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11 May 2007

Agriculture

David Uren is a farmer based in Hampshire. Here he gives his views

By David Uren

Financially the Blair years have been tough for agriculture.

Blair’s arrival coincided with a decade long fall in output prices that left many farmers earning less for their produce than they had twenty years earlier.

Politically things have been worse. Mismanagement of the foot and mouth crisis exemplified Blair’s indifference towards agriculture as did the appointment of Margaret Beckett whose disinterest was palpable. Sadly their willingness to impose new regulations has added costs that our global competitors have not had to face.

The pig and dairy industries have been hard hit.

Self sufficiency has fallen to its lowest level for decades and bovine tuberculosis is as prevalent as ever. Absurdly, livestock now have to be transported the width of the country to get to an abattoir while the Rural Payments Agency remains a debacle, existing only within the complexities of itself.

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Thankfully there has been substantial reform of the CAP with the decoupling of subsidy from production while the Curry Commission has helped point a new direction for agriculture.

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The introduction of environmental schemes which pay farmers for managing the countryside has also been a bright spot, inadvertently bringing home just how much was being done anyway.

But the opportunity to develop long term solutions to provide for our food and energy needs in the 21st Century has been squandered by a lack of vision and empathy.