19 September 2000
Pig chief in surprise resignation

By Donald MacPhail

MIKE Sheldon, chief executive of the National Pig Association, has resigned as the industry continues its battle against swine fever in East Anglia.

Mr Sheldon, who has held the job since the NPA was set up last year, announced late on Monday (18 September) that he was standing down.

NPA chairman John Godfrey said: “Mike has worked tremendously hard on behalf of the pig industry over the past year and we owe him a debt of gratitude.

“We hope that as a producer and member he will continue to make a contribution to the policies of NPA.”

Nevertheless, one pig-industry source, who asked not to be named, said that pig producers were shocked at the timing of Mr Sheldons decision.

“Were going through the worst crisis ever in the industry and farmers are dismayed that Mr Sheldon had chosen now to bail out.”

Some farmers are unhappy with NPA proposals for the introduction of a statutory levy on producers of 20p per pig to help fund swine fever compensation.

Under the deal, agreed between the NPA and the Ministry of Agriculture, 65 will be paid for animals over 100kg slaughtered to prevent overcrowding.

The government would pay 50 and a new levy on individual pig producers would contribute the remaining 15 for compensation to affected farmers.

But many producers fear that the levy may set a precedent. They argue that the government should pay the full market value of 100 per slaughtered pig.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has opposed the levy, fearing that it could encourage ministers to make farmers fund compensation for future disease outbreaks.

However, Stewart Houston, the NPA producer group chairman, dismissed any connection between the compensation package and Mr Sheldons resignation.

“That is absolutely not the case that Mike resigned as a result of the 20p levy,” he told Farmers Weekly.

“There was no animosity or aggravation in the decision. Mike resigned for personal reasons, which he may or may not want to talk about.”

The NPA was formed last year from the amalgamation of National Farmers Union pig council and the British Pig Association.

Mr Houston said: “Mike came in at a time when the industry faced huge problems, and worked hard on the NPA constitution, policy and business plan and helped with negotiations. He has made a big contribution to the NPA.”

According to the associations website, the NPA board will now meet on 5 October to decide on “its future staffing strategy”,.

Mr Houston said this did not necessarily mean the job would be scrapped, adding that he was in favour of a new chief executive being appointed.

Mr Sheldon will remain in his post until 31 December.