Cumbria News & Star 5 Feb 2002

IT'S A FARM, MARGARET!

DEFRA Secretary Margaret Beckett started the second day of her Cumbrian trip when she met local farmers at Linstock Castle, Carlisle, this morning. Alistair Wannop, who has completed re-stocking at his farm after becoming one of the most high-profile victims of foot and mouth, showed her his new animals.

Mrs Beckett then went into a private meeting with half a dozen farmers and NFU North Cumbria secretary Nick Utting.

Gordon Brown, who farms at Irthington, said he was looking for a "full and open" discussion.

He said: "Anyone who says farmers are not trying to change is wrong and when that comes from a Government minister, words fail me."

Mrs Beckett finally arrived in Cumbria yesterday to hammer home a message to county farmers: "Do it yourselves."

Mrs Beckett, visiting the county for the first time after eight months in her post, said Cumbria had become a model in local leadership during the foot and mouth crisis.

Profits

But she warned farmers that they would have to find their own solutions to an industry-wide slump - it was NOT the Government's role to make supermarkets pay better prices for quality Cumbrian goods.

"Farmers need to look at how they can increase their incomes and secure a greater part of the profits in the food chain for themselves," she said.

Mrs Beckett was speaking during a visit to Kendal, where she had been greeted by a handful of protestors screaming "animal murderer".

But she played down anger over her absence from Cumbria during the outbreak.

She said the county had been "well served by ministerial visits".

Later, Mrs Beckett went on to address a North-West CBI dinner.

And she backed last week's controversial policy commission report on the future of farming.

That report, which recommends the phasing out of subsidies for production, was greeted with dismay by many Cumbrians.

Cattle markets can reopen from next Monday after a year-long shutdown caused by the foot and mouth disease - but only if they can prove they are safe.

The Government today announced the easing of restrictions following the acknowledgement on January 15 that the whole of Britain was free of the disease