2 June 2000
Forced-out farmer continues campaign
By Johann Tasker
THE farmer forced out of dairy farming after driving his tractor 300 miles to London to highlight the agricultural crisis is determined to continue campaigning.
Michael Hart, a livestock farmer from St Ewe, near Truro, is quitting milk production but will maintain his beef herd on a part-time basis, it has emerged.
He blames the decision on the slump in the milk prices which have almost halved from 30p/litre to 16p/litre since 1996.
Mr Harts tractor protest, which saw him Drive from Cornwall to Westminster in March, received widespread television and newspaper coverage.
His campaigning has won recognition within the industry and many of his methods have been adopted by organisations such as the NFU.
Last year, the union awarded Mr Hart its first award for promoting farming after he set up a roadshow and spent two summers touring south-west England.
In one season, he visited almost 50 locations from Bristol to Lands End and back along the south coast, explaining farming to almost 90,000 people.
Ben Gill, NFU president, said at the time: This kind of pro-active campaigning is exactly what our industry needs.
He added: The buying public deserves to know how their food is produced and initiatives such as this should be applauded.
The union now has its own national roadshow. But the Small and Family Farms Alliance, set up by Mr Hart, now needs sponsorship to help it survive.
I would like to set up a one-stop shop rapid reaction agency to immediately counter any misinformation about farming in the media, he said.
It would provide consumer information and possibly be a point of contact for environmental groups to bring farmers together with the rest of society.
There needs to be a louder message going out about agriculture and how it relates not only to food, but also to the landscape, the environment and wildlife.
It is still crucial, despite all our problems, that farmers do not close the gate on the rest of the world. I enjoy doing it and it certainly needs doing.
Mr Hart can be contacted on 01726-843210.