Michael stresses sustainability

28 June 2001

Michael stresses sustainability

AGRICULTURE must meet the public demands and make production more environmentally-friendly, Rural Affairs minister Alun Michael has told farmers.

On a visit to Staffordshire on Wednesday (27 June), Mr Michael said the rural economy would be strengthened by diverse, flexible and collaborative farming.

“Of course food production remains important,” he said. “But people are also expecting this to be combined with an environmentally sustainable approach.”

The new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has already signalled that farmers concerns will not be allowed to dominate its agenda.

New Secretary of State Margaret Beckett has signalled that DEFRA is seeking to revitalise the whole rural economy, of which farming is only one component.

Mr Michaels comments came after touring Sheepwash Farm, near Lichfield, which combines traditional enterprises with a range of environmental projects.

“Sheepwash Farm addresses the wider question of what do people really want from their countryside,” said Mr Michael.

While at the farm, Mr Michael met representatives from countryside organisations to discuss the future of rural communities and the economy.

He told them that the knock on effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis in recent months had illustrated just how widely based the rural economy actually is.

“A diverse rural economy is essential for the long-term sustainability and economic health of the countryside,” he said.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty met National Farmers Union president Ben Gill and deputy president Tim Bennett.

The NFU delegation highlighted the industry had major concerns about the future of the sheep industry over the next few months.

They insisted the government must seek permission from the EU to introduce a private storage scheme for the sheepmeat sector in the autumn.

Failure to do this would have disastrous consequences for the UK, Lord Whitty was told.


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