Friends of the Earth has welcomed yesterday’s recommendations by Lord Haskins for short term support for farmers and small businesses hit by the Foot and Mouth Crisis. But FOE is disappointed by Lord Haskin’s suggestion that farmers should not expect long term support. FOE is calling for a radical new agricultural policy which rewards farmers for good stewardship of the land, protection of wildlife and contributions to the local economy.
FOE also warned that many farmers now being offered short-term help won’t survive if the Government remains committed to further trade liberalisation. UK farmers trying to produce food that meets high environmental and welfare standards face being squeezed out by cheaper, lower quality produce from abroad. Only large intensive farms would be able to compete. If farmers are to have a future in the UK they must also be protected from the worst practices of supermarkets, identified by the Competition Commission last year.
FOE is urging the Government to act on Lord Haskins recommendation that local food initiatives should be supported. Local food initiatives keep more money in the local economy,create jobs for rural areas and give a better deal to farmers and consumers. FOE agrees that farmers should enter into co-operative ventures and wants to see more support from the Regional Development Agencies to enable them to do so. Farmers cannot enter into collaborative marketing initiatives unless the right infrastructure is in place. For example the loss of small abattoirs is a major barrier to more local marketing of meat.
Sandra Bell, Real Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:
“We welcome short term financial help for farmers and businesses hit by the Foot and Mouth Crisis. However, farmers also need long term support to enable them to deliver environmental and social benefits, and produce high quality food in the face of competition in the global market place. We welcome Lord Haskins recommendation that local food initiatives should be supported. But farmers and small businesses also need protection in law from the bullying behaviour of the big supermarkets. Otherwise only the biggest, most intensive farmers may survive. This would have disastrous consequences for our food, our countryside and our wildlife”