The UK’s farming unions are urging their members to vote in the forthcoming EU parliamentary elections on 4 June.

Billboards have already begun to go up around the country ahead of next month’s elections when voters will go to the polls to elect the UK’s 72 MEPs. Four of the current MEPs will lose their seats at the polls as the proportional representation system within the European Union allows for the inclusion of new member states.

The controversial Treaty of Lisbon, which would reform the EU political structure, looks increasingly likely to be ratified, giving the EU parliament a greater influence on regulation. It is for this reason that the farming unions are appealing to members to lobby prospective MEPs on agricultural issues and to use their votes on 4 June.

“At the moment the parliament is a sounding-board for the Commission,” said NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond. “But if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified the parliament will have direct influence on day-to-day policy, for example, the future of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2012. It will only become more influential.”

Despite the recent near-collapse of the Czech government, there were indications that the Czech Republic could ratify the treat as early as next week, Mr Raymond said.

“It’s really important that our members attend the regional hustings ahead of the elect ions to meet prospective MEPs and use their votes in the elections themselves.

“It’s important that we convince MEPs of the importance of agriculture in meeting the challenge of feeding people and tackling climate change. We need them to look more carefully at Brussels regulations going forward, and look at existing regulation to see if it has passed its sell-by date.”

In a recent delegation to Brussels, representatives of the UK’s farming unions called on MEPS preparing for the election to deliver “better, more simple and more workable” legislation.

The unions’ manifesto, World Class Policies for World Class Farming, placed special emphasis on the role of productive agriculture, protecting the environment, more research and development and increased action on supply chain issues.

The manifesto also addresses issues of fairness within food supply chains and country of origin labelling.

* Want to know who’s standing for election as your MEP? Find out at www.europarl.org.uk