16 July 1999

FUW will not boycott minister

By RobertDavies

THE Farmers Union of Wales has backed down from its threat to boycott meetings with the Welsh Assemblys vegetarian farm minister.

After seeking the views of county branches, the unions Grand Council gave president, Bob Parry and his team, who walked out of a previous meeting with Christine Gwyther, a mandate to resume direct contacts.

But delegates reiterated their doubts about the ministers commitment to work effectively for the meat sector.

Mr Parry said later that the decision had been influenced by the evidence given by NFU and Country Landowners Association to the assemblys hearings on lifting the beef-on-the-bone ban.

"It was obvious that by not calling for an immediate lifting of the ban neither reflected the true views of Welsh farmers," Mr Parry insisted. "Since the FUW is now the only organisation that consults grass roots members and represents their opinions we have to talk to the Welsh agriculture secretary, even if she does not eat our products."

As the furore over her appointment dies down, Ms Gwyther appears increasingly relaxed at farmer meetings, as at this weeks launch of an all-Wales livestock marketing co-operative by her boss, assembly First Secretary, Alun Michael.

He said farmers recognised that she had made an excellent start in the job and was working hard to help them through very difficult times. &#42