Minister Promises to Help Farmers

UK - The newly appointed farming minister told an influential committee that she will help the country's pig industry to thrive.
calendar icon 28 October 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

New Farming Minister, Jane Kennedy, has pledged to help pig farmers tackle the threat of high input costs and their 'sense of powerlessness' when dealing with big retailers, according to Farmers Guardian.

Responding to a barrage of questions from cross-party MPs that sit on the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) on 27 October, Ms Kennedy said that her overarching aim was for a thriving industry across the UK.

She said a recent visit to a pig farm in Yorkshire had helped her understand key issues facing the industry.

"The farmer I visited was very clear that despite the fact that he had some of the best animal welfare provisions in place, the supermarkets were not meeting him even halfway to meet his added costs.

"It appeared to me that there was a disconnection between the policy statement from big retailers and what actually happened when their buyers are at work," she said.

However, while Defra did alert the Competition Commission to the problem borne out of a concentration of buyer power, Ms Kennedy said it was not Defra's role to dictate the relationship between producer and retailer.

On the burden of regulation, Ms Kennedy expressed her desire to listen to industry thoughts on how to mitigate the adverse impact of the UK's 'better' regulation.

She argued that clearer and more effective labelling would allow consumers to support farmers that employed better animal welfare standards.

"There is evidence that consumers will pay more for a product when they can see demonstrable welfare benefits," she said using the example of consumer demand for free-range eggs.

"But my experience as a consumer is that there is not sufficient information on the labelling of pig products to be able to judge their welfare standards."

To that end, Ms Kennedy said that a Defra priority would be to gather evidence in order to make a judgement on how to improve labelling.

She went on to lend her support to European Commission proposals to specify where an animal was bred and raised on a product label – but she stopped short of supporting the proposals to add where the animal was slaughtered.

"We think the first two, displayed on the product, would be a benefit for the consumer – at the moment it is not available," she told Farmers Guardian.

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