25 February 2000

Haddock back in fray with union attack

OUTSPOKEN farmers leader Richard Haddock is back in storming form just three weeks after being comprehensively rejected for senior office by the NFU.

Despite pledging his loyalty to the union at its annual conference in early February, Mr Haddock openly criticised NFU officials this week after a farmers meeting in Gloucestershire. Ordinary farmers are angry that the NFU has told them not to talk prices down by being depressed and gloomy, he claimed.

"I intend to challenge senior NFU staff to have a go at running these farm businesses and then they will start talking about the real world," said Mr Haddock, who predicted that growing bitterness about the farming crisis would lead to an eruption of unprecedented direct action before the end of March.

Producers from all sectors are ready to fight for their future. He added: "I am hearing of good, business-like farmers being told by their banks they cant have enough credit to run their businesses properly. They are desperate to see action and the more I travel the more anger I see building up."

Dairy merger

The comments came days after Dairy Crest announced a merger with Unigates dairy and cheese business in a move farmers across the country fear will force down milk prices (Business, p19). Mr Haddock said: "It is no longer just in the south west and Wales. People are realising that if the milk producers go under the rest of farming will collapse like a pack of cards."

In a separate move, farmers in north-west England are already preparing their own protest march organised in order to raise awareness about the plight of the dairy sector. A group of Cumbrian producers are planning to bring two floats down the country, starting in Carlisle and finishing at Westminster.

Dairy farmer Mike Taylor, one of the protest organisers, hopes the marchers will reach London within two weeks. But he rejected Mr Haddocks claim that the NFU is out of touch with the problems faced by dairy farmers.

Mr Taylor is an NFU delegate who sits on the unions milk committee. He said: "Of course the NFU is in touch with milk producers.

But the Dairy Crest merger can only be bad for farmers."