We learn that Mr Gent, who farms 500 acres at Broadclyst, near Exeter (milk and vegetables), joined the party in 2010 after becoming increasingly concerned by the threat posed by climate change. Since then he has worked on a new policy for the party, looking towards a more sustainable future for the industry and addressing both the needs of consumers and producers.
This site welcomes these reflections in particular:
“Our food production systems are now seen as part of a globalised market, where the trend is for more industrialisation; that puts the profits of multinationals before the health of consumers and the quality of food we eat. With a very small number of very large processors and retailers dominating the industry more and more small farmers and producers are finding that if they cannot meet the demands of these companies then there is no alternative route to market . . . For me to get potatoes into Exeter three miles away, I have to send them to Shropshire, East Anglia or Scotland to get them packed. “That is mad. We have got to work out a set of policies that reduces food miles to make it more sustainable – get local fresh food into local shops, schools, hospitals and restaurants. Government has paid only “lip service” to the issue, despite a number of initiatives.”
And the former Fair Deal Food Council would have appreciated:
‘It’s a scandal how producers can be paid less than it costs to produce something, especially when cost cutting will impact not just on the farmers and their staff but also on the welfare of the animals. It is not surprising that the number of dairy farmers has halved in ten years, and we import 20% of dairy produce, many good family farms have sold up and ceased production. It’s not hard to see that the next step will be the producers and their big business cronies saying ‘well as these small businesses arent viable the only answer is mega dairies’. With far too many cows already being kept indoors all the time in large dairies this is a trend we must resist. Cows should be eating grass, not soya [which is destroying the rainforests] and other protein crops shipped from across the world that ought to be feeding people.
Henry Gent summarises: “We need a different approach, which follows common sense: family farms should be treated fairly, as they are in other countries in Europe, and should not have to compete against imports of cheap food produced in environmentally damaging ways or under inferior animal welfare standards”.