Labour ignores rural economy Aug03


OUR countryside will be in danger of being turned into a rural theme park within the next few years if the current government remains in office much longer.


Labour fails to understand that the rural economy is the seed corn for a successful national economy. Farmers in the countryside do not just produce food but they employ people directly on their farms and offer a whole range of job opportunities to those who live in the countryside.


Labour's opposition to fox hunting has nothing to do with stopping cruelty to animals, as alternative methods are equally, if not more, cruel. Urban incomprehension of rural life in this respect threatens not only the jobs and livelihood of these families but will impact adversely on all services directly and indirectly related such as village pubs and restaurants. Continued Labour support for the anti-hunting lobby will deprive farmers from the possibility of promoting gam e shooting as a way of diversification to boost their declining incomes. Coverts and larger areas of woodland will also disappear with a decline in hunting and hedgerows and many species of wildlife will be lost.


Labour's policy of ignoring our farmers has led to the UK's increasing reliance on cheap imported food and intensive farming. The small and medium sized farms continue to be impoverished and there is a real danger that their land will be concreted over for low cost housing. Labour intends to build 4 million homes in the next 15 years and many of these are planned for our green and pleasant Suffolk countryside. New communities in low cost housing with new out-of-town shopping complexes will devastate village shops and destroy the rural economy. How can we have a thriving rural economy as well as offer opportunity for new housing developments where appropriate?


Financial support for the rural economy must be allocated to combat rural poverty, promote and support local businesses, develop skills through training, subsidise the production and use of biofuels, build and expand rural infrastructure and establish local 'farmers' markets' to allow farmers and food producers to sell locally grown produce at farm gate prices.


Increased vigilance of health and safety of imported food is also essential to protect our farmers from unfair foreign competition. Our supermarkets offer cheaper imported food that does not match the high standards observed by our own farmers. We should ban the import of sub-standard food and encourage our supermarkets to buy more British food. We should insist that Local Authorities use British milk, beef, lamb, fruit and vegetables for canteens in our schools, hospitals and other public institutions. Subsidised or free UK grown fruit and milk in our schools would take up more than 50% of UK farmers' production.


Labour's image that rural England is populated by the affluent, busy hunting and shooting rather than working and receiving state subsidies at the expense of deprived urban and inner city populations, is promoted politically to mislead and divide our nation. We must reject such nonsense from Labour. We must regenerate our rural economy to attract and connect with urban areas to make our people united and our country a joy to live in.