Letter: How many people should be farming the land?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sir Simon Gourlay, the former president of the National Farmers Union, rightly refers to 'that increasingly grotesque animal, the Common Agricultural Policy'. A sharp drop in the number of farmers and farm workers is not the answer, however.

The consumers in the EC Group have estimated that an average family of four pays pounds 16 a week more on food as a result of the CAP. The subsidised dumping of food surpluses on world markets damages the farming economies of developing countries. In West Africa the benefits of overseas aid are offset by the sale of intervention beef at artificially low prices. The cost of the CAP to the taxpayer is colossal and rising.

Fundamental CAP reform is required. The MacSharry reforms will not suffice. Export subsidies and state intervention buying must go. The link between subsidies and production needs to be broken.

The aims of any reforms should not be to reduce the number of people on the land. On the contrary, Britain's farms are already among the largest in Europe. We need more, not less, employment in the rural areas. EC financial support should be geared to social and environmental objectives.

Yours sincerely,

GAVIN STRANG

MP for Edinburgh East (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

18 May

The writer is Labour spokesperson for food, agriculture and rural affairs.

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