5 July 2002

Gill pleads for government support

By Isabel Davies

NFU leader Ben Gill has said that for the industry to turn its fortunes around the government must work with farmers rather than against them.

Mr Gill told journalists on the opening day of the Royal Show that there must be a fundamental change in the way the government views agriculture.

"It must change from its position of regulator and supervisor to that of promoter and developer. The government must reduce the burden of regulation."

The recently-announced Nitrate Vulnerable Zone proposals were a clear example of the government piling bureaucracy on to the industry, said Mr Gill. Ministers announced last week that 55% of England will be classified as a NVZ from Dec 19.

The NFU had long argued the scientific rationale for the Nitrates Directive was flawed, but the government had compounded the problems created by the directive by gold-plating it, he said. This would significantly increase costs for many farmers.

Despite the continuing depression in agriculture, Mr Gill said that farmers had not sat back and had tried to find solutions to the industrys problems.

One of these solutions was the unions cereal contract which had been developed to secure a better deal for growers, he said.

Mr Gill urged people to negotiate with their merchants to use the contract because if enough producers did, companies would be forced to accept it. "If everyone sticks together on this we can push this through," he said.

Mr Gill also drew attention to the fact that while the world wheat price has risen by about £11/t, prices in the UK remained rock-bottom.

Grain merchants should be more aware of the world market as well as the local market, and recognise that the livelihoods of cereal farmers were under threat.

&#8226 AN initiative to promote the Little Red Tractor logo at the show was cancelled because of Massey Fergusons announcement about the closure of its Coventry tractor factory.

NFU president Ben Gill said that a photo-call with Massey Ferguson would be insensitive in the wake of news that 1000 employees will lose their jobs at what was the worlds biggest tractor plant. &#42