Campaigns that counted
Continuing our series on farm protests, we look back at some of FWs many campaigns
AS THE UKs leading farming journal, FARMERS WEEKLY knows the depth of the injury done to farmers, their families and the countryside by the deepest recession since the 30s.
We know that the crisis affects everyone who lives in the countryside from farm machinery dealers and auctioneers to agricultural merchants and village shops. Over the years we have tried to make a positive contribution by campaigning on subjects that really matter to UK farmers.
Here we recall some of our campaigns designed to help win a fair deal for farmers.
lNFU Presidency Voteline. Since only past NFU presidents and council members are allowed to elect the new president, we let FW readers make their voice heard. You were invited to vote in our telephone poll for one of three candidates standing for the presidency.
We said: "FARMERS WEEKLY believes the job is too important to rely on the possibly vested interests of the NFU council and the political intrigues of the unions hierarchy." Devons Richard Haddock scores 81% approval but Ben Gill is re-elected by the 92-strong council and past presidents.
lLaunch of the FW "Farm Personality of the Year." As the British farming crisis grows deeper, we ask readers to identify who, in their view, had the vision, commitment and leadership skills to take farming into the 21st century.
The vote goes strongly in favour of Devon NFU chairman and activist Richard Haddock.
lFW supports the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs nation-wide "Put the Young Back into Farming" campaign by publishing a signatory coupon.
lDirect Action Voteline. We ask readers whether direct action is justifiable. Full support for action comes from 95% of respondents.
lSay Non to French produce. We invite our readers to complain to the agricultural counsellor at the French Embassy. And to boycott French goods after France refuses to lift its illegal ban on British beef.
lBack our Farmers Mr Blair. We devote our front cover, leader and four news pages to persuading Prime Minister Tony Blair to support farming. Our special feature identifies the roots of the farming crisis and suggests remedies. A copy of FW is sent to the Prime Minister and cabinet members.
lGM Crops Have Your Say. We invite visitors to Cereals 99 to voice their views on the merits of genetic crops. More than 500 people take part. Four of five growers expect GM crops to be grown commercially in the UK one day. But almost half were against the technology and many wanted the introduction of GM varieties delayed until reliable and independent trials are conducted.
lFW joins forces with the NFU to promote its series of public information leaflets. The aim is to arm farmers with the facts they need to answer the publics questions.
lFW urges eligible farmers to claim family benefits. We say: "Occasionally, none of us should be ashamed to swallow our pride. When it comes to claiming income support, there is too much at stake to refuse."
lFW offers full support for the Farmers Ferry project and urges readers to help the organisation re-open lost sheep export markets.
lJust Say No to Input taxes. We campaign against proposals to levy 125% duty on every pack of pesticide and every bag of fertiliser. We collect 1500 responses which are posted to the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions. Tony Blair told this years NFU agm that proposals for a pesticide tax had been dropped.
lFW calls for farm minister Jack Cunningham to resign claiming that his policies have lost credibility. We highlight the ways in which he has failed the farming industry and comment "…his hand has been guided by the wish to marginalise producers and focus attention solely on consumers."
lFW invites readers to submit questions to be put to Jack Cunningham during the annual House of Commons debate on agriculture. Shadow farm minister Michael Jack puts a selection of the questions to the minister but receives no direct answers.
lFW reveals that Safeway is selling Egyptian potatoes labelled "UK class 1". MAFF confirms that the supermarket has contravened section 15 of the Food Safety Act 1990 at its UK stores.
lBritish beef is best. FW publishes a league table of supermarkets, rating their support for British beef, and invites farmers to write, telephone or fax the heads of each to ask why they are failing to support the home-produced product. FW asks, "Why are they denying millions of customers the safest, highest welfare beef in the world?" After five months, the campaign is acclaimed a roaring success. British beef consumption has risen 17%, while imports fall by 19%, according to MLC figures.
lCrisp maker Golden Wonder removes a no British beef declaration from its beef crisp packets after request from FW, prompted by family butcher John Brown.
lLaunch of Safe Food for Europe campaign supported by MPs. It follows disclosures that some EU member states arent even looking for BSE in cattle showing signs of illness affecting the central nervous system. Results of a reader petition are taken to MPs, and to the EU farm ministers meeting in Brussels. Petition is handed to Franz Fischler in July.
lFW conducts a telephone poll of beef farmers to discover whether they would be prepared to pay higher MLC levies to promote devastated beef consumption. Four out of five producers rejected any rise.
lProof emerges that meat traders are flouting specified risk material rules by selling sheeps heads when FW buys a sheeps head from a Halal butcher for £4. A MAFF vet and two environmental health officers remove the head from FW offices.
lAfter a top German official advises consumers to avoid British mutton and lamb, we invite readers to complain personally to the German ambassador in London. We publish his telephone and fax number and address.
lWhats in the bag? Defying livestock feed manufacturers who refuse to disclose the ingredients used in their rations, we launch a campaign to uncover the truth. Within a month agricultural supply organisation UKASTA recommends its members to declare feed ingredients in full.
lStamp Out Scab campaign launched to reintroduce the condition as a notifiable disease. FW collects more than 500 signatures in support of our campaign which Editor Stephen Howe presents to farm minister Douglas Hogg. *