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Supporting Rural Communities
Farming remains an important contributor to the Suffolk economy.
It is not just about food production. Suffolk hauliers, food processors, machinery manufacturers and repairers all continue to earn a living through the farming of our Suffolk land.
Nor should we forget that farming contributes to stewardship of the countryside. A well maintained countryside helps rural tourism – which is worth millions of pounds each year to Suffolk.
It is unfortunate that the bureaucrats in Whitehall fail to see it quite like this. Their latest failing has been the introduction of the new Single Farm Payment scheme. Funding promised to farmers has been withheld.
Farms are businesses like any other and if the money doesn’t come in livelihoods are put at risk.
I have highlighted the plight of farmers. The Secretary of State was called before Parliament recently by Jim Paice, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, and told to explain to us why yet another mini crisis has arisen. The Minister accepted that errors had been made and that work was being undertaken to improve the situation.
But we shouldn’t dwell on the negatives. Suffolk agriculture makes excellent products – some of the finest pork, bacon, apples and honey in the country. Suffolk is justly famous for the quality of the food it grows.
As local consumers we can give them practical support by buying local produce whenever we shop.
This can not only help local growers but also be ‘green’ friendly.
Farm and food distribution now accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all goods transported on our roads. If large supermarkets brought more produce locally and didn’t transport it from far away it would make a massive difference.
Long distance transportation adds substantially to the carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change - which is why food miles matter (the distance travelled by food from field to plate).
Food miles rose by 15 per cent between 1992 and 2002. Ninety-five per cent of the fruit and half of the vegetables in the UK are now imported!
Consumers are also directly responsible for increased food miles. We now travel further for our shopping and use the car more often to do it. Each year the average UK adult travels about 135 miles by car to shop for food, mostly to large out-of-town supermarkets.
The concept of food miles also includes waste, which must be transported from your home to a landfill site. The average household throws away more than three kilograms of food and 14 kilograms of food packaging per week. Buying food with as little packaging as possible and composting waste can make a difference.
We are fortunate to have such beautiful yet highly productive countryside right on our doorstep. We should help to improve it whenever we shop.
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