How ironic that the EU is now introducing sweeping reforms of its agricultural subsidies to stem the decline of smallholder farms, in order to retain the benefits of thriving rural communities, landscape management and the production of quality local food (Less , more intensive: EU commits to stem the drastic loss of small farms, May 24).
At the same time, UK small farmers face an increasingly difficult future (Prince Charles: Small family farms must be at the heart of a sustainable future, May 24). The UK government, driven by the free market doctrine, aims to make UK farms bigger and more efficient at producing lower quality, cheap food. These goals will be achieved by opening our markets to competition created by unlimited amounts of duty-free food from Australia, Canada and the United States. In addition, a small farmers’ pension scheme is currently being put in place.
Our government fails to understand that many parts of our rural landscape can only be managed for the protection of the environment, the maintenance of habitat and wildlife, and to generate reasonable levels of food production by supporting a small thriving and rewarded farming community.
I agree with Prince Charles that smallholder farmers need protection from global agribusiness (small farms have a huge role to play in our sustainable future, May 23). However, I wonder if he should play a political role as a champion of small farmers.
Surely it is necessary that the apparent heir follows the convention of being above politics? The Prime Minister is finalizing a trade deal between the UK and Australia. I agree with the many small farmers and ranchers who believe this will threaten their viability as it could open the UK to deals with Brazil and the US.
I am not in favor of these trade agreements and, as an ordinary citizen, I can lobby others who oppose them. I am not a monarchist, but I believe that many who want to maintain the British monarchy will also fear that Charles compromises the apolitical role of the royal family.
Small family farms are inefficient and expensive food producers at a time when many low-income consumers are forced to depend on food banks to meet their daily nutritional needs. The agricultural industry is characterized by economies of scale, with production costs falling as the size of firms increases. Consumers and taxpayers cannot afford the luxury of small-scale food production that Prince Charles desires and marries. Subsidies to British agriculture currently amount to over Â£ 3 billion a year; maybe he should put some of his money where his mouth is?
Dr John Lingard
Retired Agricultural Economist, Newcastle upon Tyne
I am disturbed to see you give way to a valuable article from the Heir to the Throne. Farms are going through a turbulent time, but we want to hear from scientists and environmentalists, not the frustrated member of a struggling family.
With the government announcing that it is ready to give farmers up to Â£ 100,000 to retire, I wonder if it could extend this scheme to Cabinet ministers, in the interest of the country?