Letter: Subsidies kill rural jobs

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The Independent Online
Sir: The European Common Agriculture Policy has had a threefold effect in creating rural unemployment ("The golden harvest is over", 12 August). The subsidies, in being linked to level of production and size of operation, have encouraged increased mechanisation and chemical-based farming - termed "more efficient" because it uses fewer people. The subsidies also led to loss of farms as they became amalgamated into larger ones. In addition, land and therefore labour, was "set aside" in a misjudged attempt to reduce the over-production the subsidies promoted.

The social welfare and economic costs on regional and local, rural and urban, levels have been high. Yet we must not assume this trend is inevitable and expect other businesses and industry to fill a few rural labour gaps. Rather, the direction should be towards less intensive, safer and, more locally-based food production systems, encouraged through positive incentives, advice and education. Fiscal measures such as lowering the cost of labour (income tax and National Insurance) and increased costs of inputs such as energy and chemicals could add to a package of rural employment and environmental benefit.

VICKI HIRD

Sustainable Agriculture Food and Environment Alliance

London SW1

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