5 October 2000
Paske in pledge to grassroots

By Donald MacPhail

THE new vice president of the National Farmers Union says he will strive to ensure that the views of rank-and-file members views are represented.

Lincolnshire horticulturalist Michael Paske, who cultivates asparagus, sea kale and globe artichokes, was elected by the NFU Council on Wednesday (04 October).

He was chosen ahead of Devon farmer Richard Haddock, whose willingness to take direct action has made him popular with grassroots farmers.

He also defeated Rad Thomas, NFU council delegate for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, and Pembrokeshire delegate Meurig Raymond.

Outspoken Mr Haddock, a leading activist in the Farmers for Action group, had already lost the election for vice president and deputy president earlier in the year.

But Mr Paske dismissed suggestions that his election represented a snub to Mr Haddock, and pledged to listen to rank-and-file members

He said: “Id be very disappointed if people think Richard Haddock has been snubbed, as thats obviously making assumptions without knowing what I can do.”

“I shall be listening very closely to members and doing everything I can to make sure they are represented.”

He said this did not rule out one-member-one-vote, which members have been calling for. “Nothing is set in stone,” said Mr Paske.

But Mr Paske added that FFA members did not make up the majority of the union and the voices of producers who did not favour direct action would also be heard.

Looking ahead, Mr Paske pledged to fight against Government policies which make British farming uncompetitive.

“I want to see British farming being allowed to compete on equal terms with the rest of Europe,” he said.

Mr Paske said he was optimistic about the future of British farming.

“Coming from the unsupported sector, and am used to dealing with all sorts of things which knock us off our stride.

“We havent had very good commodity prices and high costs lately. I truly believe commodities will recover in time and with action we take costs will come down.”

Mr Paske, 53, is chairman of the NFU parliamentary, land use and environment committee, has a position on Council and serves on policy Committee.

He will serve until February 2002, the remaining term following the sudden death of Richard Watson Jones in July.