Letter: How many people should be farming the land?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sir Simon Gourlay's article (17 May) is a good account of the stupidity of the new EC support scheme for agriculture. But his assumption that the inevitable trend is towards ever fewer farmers/farm workers is simply an echo of Ministry of Agriculture thinking since the Second World War - which produced, inter alia, incentives to amalgamate farms, enlarge fields and buy labour-saving machinery.

Of course, no one wants to use a shovel when they can buy a muck-scraper, but it is possible to operate farming systems in the Nineties that keep people on the land in dignified employment. The trouble is that the Ministry of Agriculture is not interested in encouraging this option. My farm is only 300 upland acres, but because we choose to milk 400 sheep and make cheese, it supports eight jobs.

Our reward is to be excluded from much of the subsidy support given to our more conventional neighbours, who employ nobody. Moreover, because our manufacture is agriculture-based, we are also denied the types of assistance (for example, for capital investment) given to non-agricultural industry.

Let us by all means have grants for environmental improvement, but is it not time that recognition be given to the importance of farm jobs concerned with food production?

Yours faithfully,

HUMPHREY ERRINGTON

Carnwath,

Strathclyde

17 May

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