Farms open up for visitors
THOUSANDS of English farmers will be throwing open their gates to visitors this Sunday (June 10) as part if a nationwide campaign to demonstrate to townsfolk how important agriculture is for the maintenance of our countryside as well as the food it produces.
Farmers feel that they have been given short-shrift by New Labour ever since the tragedy of foot and mouth. The situation has been made much worse by the administrative failures over the introduction of new subsidy payments and, in particular, the total chaos at the Rural Payments Agency which means that money owed by the Government since 2005 has still not been paid to hundreds of farmers - including many here in the Yorkshire Dales.
Open Farm Sunday is the industry's attempt to fight back to gain more support and sympathy from the general public and several other non-farming organisations are backing the move.
These include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is organising a national survey to discover what is the nation's favourite farmland bird from a list that includes the skylark, barn owl, yellowhammer, lapwing, grey partridge and yellow wagtail. The winner of the online and poll card vote will be announced in July.
Farmland birds have suffered severe decline in recent years but birds like the skylark and lapwing are still treasured by millions of people and the RSPB is making an important political point with its poll.
Under the new Single Farm Payment rules, which have caused so much pain in the countryside, farmers have been promised grants for working their land in such a way as to re-build the numbers of now quite rare birds.
But funding for the rural affairs department Defra has already been slashed by Chancellor Gordon Brown and the RSPB fears that such payments might suffer. Conducting the survey this Sunday is a subtle reminder that such promises should be kept.
- Details of all Open Farm Sunday events are listed at www.farmsunday.org