Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Monday, May 12, 2014
The battle for the hearts and minds of farmers is on. Those seeking to put their stamp on the next batch of European legislation will go head to head in a NFU hustings in the East on May 15. EDP political editor Annabelle Dickson reports.
The world is a very different place to the one of the 1950s. It was in the context of post-Second World War food shortages that the Treaty of Rome made provision for a common agricultural policy.
Almost six decades on, the European Union – for better or for worse – still has a huge bearing on the lives of East Anglian farmers.
Four years in the making, the latest Common Agricultural Policy – which will run to 2020 – has the fingerprints of the last crop of European politicians and bureaucrats. But the agricultural industry will still want to hear how their MEPs are going to continue to fight for them as future legilsation is drawn up.
As the EU is in the process of negotiating an unprecedented number of trade agreements, which according to the European Commission would be the equivalent of adding a country as big as Austria or Denmark to the EU economy, there are both positive and negative aspects for our politicians to weigh up and mitigate against.
NFU regional director Pamela Forbes said: “MEPs are increasingly taking decisions that affect our members’ businesses, both in terms of policy creation and high-impact regulation. It’s therefore vital that we have a team of MEPs who understand our businesses and how we might be affected by decisions they make.”
She said that the hustings were an important part of the process of working closely with the MEPs during the next parliamentary term, and beyond.
The NFU has joined forces with other farming unions to launch a Euro election manifesto – Backing the Business of British Farming.
It tells Euro MP hopefuls that with world food demand expected to climb significantly by 2050 and resources becoming increasingly scarce, candidates for the European Parliament elections had a duty to support sustainable and competitive food production.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Safeguarding the environment must go hand in hand with agricultural production and the food chain also needs to work better to enable farmers to get a better return from the market. We also believe that fair and balanced free trade agreements with global partners are crucial.”
The Eastern region hustings will take place on Thursday, May 15 at the NFU regional office in Newmarket. The meeting will be chaired by NFU regional board chairman Will Dickinson and the panel will comprise: Conservative – Vicky Ford, Green Party – Jessica Goldfinch, Labour – Sandy Martin, Liberal Democrat – Andrew Duff, and UK Independence Party – Stuart Agnew. It starts at 7pm and farmers wanting to attend should call 01638 672100.
Below and facing page, candidates for the May 22 election have their say. For a full list of candidates for the Eastern region, go to www.europarl.org.uk/ and follow the links.
The European Elections are on May 22