23 June 2000
Militant farmers protest in Manchester

By FWi staff

HUNDREDS of militant farmers descended on Manchester on Thursday night to protest at the crisis in British agriculture.

Farmers For Action demonstrators are demanding a meeting with Tony Blair to discuss the continuing crisis in British agriculture.

The group is also protesting against the new National Farmers Union tractor logo, which it says misleads consumers as it could be used by foreign producers meeting UK standards.

Manchester was chosen because FFA felt too many demonstrations focus on the south, and it was a suitable gathering point for members around the country.

The BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme reports that around 400 protestors from around the country joined the protest in central Manchester.

Demonstrators brought with them a huge forage harvester and around 20 tractors, some of which were towing muck-spreaders.

But the turnout was well below the several thousand estimated by organisers and, at one stage, police and press outnumbered protesting farmers, reports Farming Today.

A police motorcycle was slightly damaged in an incident with a tractor, but otherwise the demonstration was good-humoured.

After handing out leaflets in the city centre, the protestors moved to the outskists of Manchester, where they picketed a nearby dairy.

FFA organiser David Handley said: “We are in Manchester to show Tony Blair the strength of feeling thats in the countryside at the moment.

“Farmers are going bankrupt as we speak.”

He said that despite the recent weakening of Sterling, which has helped farmers, the situation was still desperate because the upturn had not come earlier.

Mr Handley said in south Wales two farmers aged under 40 had committed suicide in the past fortnight because they could see no way out of the crisis.