers which reported him as saying that British farmers were “mollycoddled” by subsidies.

He has predicted a future where farmers will milk cows in the morning, “go to work on a BMW assembly line”, and then milk their cows in the evening.

Earlier, farmers leaders in Wales invited the outspoken peer to spend a day on a farm to see at first hand the problems they face.

The Farmers Union of Wales said it hoped a visit would stop Lord Haskins from engaging in what it described as “megaphone diplomacy”.

FUW president Bob Parry said Welsh farmers have always been prepared to diversify in a bid to boost their meagre earnings by embracing various projects.

“By spending a day on a traditional Welsh family farm he would see what life on such a holding is really like and to witness the effect of his unhelpful remarks.”

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