Right of Reply: Richard Burge

The chief executive of the Countryside Alliance replies to yesterday's article by Andreas Whittam Smith
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The Independent Culture
IN HIS article, Andreas Whittam Smith asks for evidence of anti- rural prejudice - he needs only to read his own words for the answer. He promotes ignorance of the issues and peddles the very myths that cause acute resentment against the countryside.

Mr Whittam Smith promotes the needs of industrial workers against the needs of rural communities. It is simply not true that the Government is neglecting urban industry in order to featherbed the countryside. A pounds 200m package is reportedly on the cards to help BMW at Rover's Longbridge plant. A mere pounds 120m was scraped together for the entire farming industry as an emergency package.

More importantly, Mr Whittam Smith does not understand the nature of work in the countryside. Most farmers are self-employed, alongside their families.

Farming is not simply a job, it is a livelihood. If you are made redundant in an urban area, you have access to retraining and jobs created in new industries.

In rural areas you lose your home and capital, and there is not even a job centre. British farmers - or most of them on small tenanted holdings - are more victims than beneficiaries of the perversities of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is the only industry nationalised at a European level. A traditionally self-reliant people have far less mobility than urban workers. They are trapped in a game that robs them of self-determination.The One Man and his Dog issue is not about a reluctance to change. It was the one programme about rural people made by rural people.

This piece will be put on our website. Hill farmers have access to the Internet. And Mr Whittam Smith says nothing changes in the countryside!

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