1 May 2001
Questions raised over NFU shares

By FWi staff

THE National Farmers Union is under fire for investing money in multinational companies rather than helping its cash-strapped members.

An investigation by The Times has revealed that the NFU has invested in five drug and bioscience companies, including Monsanto.

Investments have also been made in Tesco – Britains biggest supermarket which the NFU has previously accused of profiteering at farmers expense.

The union has also bought about 168,000 of shares in Barclays Bank, which faced criticism last year after closing many of its rural branches.

NFU treasurer Michael Lambert defended the portfolio, telling The Times that the investments were based on decisions from independent advisors.

But David Handley, chairman of the Farmers For Action group, said he feared that the unions investments posed a conflict of interest for farmers.

“This should be a complete and utter no-no,” said Mr Handley, whose group has accused the NFU of failing to adequately represent grassroots members.

“How can they go to fight the case for farmers sitting down to a meeting with representatives of a company in which theyre shareholders?”

The Times article accuses the union of refusing to offer support to its members, despite having amassed 30 million in its stock-market investments.

But the union insisted that its role was to lobby the Government to ensure that farmers are properly compensated for the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

If NFU assets were used to assist farmers, subscription levels would have to be increased to “an unacceptable level”, Mr Lambert told the paper.

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