Tories chase the farming and rural vote

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorTHE urgent task facing the European Parliament after next month's elections is to stop the British government "meddling" in the major pan-European agricultural reform package, the Conservative's rural affairs spokesman in Brussels has said.

By Graham Dines

Political Editor

THE urgent task facing the European Parliament after next month's elections is to stop the British government "meddling" in the major pan-European agricultural reform package, the Conservative's rural affairs spokesman in Brussels has said.

Robert Sturdy, the number two on the Tories' list for the East of England, said agriculture commissioner Franz Fishcler was proposing help for Third World countries and the reinvigoration of rural economies across the EU.


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"People still call for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, little realising that agreement was reached last year. There are no longer food mountains and wine lakes hut this has never been properly explained to European consumers," said Mr Sturdy on a campaign visit to Stowmarket and Rattlesden.

Mr Sturdy, who was the architect of the European Parliament's highly-critical report of the British government's handling of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, said there had to be tighter controls on food imports into the EU to stop the disease re-occurring.

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"We must have more transparent labelling not just on the country or origin, but also the region. Supermarkets must bear the brunt of the changes," he added.

"The retailers buy from the cheapest sources in the world, but they must give shoppers a choice of buing locally sourced food. I believe we must move towards a system where - in order - quality, safety and affordability are the considerations for shoppers."

Mr Sturdy said when he talked to shoppers at the market stalls across the six counties of the East of England European constituency, he was getting the message that they demanded better labelling and increased quality.

Last year he organised a trend-setting Taste of East Anglia in Europe convention in Brussels, the success of which has led to other areas of England wanting to show off their food producers' wares.

Mr Sturdy aims to repeat the East Anglia showcase next year, with even more of the region's independent producers taking part.

graham.dines@eadt.co.uk

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