Norfolk farmer backs call for small rural businesses to vote remain

Jim Alston of the 600 acre Manor Farm in Calthorpe,

Jim Alston of the 600 acre Manor Farm in Calthorpe, - Credit: Submitted

Jim Alston of the 600 acre Manor Farm in Calthorpe claims: 'We need Europe and Europe needs us.'

A Norfolk farmer has backed a campaign promoting the importance of small farming and other rural businesses voting to remain in the European Union at the Referendum on June 23rd.

Jim Alston of the 600 acre Manor Farm in Calthorpe, just south of Cromer, works in conjunction with two other farms of a similar size as a farming group to share their staff and machinery.

'Although the main products of our agriculture are traded on the world market and have a world price, much of our produce does go to Europe,' explained Jim. 'It's handy and on our doorstep, which means transport is cheaper and there are no other tariffs involved, so for the people who sell the corn on our behalf, for example, it makes trading a lot simpler. For many of our products, crops like malt and barley, the big market place is Europe, so we need that common market, that equal playing field.'

Jim, though, also has a separate small business called Dofygate, which has developed a solar powered, electric remote-controlled access gate for farms as well as residential properties. The gate has been developed on his farm with help from the Technology Strategy Board.

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'We believe the European Market is going to be very important for Dofygate next year and beyond. The fact that we can go onto that market at a time of our own choosing and to sell products into the other 27 countries involved is an enormous benefit for a small company,' he added. 'We're not involved in a bureaucracy because that has largely been taken care of by the Single Market and the company has benefited from European-based funding to help with marketing as well as the development of what is a new and innovative product.'

Jim also claimed that being a part of the EU means agriculture is part of a common marketplace in the sense that all are abiding by the same cross-compliance rules. This includes a subsidy that is based around European regulation and the need to match environmental rules is common throughout the European community. He fears that, were the UK to leave, both of those things would become separate from Europe and it would be more likely that UK farming would become uncompetitive compared with its European neighbours.

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'I have experienced my whole working life being part of a European Union that's worked together. I have always been very frustrated that the UK has always seen itself as an outsider within Europe. We should be more positive, get in there and really become a leading part of Europe. We need Europe and Europe needs us.'

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