Farron announces New Deal to help British farmers produce more food
British food is disappearing from our supermarket shelves according to Liberal Democrat Defra Shadow Secretary of State Tim Farron, who has accused the Labour Government of presiding over savage cuts in our domestic food production and ignoring the environmental impact of the increasing amount of food being imported into the UK.
Figures obtained by Mr Farron through parliamentary questions (1) revealed that the percentage of meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK which were produced domestically has fallen since Labour came into power in 1997.
There has been a ten percent decrease in the amount of domestically produced meat eaten in the UK, with only 65% of the meat eaten on our tables now coming from British farms. Over the same period of time the amount of fresh vegetables consumed and produced in the UK has fallen from the 63% to 55%.
Mr Farron has described the decline in domestic food production as further evidence of the Labour Government's indifference to rural Britain and its fundamental failure to put in place the measures needed to support British food production.
Mr Farron today announced the Liberal Democrat's strategy for moving the UK towards a more secure, sustainable and environmentally safe food supply.
o Introduce a €250 minimum threshold for Single Farm Payments to cut out wasteful applications and use the money saved to fund a Hill Farming Apprenticeship scheme to encourage the next generation of hill farmers.
o Ensure farmers and consumers both get a fair price for food by creating a legally binding supermarket code, enforced by a powerful proactive Food Market Regulator.
o Allow farmers to get agricultural tied homes built in advance of locating the stock on farm land so they no longer run the risk of forfeiting their farm payments. At present farmers need to be able to demonstrate essential need when bidding for a new farm dwelling, but to demonstrate essential need could run the risk of farmers failing on cross compliance issues.
o Encourage local authorities to free up allotment land to create Community Food Co-Operatives which would give residents the chance to grow their own food. Provide urban councils with grants for the regeneration of unkempt allotments and require local councils to allocate 50% of any future allotment development specifically for Community Food Co-Operatives.
Commenting Mr Farron said:
"The Government have only recently started talking about food security and are now making noises about talking to farmers about these issues. But the reality is that for twelve years, this Labour government has relegated rural issues to the sidelines with devastating consequences for our food production capacity.
"This Government has done to the countryside what the Thatcher government of the 1980s did to the industrialised areas of the north - and just as was the case then, the whole country is paying the price.
"Within the meat industry British producers stand proud because of their high animal welfare standards. But under this government higher standards have meant higher prices, leading to the situation we have today where only 65% of the meat eaten at our kitchen tables is produced on a British farm.
"It's clear that the type of change needed to overcome the challenges to our food system can't be achieved by a Labour government which has created the problem. Nor can they be solved by a Conservative party which seems determined to avoid effective market regulation in the food chain.
"If we are to improve our food security we must insist on fair trade. The Liberal Democrats would introduce a strategy to ensure a fair deal for British farm produce and to improve consumer awareness which will move us towards a more secure, sustainable and environmentally safe food supply."
1. Answer to parliamentary question tabled by Tim Farron MP http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2009-03-06a.257436.h&s=Tim+Farron#g257436.q0