19 September 2000
‘Pig association moving too slowly’

By Donald MacPhail

MIKE Sheldon, who has resigned as chief executive of the National Pig Association, says that the organisation is moving too slowly.

Mr Sheldon, who announced on Monday (18 September) that he was stepping down, said he was frustrated that certain initiatives were not being achieved.

Mr Sheldon told Farmers Weekly he was resigning for a mixture of “personal and professional reasons”, but refused to be drawn on specific grievances.

He said: “I dont see how I could achieve much more doing this job any more and decided Id get more out of building up my own business.

“The industry is going through a difficult time. The NPA was set up with the object of tackling problems, but is not getting there fast enough for my own satisfaction.”

Mr Sheldon dismissed reports linking his departure with a controversial compensation package for pig farmers in swine fever restriction zones.

Many producers fear that the industry levy of 20p per pig to part fund compensation to East Anglian farmers may set a precedent.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has said the levy could encourage the government to make farmers fund compensation for future disease outbreaks.

Mr Sheldon acknowledged that there had been widespread debate on the deal but insisted it was not a factor in his departure.

However, before he steps down at the end of the year, he said he would push for a higher levy – possibly as much as 30p per pig.

But Mr Sheldon rejected claims that this would be criticised by the industry, insisting producers were willing to help give colleagues higher compensation.

“Among producers Ive spoken to the level support for higher payments was pretty unanimous, the objection was whether we were letting the government off the hook.

“Our view is that there is not much more to be had from the government, and producers want to make sure East Anglian farmers get a fair price.”

It was in the interest of pig farmers to approve this as it would help ensure the disease was contained and prevent further shrinkage in the industry, he added.

Looking back on his time with the NPA, Mr Sheldon said that he was particularly pleased with progress on an industry restructuring scheme.

This will deliver 66 million to the industry over three years, subject to permission from the European Commission, he said.

While there are still hurdles to be crossed, this marked a huge leap from only a year ago when the government refused to countenance any aid, said the pig chief.

Mr Sheldon was also proud of achievements on risk management and keeping members informed with developments in the swine fever outbreak.

“Im sad to be going as Ive made lots of friends in the year, have enjoyed working with a lot of good people and we had a lot of ideas which are still unfulfilled.

Mr Sheldon will return to his 1400-strong pig farm in Buckinghamshire, but said that he would consider other projects in time.