Prince Charles' letters - farming issues raised

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters were released yesterday - the revealing memos showed that rural and agricultural issues from a decade ago are just as relevant today.

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Dating back to 2004 and 2005, the letters between the Prince of Wales and the then PM Tony Blair, cover subjects as diverse as the military, teaching methods, alternative medicines, and of most interest to the NFU, farming and the environment.

It's uncanny that so many issues are as relevant today as they were ten years ago. And it's clear from the memos that the Prince was giving a voice to the farmers he'd met, passing on real concerns from real people to the PM.

Issues raised including supporting hill farmers, bovine TB, procuring British produce including British beef and challenges for the dairy sector.

On Bovine TB:

When Prince Charles wrote to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair in February 2005 and urged him ‘to look again at introducing a proper cull of badgers where it is necessary’ to help tackle bovine TB, he was reflecting the concerns of a farming industry that was seeing 20,000 cattle a year being culled because of the disease.

If you'd like to read all the letters the they available on the Cabinet Office website here.

For the memos just relating to rural issues and agriculture, see the Cabinet Office website here.


Since the letter was written, concern over the spread of the disease has continued to increase, the situation has got much worse - in 2014 more than 33,000 cattle were slaughtered because of bovine TB, including more than 26,400 in England alone – and the need to take urgent action to deal with the disease on all fronts has become even more pressing.

Prince Charles’ statement that the badger lobby’s position was “intellectually dishonest” by arguing for the protection of one species without any apparent concern for the welfare of another is an argument the NFU has highlighted many times. Farmers care for the animals in their care and the wildlife that lives on their farms. Their aim is, and always has been, the eradication of bovine TB so healthy cattle and healthy badgers can live together in a healthy countryside. Find out more about Bovine TB here.

On Dairy:

For the dairy sector, most farmers were making no profit on the production of milk and some were making considerable losses. See the NFU's work on dairy here


The letters deal with the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and help that could be provided to farmers who were struggling to cope with the new business processes. CAP has also been in the news this week, read more here

Farming champion

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The Prince of Wales has long been a vocal champion for British farming. In 1985, His Royal Highness became president of Business in the Community, a business-led charity which mobilises the corporate community into social action.

The NFU has been involved with the charity for many years, and plays a keen role in the Prince’s Rural Action Programme. NFU Mutual Chairman Richard Percy sits on the Rural Action Programme’s board.

The Programme connects the business world with rural life in many different ways. One important strand of its work is the Prince’s Dairy Initiative which His Royal Highness personally established in 2011 amid fears for the future for the UK dairy sector. The initiative helps small and medium sized dairy farmers to establish contact with senior business leaders in order to share advice and support. Now in its third year and on the ground across England, the NFU’s dairy team plays an active part in this work.

:: NFU Deputy President, Minette Batters, was interviewed on BBC News over the agricultural topics raised in the memos.