29 September 2000

Fuel protest discontent

SOME NFU members feel their leaders should have given more enthusiastic support to fuel depot protesters.

When delegate Bernard Malethan made this point at the unions Welsh Council, Wales president Hugh Richards said that the many telephone calls he had received indicated that farmer opinion was split. As the action spread, most callers were worried about feed supplies, getting milk collected and drying grain.

The union also had to strike a balance between backing peaceful protest and risking legal action that would put its assets at risk, said Mr Richards. Leaders were also conscious that the Labour Partys Policy Development Unit planned to look again at the red diesel rebate after the next election.

Stanlow protester Clive Swan said he and other farmers had made it clear that they were individuals representing no organisation. They were there to demand taxation parity across Europe.

Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assemblys agriculture secretary, told Mr Swan that no government could give in to such protests, but he could not dismiss the feelings behind them. He also wondered whether the petrol companies had been involved in a "cynical attempt to wind people up".

Delegates used their first meeting with the new secretary to spell out their concerns about reform of the HLCA system, milk prices, red tape, the weak k, the under-funded Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme and the disappearance of family farms.

Flintshire delegate Idris Roberts said seven farms within three miles of his had recently become out-of-town offices and industrial units. &#42