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WEEKEND WEB: We should be reducing our reliance on imports




Stafford Proctor
Stafford Proctor

WORD ON THE GROUND: By Sutton Bridge farmer Stafford Proctor

The late, wet spring is frustrating the planting of crops – peas, sugar beet and potatoes. Yield potential of potatoes is reducing but we hope that a smaller crop will be compensated by better prices. We are reminded that Nature is in charge.

The Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) consultation on the future for food, farming and the environment closes on April 27. This is our single opportunity to shape the future of UK farming.

The initial premise of the consultation is that the current system of agricultural support is flawed. I disagree.

Quality food is available at low cost and the environment is being protected and improved by farmers.

Agricultural support payments are maintaining and protecting our delicate rural communities. This system has worked successfully for the last 45 years, why alter it?

The Defra consultation focuses on the environment with the suggestion that public money will pay for public goods. There is a deafening silence on the subject of domestic food production. Providing low cost food for the country must also be considered a public good.

Defra’s consultation is based on idealist economic theories. Farmers deal in realities, compromises, acts of nature and practicalities.

Does DEFRA not realise that the UK is only 60 per cent self-sufficient in food, a basic need? We should be improving our self-sufficiency and reducing our reliance on imports in these turbulent and uncertain times. Food production must be central to a new agricultural policy and the role of the countryside.

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