Responses to the crisis in farming

No one can dispute that many farming families are facing acrisis. There have been four years of depressed incomes. Thepictures of the mass culling of herds and disposing of thecarcasses have brought home to everyone, rural and urban alike, thepain of farming today.

A paper to be discussed at the Methodist Conference willencourage Methodists to take practical steps to support the work offarming families by:

  • Patronising Farmers' Markets or Box Schemes.
  • Campaigning for local supermarkets to stock more localproduce.
  • Purchasing only seasonable goods.
  • Expecting to pay more for the privilege of purchasing localproduce, like purchases of many fairly-traded goods.

The paper, Farming Today, written by the Chair of the EastAnglia Methodist District, Rev Malcolm Braddy, also suggests thatMethodists engage in the national debate on the future of farming,encourage the phased reduction of farming subsidies, empathise withthe needs of small farmers and enquire about the choice ofpossibilities of land management in their locality.

The paper argues that the Common Agricultural Policy is in needof reform and subsidies need to be phased out over a period oftime. It goes on to ask what is the prime purpose of farming:"Should it be for food production? If it is, should the enterprisebe extensive and large-scale or small-scale and diverse? How cansmall farms be defended?"

Imaginative schemes for helping farmers are commended. Theseinclude Farmers' Markets, which now number about 300 nationally andwhere farmers can sell produce directly to the public. Farmers' boxschemes allow a local producer to contract to supply a household orneighbourhood with homegrown produce each week. Organic farming andproduce is also recommended.

Religious values suggest that support should be given to"shortening the links in the food chain" and "exploring alternativeways of agriculture" as well as reassessing attitudes towardsshopping.

The Methodist Conference 2001 takes place at Ipswich Town Hallfrom 23-29 June.