The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease brings back painful memories of the 2001 outbreak which saw farmers across the country watch helplessly as their cattle were slaughtered by government officials.
Perhaps learning from the mistakes that Tony Blair and he made in 2001 Gordon Brown was quick to act; he cut short his holiday to demonstrate that he was in control and took the credit when the disease appeared to have been contained, saying ‘Britain is open for business…We have restricted the disease to a limited area of this country.”
But five days after the livestock movement ban was lifted new cases of foot-and-mouth were reported and that was just the first of several new outbreaks.
Now farmers who have struggled with the fear of another foot-and-mouth epidemic are facing the threat of bluetongue disease. In times passed a beleaguered farmer might have looked to the government for help but no longer.
One of the travesties of Gordon Brown’s decade at the top of government is his neglect of British farming.
- Under Labour 31% of farming households are living below the UK poverty line. The average farmer earns less than £14,000, half the amount a farmer earned in 1997 and nearly half of farms have a net farm income of less than £10,000. Dairy incomes have fallen by 20% in the last year alone.
- Under Labour almost 80,000 people have left the agricultural labour force and 2,125 dairy farms in England have closed since 2002.
- Under Labour Defra regulations are up 40% since 2003. According to their own figures the cost to business of Defra regulations is £527.8m
- Under Labour bovine TB has accounted for almost 160,000 cattle and £500 million. 22,000 cattle were slaughtered as a result of bovine TB in 2006 and the total cost of bovine TB is now £100 million per annum.
- There is also the failure of the Rural Payments Agency - documented on Warmwell.
It is no wonder an August study in the British Medical Journal found that farmers have the lowest quality of life in Britain, with a suicide rate twice the national average.
Gordon Brown might aspire to national leadership but his treatment of Britain’s farmers show while he will never stand for the heart of England.