3 August 2001
NFU concedes farming must change

By Isabel Davies

THE National Farmers Union has conceded that Britains sheep industry must change, but insists the sector needs strong government backing to succeed.

NFU president Ben Gill called for a “rock-solid commitment” from the government to help farmers adapt in the wake of foot-and-mouth.

He called for urgent action to improve biosecurity at UK ports of entry, warning that work to eradicate foot-and-mouth could be wasted without it.

The union also wants more money for marketing grants and projects that encourage co-operation between producers, said Mr Gill.

He was responding to a speech by Food Minister Lord Whitty, who said the industry must adapt to a future where quality rather than quantity is important.

Lord Whitty said no other industry would have received the same level of help as farming where there was no direct threat to human health.

“We need a new regulatory framework; we need modern industry practices,” he told a NFU conference on the sheep industry on Thursday (2 July).

Mr Gill said: “We must not forget the breeding flock has been reduced, lambing was below average and many sheep have been culled.”

He added: “The sheep market may be more finely balanced and deliver better prices than many expect.”

Farmers leaders were set to attend a series of meetings on Friday (3 August) to hammer out how a scheme to buy up 1.3 million surplus light lambs will operate.

Payments are expected to stay at 10 an animal – the rate set in the payment schedule for the welfare disposal scheme.

The scheme is expected to start to operate on Monday, 3 September.