Farm leaders have set out their hopes and fears for the coming year.

John Kinnaird, NFU Scotland president:

“One of the most important things in 2006 will be the reopening of export markets for beef. At the moment it looks like the date will be put back from the end of March, but we will be putting pressure on to stick to that.

“The last thing we want to see is any further reform of the CAP in the coming year. We also need to know about any agri-environment changes so people can plan their businesses. Equally important is that the government stop gold plating legislation, which makes us uncompetitive. Water abstraction charges are also under review and we have a lot of work to do there.

“Finally, we, as farmers, have a good story to tell, with locally produced, high quality food, and we need to get out there and talk to the consumers.”

Tim Bennett, NFU president:

“The key hope for 2006 is a much more profitable and confident industry. We’ve got to make progress in getting a fair supply chain where everyone makes money, or there won’t be a supply chain left. Our future lies in getting consumers to buy our product in preference to anyone else’s.

“It is a must that farmers get paid two SFPs in 2006 – one as soon as possible and the other in December. And I want to see a significant step forward on the government’s commitment to reduce red tape on farms by 25%.

“The Prime Minister also needs to promise to match fund all the Pillar Two money in the EU budget deal. If that doesn’t happen we are going to be severely disadvantaged compared with French farmers. It is in his hands.”

Gareth Vaughan, president of the Farmers Union of Wales:

“Competitiveness of our product will be the top of my list in 2006 – we have got to get a fair share of the end price back to the farm gate. The voluntary code of practice is totally inadequate so we will be pushing for a code with teeth.

“A lot of the problems in the dairy industry are to do with greed on behalf of our customers and weak selling by the producers. I would like to see the co-ops come together but I fear that the Competition Commission will frown on that as they have in the past.

“I hope that we can have a move forward in dealing with TB – there has to be the same treatment for wildlife as there is for cattle. Identification of sheep could also become a major issue – we hope to maintain the current system as it is totally adequate.

“Finally, I would like to wish Farmers Weekly readers all the best for 2006.”

Campbell Tweed, president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union:

“The year ahead must bring positive signals for the industry. Our 2006 targets include getting the export ban lifted for beef and finalising the details of the Nitrates Directive Action Plan for Northern Ireland.

“We also need a new relationship with the retail sector. If farmers are to stay in production price signals must be positive. Retailers must become more in touch with what is happening on local farms before it is too late. 
 
“The farming industry must also do more in 2006 to promote itself. We have a positive message to tell but public and political opinion is often sceptical. We must address this if we are to influence policy positively.
  
“The year ahead may also throw up some new developments in local agriculture. The energy market looks very interesting and alternative crops could have a lot of people talking in the year ahead.”

Reg Haydon, national chairman of the Tenant Farmers’ Association:

“The Tenant Farmers Association celebrates its silver jubilee in 2006 and we are looking forward to the long awaited reforms to agricultural tenancy legislation agreed two years ago. These will go some way to redress the balance, which had swung too far in favour of landlords, and should be law by the summer.

“We are hopeful that a code of practice will assist tenants in making sensible arrangements for diversification with their landlords. If this does not happen the government has promised to introduce new legislation to give tenants greater rights in this area. 

“We have been dismayed at how recent high politics within the EU and WTO negotiations has belittled the needs of tenant farmers. Our members are not afraid of free trade and open markets so long as the government addresses all that is needed to ensure a level playing field.”