2 August 2002

…as leaders blow cool

THE continuation of the 20-day standstill rule was the main talking point at Sheep 2002 held at the Three Counties Showground at Malvern in Worcs.

The Farmers Union of Wales said it would join the National Beef Association in pressurising the Welsh Assembly to modify the 20-day rule.

But policy director Arwyn Owen admitted that politicians in Cardiff were very unlikely to take unilateral action.

"We are urging rural development minister Mike German to follow the Scots and use his powers to change the movement rules to allow something like normal trading to take place.

"But he knows that the political repercussions of defying DEFRA could be very serious for the assembly," he said.

But Welsh farmers were unanimous that the assembly in Cardiff should act to save the autumn sales.

Moss Jones, secretary of the Welsh Mule Society, which is planning to market 70,000 sheep in September, said breeders were desperately worried about prospects.

"Breeding ewe sales are crucially important and contribute a major part of incomes on many farms. We already know of regular buyers who will not be attending our sales this year if the movement restriction is still in place. If the Welsh Assembly can get rid of it then it has to act."

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said he had written to Lord Whitty to complain that chief vet Jim Scudamore had lost the confidence of a substantial part of the industry.

He had demonstrated a very cavalier attitude, even to the well-considered opinion of senior members of his own profession, by defending a regulation that would not deliver the disease control promised.

"We are now exasperated," said the letter. "What do we have to do to convince you that the 20-day standstill will not give either the government or the industry what it needs. It would appear that you would prefer to ignore the advice of recognised experts in favour of civil service vets with little or no practical experience of sheep. That does not make sense." &#42