Successive British governments these past 40 years have treated agriculture simply as “a business like any other”, and conceived business more or less exclusively as a way of maximizing wealth, and at times have seemed to suggest that we’d be better off without any farming at all since it can be cheaper to buy from abroad. Insofar as we have retained some agriculture governments in general have put their weight and our money behind the industrial kind – big, high-input, minimum-labour monocultures. Their attitude, in short, has been absolutely at odds with ideals and policies advocated by the Campaign for Real Farming.
But not all politicians have been comfortable with the way things have gone and now there are signs that the government itself may be starting to feel that farming should be taken seriously after all; that we should not rely on the rest of the world to feed us because others have problems of their own and in any case, these days, we could easily be out-bid on the world market. So successive secretaries of state have been suggesting that we ought to provide more of our own food; and the government as a whole seems now to be acknowledging that it isn’t a good idea to destroy our fellow creatures and the fabric of the Earth, even if is profitable to do so in the short term.
Indeed there are signs that parliament may be prepared to listen to ideas on agriculture that do not come straight from the editorial columns of The Daily Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal. So it was that yours truly, co-founder of the Campaign for Real Farming and of this website, was invited on June 22 to Portcullis House in London to answer questions from the Environmental Audit Committee. You can see the results on tape here (I’m on just after half way through).