NFU president Tim Bennett has been touring the regions talking to farmers in the run-up to the presidential elections.

Speaking to NFU Cymru’s Council last Friday (20 January) Mr Bennett warned that UK farmers could end up paying 20% modulation with no government match-funding.

There was a real risk that rural development spending could be massively reduced as a result of the EU budget deal negotiated by the Prime Minister, he said.

While he expected few member states to use the option created by the rule change, the UK could decide to do so.

“Some programmes we rely on will no longer exist,” Mr Bennett said.

“There is no bigger battle to fight at the moment.”

He reassured members that NFU leaders would show plenty of aggression fighting for the best deal, just as they did when talking to processors and retailers who treated farmer suppliers badly.

But if the union was aggressive every day on every issue nobody would listen to it, he warned.

Also the public could be alienated if confronted by bunches of angry farmers.

Speaking to Lancs farmers this week, Mr Bennett said suckled calf producers should not make rash decisions about cutting cow numbers or getting out of beef production altogether.

“It’s a difficult time for the beef sector, but suckler herd owners mustn’t make decisions they might regret.

I would say hold on and look at your business in another 18 months’ time when things will have settled down,” said Mr Bennett.
Addressing the local NFU’s annual lunch at Garstang, he told farmers there was “still a lot of politics to play” before the beef industry reached a stable position in which future business decisions should be made.

“It’s important that producers don’t let these politics get in the way of their view of the future.

Things are moving and there are beef export contracts already drawn up ahead of the lifting of the ban,” said Mr Bennett.

Suckler herd owners should not judge the future of the beef market on what was happening now, he said.

“Don’t assume that 2006 is normal.

It isn’t.

Things will change.”