11 June 1999

The NFU is launching its Food and Farming Roadshow next week to take the facts about farming to the public. Merseyside farmer Johnny Ball (foreground) will tour with the "travelling farmyard" from town-to-town over the next 12 weeks, meeting the public and answering questions and concerns. The roadshow, which starts on Tuesday (June 15), is being supported by Land Rover, Sainsburys, BOCM Pauls and the British Agrochemicals Association.

IN BRIEF

uA SPECIAL feature at this years Royal Show (July 4-8) will focus on helping farmers develop links with consumers through direct marketing. The demonstration, supported by the Countryside Agency in association with the RASE, will highlight a number of successful direct marketing initiatives developed by farmers, such as organic box schemes, farmers markets and farm shops.

uMORE than 1000 posters promoting beefburgers will appear on billboards around the country in the next fortnight as part of a £250,000 Meat and Livestock advertising campaign. The message, alongside pictures of burgers and the MLCs beefburger quality mark, will be: "Look for the beefburgers with the mark of approval." Chris Lamb, MLC consumer marketing manager, says 1300 poster sites have been chosen for their proximity to major retail outlets.

uMORE than 5m cattle have been killed and destroyed under BSE schemes in the past three years. Figures released in the latest MAFF BSE enforcement bulletin show that 3,179,324 cattle have been slaughtered in the over 30-month scheme since Apr 29, 1996. The selective cull has removed 77,045 cattle, while the calf processing scheme has resulted in the destruction of 1,857,211 animals. &#42

MAFFpressed on

TBtrial in wake of

badger link work

By Jonathan Riley

PRESSURE is mounting on MAFF to rethink its tuberculosis control trial after evidence from Ireland pointed to a compelling link between infected badgers and the disease in cattle.

The Offaly badger removal project – a culling trial which began in Ireland in 1988 – was completed in 1996 and showed a 91% reduction in the number of bovine TB reactors after 50% of badgers within a trial area were removed.

But, despite a 20% increase in bovine TB across Ireland during the same period, the Offaly experiment was branded unscientific and the results were overlooked.

Now, however, an independent review of the Offaly report has been published in the Irish Veterinary Journal. It vindicates the research and backs the projects findings.

Review author, John Eves, an Irish government vet, said that 30% of badgers captured in the trial were infected.

After their removal, the numbers of infected cattle fell from 326 to 30 in six years.

He concluded that TB infected badgers constituted a particular risk to the native cattle population of Ireland.

Even so, a spokesman for the National Federation of Badger Groups maintained that the Offaly research was flawed.

A MAFF spokesman said the government would stick to the existing Krebs/Bourne trial, even though it will not yield results for seven years. He said: "It [the trial] is the best way to help the badger, the nature lover and the farmer. The Irish findings do not change that."

But Barry Jones, chairman of the National Beef Associations TB committee, said: "We just do not understand how MAFF can insist that the trial has to continue unchanged while TB outbreaks mushroom."

And NFU animal health committee chairman, Brian Jennings, said: "MAFF must sit up and take notice of the Offaly project results and speed up the Krebs trial. It cannot continue to go against scientific results."

He added that the NFU would publish a report next week showing startling projections for TB in the UK and the resulting financial impact.

Meanwhile, a Staffordshire farmer has established a group called the Society for the Eradication of Tuberculosis Transmission which is calling on government to revert to a badger culling programme in all areas where herd breakdowns occur. &#42

Woburn Abbey was the venue for Tuesdays bicentenary celebration for the Royal Smithfield Club. Visitors gathered at the spot where, 200 years ago, top agriculturalists met to form the club. As then, guests watched a shearing demonstration. Here, Elfed Jackson – one of the worlds leading shearers – shows how it is done. More details on the Club, page 79.

N Yorks sees big rise in dead animal dumping

NORTH Yorkshires trading standards department this week reported a huge rise in the number of dead animals being dumped illegally by the countys farmers.

The departments latest figures show that in the first three months of this year more than 300 animal carcasses were dumped in 39 separate incidents, compared with 170 animals in 22 incidents during the same period last year.

Last month, in one of the worst incidents, council officials found the bodies of 39 cows and 14 sheep left near the side of a road.

Trading Standards Officer Gordon Gresty said the increase was directly attributable to the governments BSE regulations, which had made it more expensive for farmers to dispose of dead stock properly.

He warned that any farmers found disposing of dead animals illegally would be prosecuted. &#42

Sainsburys first in Union flag scheme

SUPERMARKET giant Sainsburys is the first retailer to support the recently-launched NFU scheme where Union flag labels are used to allow consumers to identify British poultry meat.

NFU president, Ben Gill, said: "Sainsburys decision recognises the value and high reputation of the British brand. It is a major boost for the British poultrymeat industry and the consumer. We are extremely grateful for Sainsburys support."

Alistair Stone, Sainsburys chicken buyer, said 99% of the firms fresh chicken was produced by British farmers. &#42

Cattle lobby in town

ABOUT 40 NFU delegates from around the country are to lobby their MPs in London on Monday (June 14) to highlight a number of issues causing difficulties for the cattle sector.

The urgent need for Trade Secretary Stephen Byers to publish the Competition Commissions report on the milk market will be top of the list.

Bovine tuberculosis, the beef-on-the-bone ban, the date-based export scheme, and the imminent demise of the calf processing scheme will also be raised. &#42

Compensation to NI in EU rules

THE EU Commission has ruled that government compensation paid to Northern Ireland pig farmers last year does not breach the EU rules on state aid.

The payments of £45 a pig were introduced under the emergency Pig Welfare Slaughter Compensation Scheme after a fire last June at Maltons Ballymoney plant left a backlog of fat pigs on a number of farms.

After more than 15,000 pigs were culled, the government paid the £15 a pig slaughter and rendering charges and also provided an additional £30 a pig compensation for farmers.

Initially, the commission objected to the £30 compensation, saying it breached the state aid rules.

But after receiving an explanation from the UK that the aid was a one-off animal welfare measure needed to remove overweight pigs that had no commercial value, the commission this week announced that it was dropping its action against the UK. &#42

Blanket ban anger

FARM minister, Nick Brown, has criticised the United States, Canada and other countries that have reacted to the Belgian food scare by banning or restricting imports of meat and other products from all EU countries. Such action, he said, was disproportionate and "deeply unfair" to farmers. "There can be no basis on food safety grounds," Mr Brown insisted. &#42

Action group backs Genesis assurance

By FWreporters

A FARMERS group set up to challenge existing farm assurance schemes has thrown its weight behind a new whole-farm scheme launched last week.

The Midland Farmers Action Group was formed by growers who were angry at the paperwork and extra costs generated by an increasing number of assurance schemes.

It criticised the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme in particular and is now backing a new scheme developed by Genesis Quality Assurance instead.

"This scheme delivers to our principle of a practical, cost effective, whole- farm scheme involving minimal paperwork," said Michael Cook of MFAG.

He claimed that farmers had been backed into a corner by existing schemes which were run by profit making organisations.

Key to the Genesis concept is a "practical" approach. Farmers would be required to go no further than following current legislation and MAFFs codes of practice.

Only one annual inspection, covering all the farms enterprises, would be needed. It would be done by an independent verifier and would include a simple visual appraisal of the unit.

Verifiers would also check declaration forms signed previously by either a vet or BASIS qualified agronomist that vouched for good farm practice in each enterprise type. BASIS qualified farmers would be allowed to verify themselves.

Martin Barker, managing director of Genesis, said that all the major retailers had now given their support. In the longer term, he added, the aim was to establish the schemes mark throughout the food chain and bring it to the attention of consumers.

But a spokesman for the British Retailers Consortium said the scheme had not yet been evaluated.

Tesco, too, has yet to study the details. But Chris Ling, who has been involved in establishing the firms producer clubs, welcomed the initiative in principle.

"I have not looked at the scheme details yet, but, in principle, any scheme that reduces production costs is welcome," said Mr Ling.

Although MAFFs codes of practice provided a good foundation, he believed the lack of detail in some areas could make objective measurements difficult.

Robert Robertson, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses agriculture committee, was unhappy with the new scheme.

The FSB has already complained to EU competition authorities about the ACCS and Mr Robertson said the Genesis scheme still adds costs to British farmers for no improvement in return. "It is, therefore, anti-competitive," he insisted.

No one from ACCS was available to comment on the Genesis scheme. &#42

Londons first farmers market, held in Islington last Sunday, was a roaring success. Farm minister, Nick Brown (left), opened the event, welcoming it as an opportunity to restore direct links between food producers and their customers. Farmers markets, he said, were a product of real co-operation between all those promoting them. The Islington market will be open every Sunday. The initiative is the brainchild of American farmers daughter Nina Planck, who says farmers markets saved her familys farm. For more details see page 77.

Genesis bids to be assurance bible

A new whole farm assurance scheme, Genesis, is bidding to open a new chapter in quality assurance on UK farms..Page 7

The beef about beef

Unreliable eating quality is the main reason for falling UK beef consumption, warns Nuffield scholar…………page 40

Reseed remedy

Reseeding tired grass leys at Harper Adams College is expected to lift milk yields by more than 500 litres a cow. Heres how……………….page 43

Topping way to lose cash

Needless topping of pasture is costing livestock producers dear, says one expert………….page 44

Goat gains – no kidding

It is high time to launch a co-ordinated goatmeat marketing campaign, suggests one leading West Country producer.page 46

Ears good advice

High disease pressure makes it important to consider applying a fungicide to wheat ears, say agronomy experts………page 53

Beets bumper season

Early growth and low disease and insect pressure promises to make 1999 a vintage year for UK sugar beet growers..page 54

Serial cereal success

Heres how a grain quality assurance scheme has been meeting the needs of a breakfast cereal manufacturer for the past five years………page 58

Amazones heavy hitter

The new 6m cultivation drill from Amazone can achieve work rates of 5ha/hour claims the company…………….page 71

Flax a flyer

State-of-the-art processing methods could turn flax from a crop dependent on subsidy into a profitable alternative crop………………………..page 76