The uncertain future that small farmers face after tariff-free trade deals | Letters

How ironic that the EU is currently introducing sweeping reforms of its farming subsidies to halt the decline of small farms, so as to retain the benefits of thriving rural communities, management of the landscape and the production of quality local food (Fewer, bigger, more intensive: EU vows to stem drastic loss of small farms, 24 May).

At the same time, small UK farmers are facing an increasingly difficult future (Prince Charles: small-scale family farms must be at heart of sustainable future, 24 May). The UK government, driven by free-market doctrine, is aiming to make UK farms larger and more efficient producers of lower-quality cheap food. These objectives will be achieved by opening our markets to the competition created by unlimited quantities of tariff-free foods from Australia, Canada and the US. In addition, a scheme to pension off small farmers is now being introduced.

Our government fails to understand that many parts of our rural landscape can only be managed for protection of the environment, maintenance of habitat and wildlife, and to generate sensible levels of food production by supporting a thriving and rewarded small farming community.
Richard Harvey
Owston, Rutland

I agree with Prince Charles that small farmers need protection from global agribusiness (Small farms have a huge role to play in our sustainable future, 23 May). However, I do question whether he should be taking up a political role as a champion of small farmers.

Surely it is necessary for the heir apparent to follow the convention of being above politics? The prime minister is finalising a UK-Australia trade deal. I agree with the many small farmers and crofters who believe this will threaten their viability, as it may open the UK to deals with Brazil and the US.

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I do not favour these trade deals, and as an ordinary citizen I can lobby with others who oppose them. I am not a monarchist, but I think many who want to maintain the British monarchy will also be concerned that Charles is compromising the apolitical role of the royal family.
Peter Smith

Small family farms are inefficient, high-cost food producers at a time when many low-income consumers are forced to depend on food banks to meet their daily nutritional needs. The agriculture industry is characterised by economies of scale, whereby costs of production decline as business size increases. Consumers and taxpayers cannot afford the luxury of the small-scale food production that Prince Charles desires and espouses. Subsidies to UK agriculture currently total more than £3bn per annum; perhaps he should put some of his money where his mouth is?
Dr John Lingard
Retired agricultural economist, Newcastle upon Tyne

I am troubled to see you giving up valuable space to an article by the heir to the throne. Farms are in troubled times, but we want to hear from scientists and environmentalists, not the frustrated member of a currently troubled family.
Julia Edwards

With the government announcing that it is willing to give farmers up to £100,000 to retire, I wonder if they might extend this scheme to cabinet ministers, in the interests of the country?
Gary Nethercott
Woodbridge, Suffolk

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