8 June 2001

NFU impresses its objectives on government exports

By Isabel Davies

GAINING foot-and-mouth disease-free status is a key priority for the south-east NFU, says regional director Shaun Leavey.

But equally important are issues such as flood management and ensuring that farmers needs are not ignored during the creation of two new national parks.

Mr Leavey told farmers weekly he had already met junior farm minister Joyce Quin to impress on her the importance of resuming exports after lifting foot-and-mouth infected areas.

Export trade

"We want a framework on which we can plan for the livestock industry," he said. "The value of the livestock export trade is tremendous and without it we have severe knock-on effects for domestic trade."

His meeting with the minister centred on how the region could move to disease-free status with the hope of resuming exports.

But progress has been slow, said Mr Leavey, adding: "We are still trying to get clarification.

"It seems almost impossible to elicit from the government how that [the move to disease-free status] will take place."

Other issues dominating the thoughts of NFU staff at the south-easts regional office include the planned creation of two new national parks. There are currently two national park proposals on the table – one for the South Downs and one for the New Forest.

The NFU is working to make sure farmers needs are not ignored during the process. The union has set out a list of requirements which it says must be met before land managers and farmers will support the proposals, said Mr Leavey.

"We want commitments from the government and the Countryside Agency before the heavy hand of national park status descends."

A particular difficulty has been establishing the level of resources that will be made available when the areas become national parks. "We are finding the authorities are shy about the resources that will be made available. But we want to know how much money will be coming in to help farmers."

With the south-east suffering badly from the wet weather last year, flood management is another key issue.

"The climate has had a greater detrimental effect on the arable sector than F&M has had on the livestock sector," he said. "It is an enormous worry."

Mr Leavey said he was working with environmental groups to make sure a balance was struck between conservation and protection.

It was important to avoid getting into the situation that developed with coastal management, where conservation needs seemed to take precedence over farmers requirements.

This was the wrong approach, said Mr Leavey. "Commercial agriculture and horticulture have served this country well. It is inexcusable to talk about managed retreat if you dont offer total compensation to those that are affected." &#42

SOUTH-EASTNFU AIMS

&#8226 Gaining foot-and-mouth disease-free status.

&#8226 Flood management.

&#8226 Ensuring farmers needs are not ignored during the creation of two new national parks.

&#8226 Resumption of exports.