Liberal Party Policy Statement
Agriculture and Fishing
FARMING deserves a higher priority than is accorded it at present. The problem is very clear: we have considerable over-production of food; current European Community subsidies promote even higher production; cost-effectiveness requires the use of intensive methods of animal husbandry, and a reliance on pesticides and chemical fertilisers; soil erosion is an increasing ecological threat not least through the use of nitrates; the experience of milk production would not commend the further use of quotas. All this produces is large quantities of mediocre quality food that nobody wants. Appropriate quantities of high quality food would make more sense for everyone.
Add to this the decline in the number of small farms and the amount of land being held on to in the hope of a capital gain from acquiring planning permission for building development, and it is clear that farming is in crisis.
Numerically, farmers may have little political clout but it is in the national interest that a healthy agricultural industry is promoted and sustained.
The present basis of subsidy is clearly unhealthy but any substantial reduction in subsidy before it can be better targeted would simply make matters worse.
Liberal policies for agriculture are designed to encourage:
To achieve these aims, Liberals call for:
In light of the recent BSE scare, the Liberal Party calls for changes in the 1995 Feeding Stuffs Regulations compelling manufacturers of compound animal feeds to declare a full list of ingredients by their percentage weights in the statutory declaration.
Liberals recognise that farming bears the brunt of the country’s general economic ill health and that a reduction in interest rates is a key requirement for the survival of many farmers.
Liberals called for a wide-ranging public enquiry into the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak, which we believe points to the need to restrict the movement of livestock between regions of the country and to the need to maintain local abattoirs and markets; Liberals believe that that one of the lessons to be learnt from the recent crisis is that the farming industry as currently constituted is highly susceptible to disease which is more likely to spread in an intensive farming regime in which livestock are highly mobile and across farms where specialisation, prairies and ranches have replaced smaller farms using more traditional methods. It is vital that any future outbreak draws on all the lessons learnt by both 1967 and 2001 disasters, with particular regard to the early involvement of the army.
The present Common Agricultural Policy it is believed, encourages unacceptable extremes:
Liberals believe that: allied to any recommendations of reduction to premiums paid to farmers are three points of paramount importance:
In recognising the need to remove the reliance on subsidies Liberals also acknowledge that instant removal of any subsidy would cause hardship and possibly endanger the agricultural industry. The following proposals, which span a three year period of gradual reduction and ultimate removal are offered as a sympathetic and workable timetable in which to accomplish the necessary measures.
Accordingly we propose that:
A - Arable Area Payment should be amended as follows:
Introductory year - Removal of the existing two schemes and also of the ‘Set Aside‘ provisions in favour of one system, maintaining the existing qualification of 15.62 hectares maximum per claim, which will operate as follows
B - The Beef Special Premium
Second year - Limit 40 males
Third year - Limit 20 males
C - The Suckler Cow Premium
Introductory year of new policy - Limit 60 animals
Second year - Limit 40 animals
Third year - Limit 20 animals
D - The Sheep Annual Premium Scheme (SAPS)
SAPS payments are paid according to the quote amounts, which were last reviewed in 1993, based on 1992 submissions. This becomes the minimum flock figure, though farmers can apply for extra quota (there is a national reserve) or they may purchase from another farm.
The quote system is a divisive instrument and is being used by some individuals as a way to make profit without the need to rear animals, and should be withdrawn, allowing farmers to decide their own stock size.
It is recommended that the existing system continue for the period of transition, but be amended immediately whereby quota holders either actively rear animals or surrender the quota they hold.
The policy for removal of SAPS should be as follows:
Introductory year - payment to be reduced by one third of existing amounts, but up to existing quota figures, providing that the farmer is actively rearing the said number of animals.
Second year - payments to be made on two thirds of the existing quota figures, providing that the farmer is actively rearing the said number of animals.
Third year - payments to be made on one third of the existing quota figures, providing the farmer is actively rearing the said number of animals.
E - The Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances (HLCA)
This premium is paid to farmers operating in Low Forage Areas (LFA’s) and can be claimed in addition to SAPS. There is reason to believe, especially when one considers the increasing encroachment on green land for building purposes, that this scheme should be retained.
In addition it is worth considering encouraging growth in the use of such land not only for sheep but also for cattle, and as such enlarging the current scheme.
It is proposed that, as current, a claimant must have submitted a valid IACS for the year, and be the occupier of at least three (3) hectares of LFA land, for all animals actively reared on the proposed LFA location.
Payments should be made at a level to allow supplementation of the poor forage afforded by such locations.
F - The Extensification Premium - should be withdrawn on the introduction of the new policy.
G - The Pesticide Problem - the present system gives little support for conversion from the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers to organic farming and no support for organic farming itself. This means that organic food is produced at increased prices, thus limiting the availability to a wide range of consumers, favouring those more affluent members of society. The real aim should be to make non-chemical farming the “norm”.
The Liberal Party therefore proposes:
Liberals recognise that life must not be treated as a commodity that can be owned, in whole or in part, by anyone. Species should be respected for their intrinsic natures and valued for their unique qualities, on which the whole intricate network of life depends. We also recognise the potential dangers of genetic engineering to health and biodiversity, and the ethical problems it poses for our responsibilities to life.
Liberals deplore the fact that this government has secretly - without any debate in Parliament and without public consultation - given the go-ahead for unacceptable field tests of genetically engineered crops and food labelling practices.
It is already recognised that these practices could have a devastating effect which is unquantifiable and unimaginable - on environmental, on food safety, on health and on ethical grounds. Moreover, because of the concentration of market power in the hands of agrochemical giants, its impact on third world economies would exacerbate the already horrific state of world poverty.
Liberals call for:
Liberals note with considerable alarm the decline of Britain’s fishing industry and the general reduction of fish stocks within our waters.
Liberals call for:
Revised November 2001