Conservative MP criticises the treasury for not understanding farming
NewsWednesday 05 June 2013
The Conservative Cambridgeshire MP Sir James Paice most probably knows the world of farming better than most. He has played a key role in overseeing agriculture at Westminster for the best part of 24 years.
He has recently made a rather damning observation stating that a large number of people in government do not understand farming.
The comments made by Sir James have been made on a number of occasions by many from within the industry, however, this time the comments have come from someone who has witnessed the heart of it all.
Sir James was firstly a member of a backbench horticulture committee and he was then a Parliamentary private secretary, a shadow minister and finally Minister for Agriculture; a post he held for for two-and-a-half years before being moved in last year's reshuffle.
Speaking to the BBC, Sir James said: "I think it's true - I have little doubt that there's a huge section of government that does not understand farming and has certainly not kept up to speed with the changes."
He says the main culprit is the Treasury.
"Some of the rhetoric is still about surpluses, wanting to cut production and farmers being subsidised.
"They haven't caught up with the fact that the last CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) round actually stopped subsidising production altogether.
"Farmers get nothing now that's linked to how much they produce. They get a flat rate payment - it's not subsidised production but the rhetoric hasn't caught up with reality."
He is specifically worried that farmers in Britain could lose out in the latest round of CAP negotiations because those involved in them are not prepared to fight for farming.
France has already gained an extra £1bn for its farmers and the latest figures to be released have suggested that our farmers are already receiving less per hectare than many of their European colleagues.
Sir James continued: "I fear those decisions were taken at the behest of the Treasury rather than driven by what's in the best interest of British farmers and consumers.
Though the negotiations are ongoing and he is still hopeful for a decent deal, the Conservative Cambridgeshire MP is worried that we will lose out once again.
Speaking about the situation in parliament, he said: “I think they'll be forced to change in the coming years. We are seeing this whole change in the world with increasing global population coupled with climate change, which is going to make food a precious resource.
"Every country is going to have to have to do its bit - and I think the government is going to have to realise that this is a pretty critical industry for everybody. We've got to feed our people."
Picture: Thadd Selden