Comment from the Yorkshire Post11/10/01
FOR those seduced by Government propaganda and the cosy assumptions of the metropolitan elite into believing that all farmers are fat cats, quick to moan about their hardships, but even quicker to count their compensation cash and claim their subsidies, the annual report into farm incomes should be required reading. The latest Deloitte and Touche Agriculture Survey (which excludes the smaller livestock holdings and hill farms, generally agreed to have suffered the worst ravages of the foot-and-mouth crisis) paints a picture of desperation in which the average net income has dropped to £2,600 and the average family has just £50 a week with which to cover living expenses.
An industry mired in debt and dependent on further borrowing is clearly in need of drastic action, something which the Government has been threatening without giving any assurance that it knows what form such action should take. The so-called Rural Recovery Co-ordinator, Lord Haskins, appears less interested in an open debate about the reshaping of British agriculture than in airing his own prejudices about farming. And rather than offer sympathy to those whose livelihoods have been blighted beyond recognition, he has danced to the Government's tune which continues to repeat the refrain that farmers are profiteers and fraudsters.
In this way, Labour has hoped to weaken public sympathy for the farmers' plight. Instead, by calling for an end to subsidies when the new report makes it clear that they are the farmers' last remaining lifeline, by failing to put forward any constructive proposals for reforming the Common Agricultural Policy which keeps farmers dependent on these handouts, and by refusing to hold a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth, it has proved how out of touch it is with the mood of countryfolk and how bereft it is of ideas for a rural recovery.