But I found it much more revealing to talk, in this instance, to farmers themselves, because I found that all too often their real concerns were not being accurately reflected by their representative bodies. Therefore when the great and the good in the food chain proclaim that it is on the verge of collapse because consumers have lost confidence, the environment is in terminal crisis and farming is going bankrupt I become instinctively suspicious that this is the best way for these pressure groups to justify their existence. Because, while there are serious problems within the food chain, particularly with regard to farm incomes, the idea that Armageddon is round the corner is far fetched and absurd. Despite the uncertainties, progressive farmers are still investing to expand and reduce their costs. Land prices remain remarkably firm and over 90% of the farmers who lost their stock because of foot and mouth have used their compensation to replace them, another sign of confidence in the future. Despite many genuine concerns, real progress is now being made in improving the quality of rural environment, and farmers are using chemicals much more carefully than before. Despite some specific worries about their behaviour, supermarkets retain the confidence of their customers who continue to enjoy shopping with them, and most farmers and manufacturers compete fiercely with each other to secure business. And ­ despite major safety failures in the food chain ­ most shoppers are suprisingly confident about the quality of the food they buy in shops and eat in restaurants. {{NEWS }}