Whoever wins the election Norfolk farmers need your backing
- Credit: Archant
Political editor Annabelle Dickson speaks to the president of the National Farmers' Union about the key issues farmers will hope to be addressed by politicians in the run-up to this year's General Election.
Farmers will need no encouragement to get stuck in to pre-election hustings in the run-up to the General Election, the National Farmers' Union president has said.
Meurig Raymond, who heads the 55,000 strong apolitical organisation, said there will be rural seats which could swing on the farming vote.
He said: 'We are apolitical, we represent our members whoever is in government... we have to work well with the secretary of state, whoever they are. I just want them to back British farming. There are people on all sides that I have huge respect for.'But he said that farmers would be engaged in the run-up to the election by holding hustings. 'In East Anglia the big issue might be, say, healthy harvest – backing the science, not emotive arguments. Water is going to be a big issue there – in the South West it's animal disease, bovine TB.'But we do not orchestrate this – a lot of our members need no encouragement to get stuck in.'I want our members, our farmers, ourselves, to get in front of those prospective MPs and ask them how are they going to back British farming. Are they going to support British farmers to the tune of £3.8bn? Are they going to make certain we are part of a common policy? Are they going to make certain we are treated fairly in any reform? Are they going to make certain we have enough resource to become competitive? 'Those are the arguments. Are they going to deliver on the TB Strategy? These are the arguments for the next six months.'He said that it was going to be a hard election to predict.'Who knows what sort of combination we might end up with. We might end up with a Conservative win, we might end up with a Miliband win, we many end up with a Conservative-UKIP, we may end up with a Conservative-Liberal coalition, we may end up with a Conservative- Ulster Unionist, you may end up with a Scottish SNP-Labour coalition.'He said once they knew whether there was going to be a European Union referendum, they would then look to see what the farming industry would get in negotiations.'What would be required if we exit and then look at the balances of what are the questions we will put to the government of the day leading up to a possible referendum.'But he said the General Election could signal the end of a referendum plan.
'It has got to be one step at a time. We will have to do the ground work looking at the pluses and the negatives of what we want. Fire those bullets and be in those debates.
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'The NFU can't be in a position to say we must stay in or we must come out. Some of our members feel quite strongly one way or other. We must have the facts. It is who is prepared to back British farming to a level where we are not seen as treated unfairly with our European partner...'If we are treated unfairly then how are we going to be in the position to deliver the food that is going to be required in years to come.'He also said that the price of food would be a big issue for the next government.
'Irrespective of colour, food inflation is a big issue, just imagine another price spike. If there had been a difficult harvest this time in Europe or the US, goodness knows what would have happened. 'They get this, but they all could be more enthusiastic. That's our role, to get more commitments. There's always challenges in any relation-ship with any secretary of state, we have to go and lobby on behalf of members whether it's parliament or Brussels, but the food security issue has been big on the political agenda. He also called for more support to farmers to invest.'The one issue that I get frustrated about, I hear from government that they want to grow the rural economy, that they back British farming, but when I travel around the country it is clear what is stopping us is a lack of investment. 'We are grateful to the Treasury for increasing the machinery allowance, but when you travel around there are a lot of tired looking farms that need investment.'If you want to grow the rural economy, you can do that with investment in farming,' he added.
What will be the important issues for you in the General Election? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk
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