Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Farmers in the firing line

I'd like to pay tribute to and thank all those intrepid WI members across England and Wales who, this summer especially, may very well encounter wet weather when ordering and running the WI tents at County Shows.  Sadly some shows have been cancelled this year, but some are still are going ahead – or have already taken place in the rain, and the new fashion seems to be posh frocks and wellies, which may be the only way to endure the hours of standing as a steward!  If the water rises so that the straw set down to absorb that water is floating on the surface, wellies really are the only way forward!

Weather and wet aside, some of the superb craft items displayed at these events really do show that the WI is the bastion of craft in this country.  When I visited the East of England Show on Friday, I was just delighted and amazed to see a tea cosy in the shape of the Sydney Opera House and chocolate that looked so real I thought it was an edible exhibit, which has been made with tiny beading and exquisite needle point.  Cookery, flower arranging and much more are all on display for wonderful viewing.

I expect many of these skills have been learned through the WI – this is the message from many new members joining the organisation – but it is surprising how so many 'new' talks, speakers and subjects have been round once before.  Rag rug making is having a revival, albeit in many guises other than rugs, and if zumba dancing had been all the rage in the 20s, it would have been in there with the Charleston.  

A subject that is certainly coming round again is the question of the price of milk.  It has been announced that from 1 August 2012, three of the big milk processors will be cutting up to 2p per litre from payment to dairy farmers.   Farmers need consumers to get behind them, and we all need a sustainable supply chain, to ensure the future viability of this key industry.  There is a growing demand for British, local, quality, assured and traceable food, a demand which British farmers can help us meet so it really is essential that we offer our help now in their time of need.  A crisis summit is taking place this afternoon from 1pm today (Wednesday 11 July) in Westminster Central Hall.  The WI will be there and if you can’t make it you can watch the talks online     

This urgent action has meant that I am very sadly unable to wave off fellow WI members on the inaugural WI and Saga cruise from Dover today - I trust that they will all have a wonderful time aboard the ship, and form new friendships that will last long after you have docked in your last stop.  The itinerary sounds fascinating and the scenery promises to be breathtaking journeying through the Norwegian fjords; I look forward to hearing all about the trip very soon.

Without urgent action there will be a further exodus from this vital industry. Perhaps it's time to have another WI member sitting in a bath of milk outside the Houses of Parliament to highlight this desperate situation.  Watch this space for an update!

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