16 February 1996

Farming groups plan unity under

a single campaign

SIX farming union leaders from the UK and Eire are to meet next week in a bid to agree a common policy for a united campaign.

The six include leaders of the Scottish Crofters Union, the Farmers Union of Wales, the Hill Farming Initiative, the Family Farmers Association, the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and the United Farmers Association.

Heading the agenda for the London meeting is a discussion on common policy objectives. Fraser MacLeod, SFU director, said much common ground existed between the organisations. "We need to think about working together more effectively than we do at the moment."

Attempts have been made in the past to unite smaller UK farming organisations under a single banner. But Mr MacLeod said the groups lacked the resources to build up what is effectively a new organisation. But they would discuss an "appropriate structure".

FUW president Bob Parry said he hoped the meeting would build on previous successful contacts between the organisations.

"We see potential benefits in trying to work closely with others who defend family units. Lobbying could be more effective if we agree joint policy aims," he added.

Mr Parry said the NFU has lost credibility by refusing to represent the special needs of traditional family farms. "The farming organisations attending this meeting have one thing in common – they are committed to family labour based agriculture."

Somerset livestock farmer John Armitage, chairman of the Family Farmers Association and an NFU member, said the meeting was "purely exploratory".

Encouragement

"We all view the countryside and the maintenance of rural areas as important and we have a distinct feeling that small farms allow and encourage more employment and ancillary services than does agribusiness.

"We are also all aware of a groundswell of sympathy and support for our policies both within farming and outside the wider rural population."

Alastair Davy, spokesman for the Hill Farming Initiative, said it was "a logical step for the organisations to get together and establish common ground." A stronger voice would give family hill farmers more influence in Brussels. &#42