It has been reported that a farmer in Sussex has rebuffed an offer for his land 100 times its current value – partly based on a desire to protect the countryside for future generations. CPRE welcomes such commitment to the countryside, but also argues that this case once again illustrates the failures of our planning system in encouraging aggressive, speculative development. Graeme Willis, senior rural affairs campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:
“This seems exceptional on a number of levels. We recently heard of a case where an offer of 20 times the current value of land was turned down, so 100 times is very significant. It is also extremely admirable that the farmer in question has reportedly rebuffed the offer for quality of life and community reasons. He has sought to preserve the countryside for the generations after his – and has placed these considerations above financial incentives.
“It is invidious that so many landowners are put in this position by highly speculative land acquisition – especially where there is huge community opposition and no planning permission. The current developer-led planning system has significantly increased the regularity and pressure of speculative development – which is both divisive and distressing for communities. In its place, we need a plan-led system where the focus is on land that people want to see developed – like the brownfield sites around the country that can provide the space for one million new homes.
“Finally, the value of farmland must be emphasised more in the debates about new housing. Unless we have a better way of factoring in the production value of land, rather than always seeing it trumped by development value, then we will continue to lose vital farmland that feeds our rural and urban areas. Climate change and global pressures on land necessitate the preservation of our best farmland for food production – not unwanted and unsustainable housing developments.”
CPRE expressed disappointment at today’s announcement by Defra on how much money rural development measures, including green farming schemes, will receive. The Government has decided to limit to 12% the amount of money that will be transferred from payments to farmers for schemes that help wildlife and improve the quality of the countryside.
CPRE had called on the Government to transfer the maximum 15% from farming payments, to maximise the value for money to the public and to give wildlife habitats and landscape features the support they need. However, CPRE is pleased that Defra has recognised concerns that the new green farming scheme needs to make maintaining landscape character a higher priority.
Ian Woodhurst, Senior Farming Campaigner said: ‘CPRE is disappointed that the Government has failed to give the countryside and the public what they deserve by not giving green farming schemes the funding boost they needed. We have serious concerns that the new green farming scheme will be severely limited in its scope; particularly when it comes to improving the quality of our much loved landscapes that are so vital to the rural economy.’
Two influential charities, supported by Bill Bryson and Deborah Meaden, have come together to campaign for swift action by Government and industry to tackle the chronic failures of the UK milk market.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) believe that for too long there has been a cycle of boom and bust resulting in lost livelihoods and economic uncertainty for dairy farmers. This has driven more and more of them out of business with damaging consequences for our landscapes, local food production, animal welfare and consumers.
Recently, many dairy farmers have had the price they receive for their milk cut by some processors with further cuts being proposed, meaning the price they receive is less than what it costs to produce their milk. As a result, it is likely even more dairy farmers will be forced to sell their cows and leave farming altogether. This could leave the UK more reliant on imports of milk produced to poorer welfare standards, undermining the vital role of dairy farmers in managing our much loved pastoral landscapes.
The two organisations are calling for:
- Consumers to only buy milk from retailers who pay dairy farmers a fair price for their milk. Currently, ASDA, Morrisons, and the Co-Op do not have pricing mechanisms that adequately reflect the cost of milk production .
- Milk processors and dairies (including Arla, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman Dairies) to commit to introducing a pricing mechanism that recognises the cost of production .
- The Government to ensure that the Groceries Code Adjudicator has the necessary powers to investigate contracts between farmers, retailers and processors to ensure farmers are being treated fairly .
Bill Bryson, CPRE Vice President, says: “If you do a fair day's work you deserve fair pay for what you produce. But for too long dairy farmers have been at the mercy of opportunistic price cuts that have driven more and more of them out of business.”
WSPA supporter and Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden says: “I have been shocked by the recent unrest in the UK milk market – our UK dairy supply chain is currently weighted towards a situation where supermarkets and processors hold too much of the bargaining power. A fundamental rule of business is to be able to sell your product for more than it costs to make. Farmers need to be allowed to run a truly sustainable business model, otherwise we risk losing them from the industry and with them, cows in fields and a countryside that people recognise.”
Notes to Editors:
 Sainsburys, Tesco’s, Waitrose and M&S have milking pricing mechanisms that reflect how much it costs to produce milk.
 Some retailers buy their milk direct from farmers and others from processors. It is therefore essential that milk processors also provide dairy farmers with fair contracts.
 Legislation is currently progressing through Parliament to create a new Groceries Code Adjudicator with the aim of increasing protection for farmers and suppliers from unfair contracts with supermarkets. It will ensure that large retailers treat them fairly by lawfully adhering to the Groceries Code. The new body is being established to enforce the Groceries Code after the Competition Commission identified competition issues in their 2008 market study. In particular it concluded that the market dominance of big supermarkets led to some suppliers being treated unfairly in the UK and overseas. If a retailer is found to have breached the Groceries Code then the Adjudicator would have wide ranging powers to effect remedies such as: issuing recommendations to solve the dispute; naming and shaming the offenders by publishing information; and imposing fines (if the Secretary of State considers that the other solutions aren’t working and grants the Adjudicator this power).
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) responds to the publication of the Government’s Green Food Project report.
Responding to the publication of the Government's Green Food Project , which has identified a number of challenges that will need to be overcome if food production is to increase, Ian Woodhurst, CPRE's Senior Farming Campaigner said:
“If we are to meet the predicted increase in the demand for food with diminishing areas of land available for production and increasing strain on natural resources, we need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past that created higher yields by sacrificing the environment.
“As CPRE did when we developed our Vision for the Future of Farming , the Green Food Project has also looked at many of the key issues relating to boosting food production. CPRE would like to see these considered as part of a much wider public debate on how we want our food to be produced in the future and what impact this might have on the countryside."
"The report is correct to state that, when it comes to balancing demands for food with environmental needs, our countryside needs to have ‘the right management in the right place’. To do this we will need two things: a more strategic approach to land use and food production so we can protect farm land from development; and well funded green farming schemes that can support farmers’ environmental management to prevent market forces doing ‘the wrong thing in the wrong place’ as has happened in the past."
Notes to Editors
 The Green Food Project convened by Defra has been examining how we might meet the challenge of reconciling the goals of improving the environment and increasing food production in England, by bringing together government, industry and environmental partners. This was a commitment made in the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper. The report sets out the early conclusions from this project.
 The CPRE Vision for the future of farming: http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/farming-and-food/farming/item/2668-cpres-vision-for-the-future-of-farming