Countryside Tsar Calls for Farming to Be Overhauled
Milmo, Cahal, The Independent (London, England)
FARMERS AND rural businesses hit by foot-and-mouth disease must change radically or face extinction as "lame duck" enterprises, the Government's countryside tsar warned yesterday.
Lord Haskins, the Labour peer and businessman appointed rural recovery co-ordinator by Tony Blair, said government money was still needed to underpin farming and tourism through the winter. But in a report into the effects of the virus on Cumbria - the county worst hit - Lord Haskins said profound long-term change was needed in the rural economy.
At a press conference to launch his recommendations, he said: "There are certainly many farmers and businesses who deserve to fight on to another day. But in order to do so, they in turn will need to be resourceful, enterprising and fundamentally sound. It is not government's job to support lame-duck businesses."
Lord Haskins said a slump in exports and the collapse in incomes for farmers and other businesses meant continued financial support was vital. But he said the countryside must be "open for business" by next April and business practices must change.
Among the reforms needed was the closure of some livestock markets to stop farmers shuttling animals around the country, a practice blamed for exacerbating the foot-and-mouth epidemic.
Lord Haskins criticised the blanket closure of footpaths for up to five months by some local authorities, saying it had done nothing to halt the spread of the disease and damaged the tourism trade.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responded to the report by announcing an extra pounds 24m to boost rural tourism and economic recovery from the crisis, which has so far cost pounds 4. …