Policy imprisoned by errors of yesterday

Farmers Guardian Jan 3
Extract from Alistair Driver's article in the "That was the Year That Was" section

....For much of 2002 DEFRA Ministers could happily have faced a future without farmers. Relationships between government and farmers plummeted to an all-time low in 2001. Things improved little in 2002 as the government failed to shake off the ill feeling generated during farming's darkest hour.

Foot and Mouth reports emerged at regular intervals, highlighting again and again the dire handling of the crisis, but failed to draw a line under it.

The government's refusal to hold a pubic inquiry saved the Prime Minister, Ministers and officials the humiliating and potentially devastating experience of public inquisition over their failures. But that didn't mean the thirst for answers and accountability went away. Particularly when the 'independent' alternative, the Anderson Inquiry, failed to get to the bottom of the affair due to a mass outbreak of 'forgetfulness' within Whitehall. December's harder hitting EU Inquiry and the subsequent EU Directive based on it that puts vaccination to the fore, may finally have brought a degree of closure.

The government's failure to apologise did not help. A little humility would have gone a long way but Margaret Beckett's confession that 'with hindsight' the government may have done things differently was not good enough. Instead it has seemed hell bent on pinning the blame on farmers. This is epitomised by its failure to clamp down on illegal imports, but parallel determination to introduce an industry levy to pay for future outbreaks, maintain draconian movement restrictions and pursuit of extra powers to cull animals through the Animal Health Bill.

In all that the 20 day rule is the single issue that has angered farmers more than anything else - the ultimate symbol of a government that does not understand how the industry works and Ministers who are too dependent on their London based advisors....


Zac Goldsmith on behalf of Farm, wrote

Foot and Mouth was a key catalyst for the farmers and campaigners behind farm to launch the organisation.

.....Mrs Beckett's 'Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food' reads more like a 'Strategy for convincing the public the government cares about British farming'. Despite positive aspects - increased environmental payments, simpler regulation - behind the scenes it's agribusiness as usual directing the government's agenda, pushing the myth of 'free' trade, while ignoring the near monopoly supermarkets hold over farmers.

Our task is clear. Get past the political spin and engage the public directly. Farming should be the business of everyone, not just those milking excessive profits out of the food chain.

Given the quality of the people we've met at farm's regional meetings, who have rung, emailed and written to us, I'm confident there are enough farmers out there who share farm's vision and aren't prepared to meekly walk Lord Haskin's plank into the sea.