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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Farmers 'must change to survive'
Carcasses of sheep slaughtered during foot-and-mouth outbreak in May 2001
The foot-and-mouth outbreak caused misery
Farmers must urgently implement radical change to reflect the demands of consumers if they are to survive, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett has warned.

In the wake of crises culminating in the UK's foot-and-mouth outbreak, consumers across Europe were now unlikely to allow agriculture to carry on as before, let alone pay for it, Mrs Beckett told the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

There is no long term future for an industry which cannot develop in line with market forces

Margaret Beckett
Underlining the urgency she told delegates farmers did not even have a "rosy short-term future" to look forward to.

"There is no long-term future for an industry which cannot develop in line with market forces," she declared.

Speaking of the need for agriculture to become more "market-oriented and consumer focused", Mrs Beckett said the foot-and-mouth crisis had reinforced the mutual dependence of many different interests in the countryside.

Vital role of farming

It had also triggered the "most substantial and sustained investment in rural areas that we've seen by any government".

"Although we should never forget the rich diversity of our rural economy, it remains and will always remain the case, that agriculture is a vital, even a central, ingredient, in its life and its prosperity - not the whole of the rural community, but at its core."

Referring to an EU review of the Common Agricultural Policy due to start next year, the cabinet minister went on: "The wider European public will, I believe, no longer permit farming simply to carry on as before, let alone pay for it, whether through taxation of through high consumer prices.

"What society as a whole wants from agriculture is changing and changing irrevocably."

The BBC's Graham Satchell
"A radical shake up of the subsidy system"
Georgina Dobson, CPRE
"We need a new system that will support good environmental management"
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