Bluetongue, milk prices and individual tagging of sheep have been identified as the critical issues facing farming, following a high level meeting of union leaders.

Union leaders from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England held the meeting in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to discuss a unified approach to tackling farming’s woes.

Speaking after the meeting NFU president Peter Kendall said that the threat of bluetongue still cast a huge cloud over the livestock industry. 

“We continue to urge all farmers across the UK to adhere to a voluntary ban on the importation of susceptible stock from the Continent.

“Those that flout this advice risk their own businesses and those around them.

“We are prepared to publicly condemn those who seek to put personal interests above that of the industry as a whole by sourcing stock from these high-risk areas,” said Mr Kendall.

And he said that the battle against sheep identification regulations would move up a gear in the coming weeks.

“Farming is never afraid to adopt new technologies but in this case we cannot accept being forced to maintain and record individual sheep identities as proposed. 

“It will be a practical nightmare delivering additional cost but no additional benefit. 

“We will be working with governments here and our counterparts abroad to instil common sense into the minds of regulators.

“The successive milk price drops continue to chip away at farmer confidence – a point laid bare by the latest farmer intentions survey from DairyCo which shows more farmers are ready to quit. 

“At a time when consumer support for local production continues to build and consumption is increasing, it is more important than ever that the supply chain sends positive signals to the industry. 

“In the absence of that, the exodus will continue,” he said.