FUW president calls for unity in face of threats
By Robert Davies
A WAY must be found to unite farming organisations to tackle industry-threatening problems.
The call came in Bob Parrys presidential address to the Farmers Union of Wales annual meeting at Aberystwyth this week, when he recalled his failed attempt to persuade NFU president Sir David Naish to agree joint action on live exports.
"To all intents and purposes, that appeal fell on deaf ears," Mr Parry claimed. "Indeed, the old competitive element, that Welsh farmers have learned to live with, has been superseded by a sour and bitter enmity which brooks no compromise."
That was certainly not in the best interests of the industry, and he believed there should now be some provision for unified action.
The federated structure the FUW always wanted remained a distant objective, but a new approach was needed to end bitter in-fighting and fragmentary defence of farming.
The catalyst might be an independent agency, possibly the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, or its English counterpart. The aim should be to bring all farming organisations together when industry-threatening issues arose.
"A majority consensus is better than a divided and rudderless industry. It is better than behind-the-scenes bickering and battles," he said. "Such a system would not be binding on the constituent parties, but would provide a process which could be a positive influence on farmings interests. I am prepared to explore this avenue if others consider it worthwhile."
But he was not prepared to hold out an olive branch to most of the opponents of live exports, whom he accused of gross hypocrisy.
He said his hackles rose when farmers were condemned by people who had never been near a farm, and applied "Walt Disney sentimentality" towards the livestock industry.
"These are people who are privileged to prosper in centrally heated suburbia and who would run a mile if they had to stay up in the early hours during lambing or a difficult calving," Mr Parry claimed. "These are the people who quite rightly condemn the welfare standards in Greek abattoirs but play a major part in the Greek economy by lying on that countrys beaches in summer."
It was unfair that these people were setting standards for British livestock farming, but, as the customer was king, producers must cater for their needs, or lose their market to others.
He urged members to rebuild consumer confidence by demonstrating commitment to quality and animal welfare through support for farm assurance schemes. The alternative would be a closed shop, enforced and controlled by supermarket groups.
Mr Parry also attacked the governments lack of sympathy for the problems facing Welsh farmers and its run down of state services. The UK farming industry, which prided itself on being one of the most efficient in the world, had been undermined, something farmers might like to consider during the long bruising run-up to the general election he said. *