Tories pledge to support farmers

10 October 2001

Tories pledge to support farmers

By Isabel Davies in Blackpool

SHADOW agriculture minister Ann Winterton has told the Conservative Party Conference that the party will stand behind British farmers.

Introducing a debate on “Crisis in the Countryside” at the event in Blackpool, Mrs Winterton said farmers are vital to the UK as an island nation.

“We, as Conservatives, stand shoulder to shoulder with our farmers … who guard and maintain our environment and countryside for the benefit of us all.”

Mrs Winterton said one of the reasons agriculture was so important was that it formed the basis of both the food-processing and tourism industries.

“Agriculture is worth over 6 billion to the UK economy,” she said.

“On that bedrock rests both the food processing industry and tourism, each worth 10 times more to the economy.”

Mrs Winterton said the primary purpose of farming was food production.

“Most farmers who can diversify, have diversified, but the government must realise that there are thousands of acres in upland areas where farming will always be marginal.

“Farming itself ensures the land is maintained and does not revert to scrub, silver birch and bracken.

“Agri-environmental schemes can assist but cannot fully replace falling incomes from food production.”

Farmers would build and maintain stone walls as a by-product of sheep farming, but not as an alternative to it, Mrs Winterton said.

Foot-and-mouth still preoccupied many people and the Tories would continue to urge the government to hold a public inquiry, she added.

Only when an inquiry has the powers to call and cross-examine ministers will the Government be held properly to account, she said.

“Holding the government to account is the primary duty of opposition, a duty that we cannot take lightly.”


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