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I don't think many people would argue with the principles behind an environmentally friendly bias;

the reality however might be rather more difficult to implement.

Firstly, we have got to persuade other EU members to scrap subsidies to their farmers - not a hope in my opinion - farmers in many countries have been lifted from peasant status by subsidies and will certainly not give way easily.

Secondly, most of our upland areas have a mono-culture of sheep - and have done for many years. This, with the additional problem of overstocking in order to claim subsidies, has resulted in a reservoir of fatal sheep diseases which can only be controlled by preventative jabs. This makes sheep about the most difficult livestock to become organic and I suspect that in many parts of Wales for example it would be almost impossible.

We should also face the fact that it is cheaper to import organic food from abroad and will continue to be so. Organic crops are extremely labour intensive; labour is very much cheaper in less developed countries than it is in the UK, and far more easily available.

I cannot see either rural or urban populations turning out in force to hand-weed carrots or pick potatoes at high speed for low wages, or to spend day after day pulling turnips or topping swedes in a sharp frost. There simply isn't the labour force left in the countryside who would wish to do the work.

The bottom line is whether the consumer will be prepared to pay the premium on organically produced food, and the answer is no. We all like the idea and would like to be able to buy it, but few of us can actually afford to do so on a regular basis over the entire range of food. I think these proposals for the future of farming are drawn up with the best of intentions, but the truth of the matter is that no one knows in which direction to go,or whether there is in fact any long term future for British agriculture. Tessa.

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