Whitty banishes arable desert myth

17 September 2001

Whitty banishes ‘arable desert’ myth

By Tom Allen-Stevens

FOOD chain minister Lord Whitty has been told by arable industry leaders that a profitable agriculture is the only way to ensure the countryside is preserved.

He broke off from a hectic foot-and-mouth schedule for a private visit to see two large arable farms in the south and the Wiltshire Grain co-operative store.

At Richard Butlers farm in the Pewsey Vale in Wiltshire, he was reportedly taken aback by the “beautiful landscape” he saw.

“Clearly the idea that there is an arable farming desert that does little for the environment is far from the truth,” he said in a later statement.

The days activities followed an invitation to the minister by the Home Grown Cereals Authority at its harvest lunch earlier this year.

“Im glad the minister has seen for himself that profitable arable production and environmental responsibility are not mutually exclusive,” chief executive Paul Biscoe told FWi.

“Richard Butlers farm is part of an environmental scheme, but much of the work is funded by himself. He must stay profitable for that to continue.”

Mr Butler, also National Farmers Union cereals committee chairman, impressed on the minister the need to ensure that modulation does not damage competitiveness.

“We have the potential to compete well in foreign markets but we cant if were hamstrung with extra environmental requirements.

“Change must happen at the same pace as the rest of Europe and the USA. Were keen to follow the environmental route, but additional measures must be paid for.

“UK arable farmers have changed hugely. Theyve restructured and are acting on the key messages. Government figures dont reflect this.”

Lord Whittys office revealed he was keen to see “generations of good environmental stewardship” preserved.

“As production subsidies are scaled back, the Government believes a way of ensuring continuity is through rewarding farmers for environmental responsibility.”

The minister was also shown the high quality standards in arable production on the farm, on the Yattendon estate in Berkshire and at Wiltshire Grain.

He was told the lengths growers and storekeepers go to to ensure product integrity and how important this is to the UK customer and to maintain overseas markets.

He was also “impressed” by the niche market created by Yattendon with its home-grown, locally milled and baked Berkshire Butteries rolls.


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