Defra promotes its farming initiative with a picture of a paddy field

Last updated at 13:35 18 May 2007

Bungling officials have been left in a right paddy after using a picture of a rice harvest in a leaflet for British farmers.

The glossy pamphlet was supposed to be promoting a new Defra website but farmers were baffled by the cover picture.

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Farming in a paddy field

On the face of it the leaflet showed a typical farm scene with two combine harvesters in a field.

But it did not take long for real farmers to see something was wrong. They didn't recognise the combines pictured, or the crop.

The only resemblance to their own wheat and barley was that it was yellow.

And when the farmers spotted drainage trenches at the side of the field they realised it was a rice paddy.

There are no rice fields in Britain and Defra have now promised to find a picture of a real British field to illustrate any new leaflets.

The picture is thought to have been taken in the USA or Australia because the brand new harvesting equipment looks more modern that the kit used in India and the rest of Asia.

Farmers say the mix-up on a leaflet publicising the Whole Farm Approach scheme shows that Whitehall is out of touch with them.

Ironically Whole Farm Approach is an initiative designed to improve communications between Defra and farmers by simplifying forms and making more use of the internet.

Cornish cereal grower Mike Hamley, a member of the National Farmers Union arable board, was one of the first farmers to spot the bungle.

"It rather illustrates how well in touch they are with English farming," he said.

"I suspect somebody at a computer found this picture on the internet or in a photo library and just used it.

"No doubt the person who did it knows nothing about farming."

South West NFU spokesman Ian Johnson said: "It's a massive faux pas."

Torridge and West Devon Tory MP Geoffrey Cox said: "It really is a symptom of a ministry far removed from the people it is seeking to represent.

"It will confirm to farmers what they already believe, that Defra does not understand farming.

"Maybe this picture is the Government's prediction of what farming will be like after a few years of climate change."

A Defra spokesman said: "This was an oversight on our part. We do not plan to use this picture again."

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