"Now it's the Government's turn", says the CLA

The British public cares about the UK farming industry and recognises the
positive contribution farmers make to the management of the countryside, CLA
Vice President David Fursdon said at the Royal Smithfield Show today.  But
farmers struggling to survive through the worst agricultural crisis since
the 1930s are becoming less able to deliver not only their primary outputs -
food - but the environmental benefits that people want and expect.

Announcing the results of independent research conducted by ICM on behalf of
the CLA, David Fursdon said: 

"The severe difficulties afflicting British agriculture are a problem not
only for our farmers, farmworkers and their families, important though that
is.  They also constitute a serious problem for Government, the national
economy, the environment, for our #60 billion food industry and for the
economy of our rural areas.

"To kickstart a recovery in farming is a massive challenge, and would be all
the more difficult without broad public support.  We wanted to find out if
that support exists, and the answer we got back is an emphatic 'yes'.

"Our survey of the British public reveals that:

* 92% of the British public see farming as an important part of our
national life and economy;
* 87% consider that farmers play an important role in providing an
attractive and well-managed countryside;
* 91% believe it is important to support our farming industry by
buying locally-produced food when it is available.
* 88% believe it is worth paying a bit more for quality UK-produced
food with high welfare and environmental standards. 

"A majority (61%) were also in favour of a switch in EU agricultural support
from production subsidies to payments for environmental benefits and rural
development.  So the proposed new basis for funding the Common Agricultural
Policy has substantial support too.

"This all adds up to a strong vote of confidence in Britain's farmers and
the farming industry.  And they need all the encouragement they can get.
However, the results of another independent research exercise - to discover
how CLA farming members are coping with the current crisis and how they are
planning for the future - make less optimistic reading. 

"Our survey of CLA farming members reveals that:

* In this past farming year:
* only 14% - one in seven - made a profit sufficient to allow for
* 57% made insufficient profit to cover depreciation and reinvestment
or to maintain their standard of living;
* 29% made an absolute loss.

* Looking to the future, and based on conditions staying the same:
* only 2.6% intend to increase output, 14% intend to reduce it by a
range from 5-100%, and the remaining 83.4% intend to continue with roughly
the same level of output, but with reduced labour;
* 14% said they plan to take poorer land out of production and 8% said
they would close one or more farm enterprises, commonly livestock
* while 50% plan to maintain their current levels of environmental
land management work (eg hedging, ditching, farm woodland management) and 3%
plan to do more of this work, no fewer than 47% say they will have to reduce
it or give it up altogether.

"It is indeed a grim prospect: reduced output leading to greater reliance on
imports; reduced employment, dealing a blow to rural communities; and
reduced resources devoted to maintaining a green and pleasant landscape for
all to enjoy, from country dwellers, to urban escapees, to the millions of
tourists who visit the UK every year.

"We have reached a defining moment.  The industry knows it has to change and
adapt.  With the Fischler CAP proposals and Defra's Sustainable Food and
Farming Strategy shortly to be announced, the Government must seize the
opportunity to fight for British interests and secure a viable future for
British farming.  CAP reform is essential, and must be achieved in such a
way that the transition is as painless as possible and our farmers'
competitive position within Europe is not further eroded. 

"The Government should do this because it will benefit the economy and the
environment, because thousands of rural communities depend on it for their
survival, and because the British public has made it clear that it matters
to them."

1) Survey of the British public
ICM Research interviewed a random selection of 1,001 adults aged
18+, by telephone between 13-14 November 2002.  Interviews were conducted
across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all

2) Survey of CLA farming members
The National Farm Research Unit interviewed a random selection of 114
CLA-member farmers, large and small, by telephone in the period leading up
to 7 November 2002. 
The sample represented the following mix of farm types: arable 37%, mixed
25%, other 17%, beef and sheep 13%, upland 6%, dairy 3%. 
The total recorded acreage of the sample was 81,919, or an average farm size
of some 718 acres.  Whilst this is larger than the reported national
average, DEFRA figures relate to the registered farmer of the holding for
CAP support payments.  In recent times, this has become divorced from the
farmer on the ground who is actually responsible for the land management.
The survey figure is based on acres under control of the farm business.

3) David Fursdon was speaking at a joint NFU-CLA press briefing at the
Royal Smithfield Show, Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London on Sunday 24
November 2002.

For further press information, contact Elspeth Henderson, CLA Head of Media
on tel: 020 7460 7932, mobile 07803 017174, email: