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Government is failing farmers says bishop: CEN 11.23.07 p 4. November 24, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Farming, House of Lords.
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michael-langrish-of-exeter.jpgThe Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was failing British farmers, the Bishop of Exeter told the House of Lords last week.

Speaking during the debate on the government’s response to the outbreaks of Foot and Mouth disease, on Nov 14 Bishop Michael Langrish (pictured left) questioned Lord Rooker, the Minister of State for Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare about the government’s farm polices.

Was not the minister aware, Bishop Langrish asked, of comments made by a ministry spokesman that “It is up to the market to decide food prices. The UK can source efficiently food from a wide variety of stable countries, and that enables Britain to obtain the best value for money”?

This statement indicated the government continued “take food security insufficiently seriously,” he said.

The government appeared uninterested in the plight of rural Britain he charged, and was “prepared to see the terminal decline of the UK farming industry through the pursuit of cheap food and the concomitant exploitation of UK farmers by the retail food industry,” Bishop Langrish said.

Lord Rooker (pictured right) told the House he was aware of the statement, but said it had been “taken out of context.”lord-rooker.jpg

Bishop Langrish’s intervention comes at a difficult time for British farming. On Nov 13, Jill Hopkinson, the National Rural Officer for the Church of England based at the Arthur Rank Centre reported that Agriculture in Great Britain was plagued with outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease, Bluetongue Disease and Avian Influenza.

On Nov 9 Bishop Langrish, the chairman of the Church’s Rural Strategy Group, called for fair trade for farmers, saying the pursuit of cheap food coupled with the buying power of the big supermarkets is putting farming livelihoods at risk.

“The business practices of the major food retailers have placed considerable stress on the farming community through the use of methods which we believe to be unfair and of which consumers seem to be unaware,” he said.

“As bishops of a church which is a major investor in the retail food industry and which is also the landlord to many tenant farmers, we have a duty to consider the relationship between these two areas of business.”

“In particular we have to ask whether this relationship is fair and whether it operates within what we consider to be the principles of Fair Trade. Are human beings treated with dignity and respect, or is there some exploitation of one group of people for the unfair gain of another?” Bishop Langrish asked.

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