‘Look after the food producers and caretakers of this island’

April 2, 2016

Downing ST delegation

PUBLIC APPEAL: A delegation from the Farming 4 Westminster march takes a personal letter from Farmers For Action chairman David Handley to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. With him amongst the party are Somerset farmer James Hole and Monmouth MP David Davies. Picture courtesy of Farmers For Action.

DAvid Warburton and Neil Parish March

RURAL MASSES: Joining marchers along the procession route are Somerton and Frome MP David Warburton and former Somerset MEP and current Honiton and Tiverton MP Neil Parish, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee.

 

Who is Robert

SHOW CLARITY: This picture was taken by Sandra Crocker of a range of beef produced by a supplier called ‘Rob from Cornwall’.. It was not clear from the post that Tesco had not shown any pictures of the stock on the farm or the person referred to and some of the ‘Everyday Value’ produce had many foreign countries of origin on them. In this case Rob does exist and his picture was put above the steaks, courtesy of their meat and dairy manager after persistence by Sandra.

Red Tractor logo

HIGHER STANDARDS:  On a positive note, Sam Mellor left this note on Facebook for consumers to look out for the Red Tractor Logo: “Please look out for this logo! It stands for British agriculture and the high standards we try so hard to keep it guarantees an animal has lived a high welfare life on British soil. Cheap imported food won’t have this logo, as they don’t have British standards. Our industry – like coal and steel – is fighting for its survival. Buying British will keep the countryside green.”

 

DUBIOUS marketing strategies, contaminated imports, landscape protection and fluctuating prices make the powerful case for protecting food security whatever the outcome of June’s EU referendum.

Many of you will have heard that there was a march that took place in London by the farming community and its supply chain, and it seems there was no major coverage in the mainstream media, apart from the farming, countryside and regional press.

Much of the current focus is on the steel industry. It is true, an island is at risk if doesn’t have this material to build ships, cars, railway lines or skyscrapers and it is in equal jeopardy too if the UK were dependent on imports. Imagine if the country was blackmailed by foreign buyers – let’s say if we exited the EU – if she wasn’t self-sufficient in basic food commodities?

This blog has shown how fresh local produce keeps longer than imported food. Any imported food has a shorter shelf life.  How would restaurants and other establishments get fresh ingredients for their menus? What about the food processing and packaging industries whose produce is supplied to them? What about the butchers, bakers, thatchers, millers and cheese makers to name a few?

As well as being a place for recreation and biodiversity, the countryside is the country’s food larder and off the back of this is National Parks and AONB designations, with tourism exploits. Farmers carry out the bulk of landscape management and charities like The National Trust, The RSPB and the Wildlife Trust.

They do not have the resources to look after the countryside unilaterally if the industry wasn’t there to do it, its look would deteriorate significantly. If these charities are being honest with themselves, they would admit it.

In a letter delivered to 10 Downing Street by Farmers For Action chairman David Handley and challenged David Cameron on a number of issues. There is too much to refer to on here, but this is a flavour of what was said.

He said: “As you know this is not a level playing field. Products are coming into this country on a daily basis that can be produced here in the UK that do not meet the stringent standards which we are expected to adhere to as British producers. Plus many of them come with misleading labelling which I’m sure you would not be prepared to feed to your own family.”

Tesco has been caught out selling meat from fictional farms. Names like Rosedene and Nightingale were made up as a way of replacing it’s ‘Everyday Value’ range of products. Some say this is legal deception and it is practiced to varying degrees by other High Street names.

To add insult to injury for producers, rustic images are conjured up of neat wheat stooks, cattle and sheep in plush pastures and pigs gallivanting outside, but the brand names in many cases shows the country of origin not being the UK.

Another reason to not to be more dependent on imports is what is happening the produce that is coming into the country?

Although the human stories of refugees are heart-rending, it doesn’t alter the fact that when imported food HGVs are broken into, the stock has to be discarded as the food has been in contact with dirty clothes and in some cases urine. One fruit and vegetable importer revealed to a national newspaper has forked out £80,000 to replace contaminated stock after break-ins to lorries at Calais and French ports.

The same company said that the majority of the people breaking into lorries were fit young men between 17 and 28 years of age and not all of them came from war zones.

Nigel Jenney, of the Fresh Produce Consortium, is quoted in the article: “Stowaways continue to be a problem. The damage caused has cost responsible businesses millions of pounds and wasted tons of food. The situation is unsustainable and the Government must do more to protect hauliers.”

If you are in a position of authority and reading this, doesn’t the penny drop about food security vulnerability if you become more dependent on imports from Calais, Cherbourg, Dunkirk, Zoebrugge, The Hague and other ports?

Somerton and Frome MP David Warburton, who was on the march, said: “Falling wholesale prices have left many farmers in a desperate state and – from Defra and the Efra Select Committee – they need some workable solutions. I’ll be meeting local farmers and the NFU in the next couple of weeks to discuss progress since our last meeting, but I hope the march and our words went some way towards ramming things home with Ministers.”

In the aftermath, I have found out in the past week that Wells MP James Heappy met with a number of farming constituents at North Wootton, near Wells, to hear their stories and to gauge what more needed to be done.

I will leave on this note from Mr Handley for politicians and councillors, to take particular note: “Is it your Government’s policy to feed our country and play a major role on the global stage.

“If the answer is ‘yes’, we need some leadership and direction how this is to be achieved. Liz Truss (Environment Secretary) says there is a 25-year strategy to be announced in the near future. Unfortunately, most of those standing out in Whitehall would like to know where they will be in 12 months time.

“Not only are we food producers but also the caretakers of this island of which we know you are passionate about.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Reader from DSCW April 3, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Where would Britain be without our farmers? Let’s take care of them while we still have them.

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strategiceducation-group November 7, 2017 at 11:14 pm

The law stipulates that those who publicize ‘faulty food products’ will share responsibility with food producers and sellers.

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