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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Weep for the British farmers

I'll admit that I wept when I heard the news at the weekend that foot & mouth disease had been found on a Surrey farm. Very swiftly the EU pulled the curtain down and the memories of 2001 come flooding back: the funeral pyres, the black smoke, the grief.

Now I am furious that the fault appears to lie with one of two research laboratories. There are even claims it could be sabotage. I just hope that the two farmers whose herds have been slaughtered will get legal redress for what has happened. As to Britain's reputation abroad, no compensation will restore that. I am pleased to see that Gordon Brown was quick to deal with the issue but he needs to take a very firm public stance if his govt owned laboratories caused the issue in the first place.

Years ago there used to be a saying that there was no such thing as a poor farmer. Now I find it very unlikely that can be such a thing as a rich farmer. Not cossetted and blessed with mountains of subsidy like their French counterparts, life is hard for the British farmer. He or she may have had to diversify; may have had to start again because of BSE and foot & mouth disease, and may be on the point of ruin because of the weather this summer.

Add to that the giant supermarket retailers, and the contempt in which they hold farmers, and you can see it's a brutal, stressful existence. Our retailers make handsome profits and we pay the most in Europe for what's in our shopping trolley.
But farmers get paid a pittance for their milk and their meat and can be dropped after years of trading if one of the supermarkets decides to save a penny here and there.

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