20 January 2000
Farmers threaten to sue Nick Brown

By Alistair Driver

PIG producers are another step nearer launching legal action against agriculture minister Nick Brown over his management of their crisis-hit sector.

The British Pig Industry Support Group has threatened to call a judicial review against Mr Brown unless he explains his handling of the slump in prices.

The farmers will go to court unless Mr Brown convinces them that he is prepared to help, particularly by applying to Brussels for state aid.

Most pig processors have agreed to deduct a voluntary levy for every pig slaughtered to cover the 100,000 cost of the action, claims the BPISG.

A poll has indicated 98 per cent of producers are in favour of taking legal action and some processors have agreed to match the sum raised by farmers.

British farmers are owed 80 million that it believes the pig industry is owed from Brussels, according to the National Pig Association.

“The French, Belgians and Irish are all helping, or have promised to help, their pig industries with state aid measures,” said group spokesman Digby Scott.

Industry fears about the governments lack of help towards the industry have been raised by European farm commissioner Franz Fischler.

In a letter sent to the National Farmers Union, Mr Fischler says government officials have not discussed the issue with commission staff since last autumn.

But he writes: “My staff are always available to discuss informally proposals to grant state aid with Member States, and to assist in designing measures.”

Meanwhile, the Meat and Livestock Commission will spend 2m at the end of January on a three-week promotional campaign in support of the pig market.

The MLC is dipping into its reserves to fund the push which will comprise television advertising and consumer public relations.

The organisation has suspended its pig promotion levy until the end of March in the wake of the huge losses being suffered by producers.