Oxford Farming Conference 'sidelines small-scale agriculture'

The founder of an alternative to the Oxford Farming Conference has criticised the established event saying hands-on farmers are being sidelined.

Colin Tudge, who established the Oxford Real Farming Conference, said small mixed farms are being replaced by "ultra-commercial monocultures".

The chairman of the 66th main event, Cedric Porter, said small-scale agriculture played its part.

But, Mr Porter said: "We do operate in a world... of large-scale production."

"Government and people do look for food that's of value, however we want to buck that trend we can't," he continued.

"I think it's about getting the balance right in this country."

Jim Paice, minister for agriculture and food is to tell the established conference that farmers need to be given the best advice and technology to constantly innovate, improve and become more competitive.

"We have some areas like diary production where our costs and efficiency is among the best in the world but the fact is there are a lot of diary farmers that are not achieving those figures," he said.

However, Mr Tudge said this argument was "simply treating farming as a business like any other".

"[It comes with a] brief to maximise wealth and make rich people richer will destroy the environment and leave millions of people in the world without food," he said.

Environmental journalist George Monbiot agreed current farming systems need to change, especially because taxpayers in the UK pay about £3.6bn in subsidies to farmers.

"If we continue subsidising farmers to that extent we can't have them treating farms like factories to maximise profits," he said.

"We need much tighter regulation for the natural environment and animal welfare in return."

The established conference take places at the Examination Schools at Oxford University until the end of the week with the theme Agriculture: Tomorrow's Power.

The fringe event will be held at Magdalen College and will address issues like re-thinking modern agriculture.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites