9 July 1999

Union pledges to all opportunities

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FARMERS must look at the new millennium as an opportunity to seek radical improvements for the industry.

Union president Ben Gill told a show press conference: "The closing years of the 20th century have been devastating for the industry. But in the coming years the NFU will continue working tirelessly for all farmers, both those fighting to survive now and the future generation.

"To secure, collaborate, excel and promote will be the NFUs continuing pledge to farmers."

Many challenges lay ahead, including world trade talks, further CAP reform, the bureaucratic burden and unilateral UK and EU legislation that penalised farmers ungairly, said Mr Gill.

Collaboration, to create a structure comparable in size to other parts of the food chain, would be increasingly important. "This will strengthen farmers long-term negotiating position with customers and provide economies of scale when sourcing supplies and marketing," he said.

The union would also continue to co-ordinate farm assurance schemes in each sector of the industry, but would work towards the creation of a single UK body for farm assurance.

"As we draw towards the closing months of this millennium, UK agriculture finds itself in a position unparalleled since the depression of the 1930s.

"The number of issues and bureaucratic constraints we have to face are greater than ever. But we must view the turn of the century as the turning of a page," said Mr Gill.

Otherwise UK agriculture risked exporting its industry to producers in the Far East, Australasia and America, among others. "And thats something Im not prepared to accept," he said.

Switching to the issues of the day, Mr Gill said he was due to meet junior Treasury minister Patricia Hewitt next week to press the unions opposition to the governments proposed pesticide tax.

And despite farm minister Nick Browns refusal to extend the calf processing scheme beyond July 31, that battle had not yet finished. "I dont see why British farmers should be put at a disadvantage when we have a beef export ban.

"Its an enormous worry. We had about 620,000 calves going through the scheme last year and if it suddenly stops then this huge number will land on our market. That is just too much," Mr Gill said. &#42