gathering at blencow

Friday, 9 April 2010, Gathering at Blencow

Hi, I’m Will, an Australian friend of Rory’s, who accompanied him on Friday to meet local farmers and business people from in and around the Blencow area. We were introduced to representatives of local organisations, and Rory gave a brief speech. Although we discussed many issues, British agriculture was by far the major concern. Farmers wanted a future government to raise the profile of food production in British public policy and argued that the British government needed to distinguish between agricultural and environmental policy by re-establishing an independent Department of Agriculture. They also wanted the government to lobby for British farmers within the EU, stressing the need to cherish British farming, not tangle it in red tape. They argued that public policy should be attuned to the specific needs of rural communities.

Farmers and local business people were also concerned about the power of the six large supermarkets. Shockingly, over 7,000 dairy farmers have disappeared from Britain in the last 15 years, largely because of a long-run decline in farm-gate prices driven by supermarkets. Livestock farmers highlighted the danger supermarkets pose to rural auction-marts, which are threatened by producers selling directly to retailers. They welcomed the Conservative Party’s promise to create a strong, independent Supermarket Ombudsman, as well as the Party’s determination to ensure reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

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