A farmer demonstration comes to Swindon
The farmers of North Wiltshire are not renown as a particularly militant bunch, but on the 9th October a group of about 20 of us with tractors, trailers, and pickups met up at the County Ground in Swindon to highlight the amendments to the agriculture bill that were proposed by the House of Lords.
The issue was that the House of Lords had proposed a amendments which essentially would enshrine in law that food could not be imported to the UK if it was of lower standards. The most well know examples being hormone treated beef and chlorine washed chicken (from the US), however in my mind these are just the tips of the iceberg.
We were hoping to highlight this and hoping that local MP's might vote for these amendments. We set off from the County Ground and managed to keep the convoy together across the Magic Roundabout (a feat in itself, see below) then headed into Swindon centre, up Victoria Hill and looped around Old Town turning into Wood Street. Wood Street was the focus for our activity as the office of local MP and Attorney General Robert Buckland is there. We also had the TV and press photographers stationed there. We did 3 laps of Old Town and Wood Street, and in general received lots of support from passers by. After 3 laps I felt we had probably made our point and didn't wish to trouble the good folk of Old Town any further, so we dispersed.
We got good press coverage, and a response from Defra was given to the media. In effect this said they wouldn't allow lower quality products in, but they didn't think this needed to be enshrined in law, and that we were "scaremongering".
So from a publicity point of view, and the fact we got this "promise" from Defra widely aired, this was a success.
However when the vote came to the commons it was not supported, so these amendments will not go into law. We now enter a serious period of uncertainty. I count myself very lucky that I have a great bunch of loyal understanding customers like you, who I have the chance to talk to and pitch why our production methods and values matter. For those farmers at the mercy of commodity markets, distant from consumers, and particularly reliant on food service (cafe's, pubs and restaurants where no labelling is mandatory) the future looks worrying.