26 July 2002

Rumours rife on union merger…

By Robert Davies

Wales correspondent

LEADERS of the two Welsh farming unions denied strong rumours of merger talks between the organisations as the issue became a hot topic among visitors to the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells, Powys.

Spokesmen for NFU Cymru and Farmers Union of Wales acknowledged that the cost of providing comprehensive member services had increased as the number of farmers in Wales had fallen, but the organisations maintained that they had no real financial difficulties at present.

Bob Parry, FUW president, told FARMERS WEEKLY that he was always ready to respond to his members wishes and he accepted that a single autonomous organisation speaking for all Welsh farmers would be acceptable to many.

He would not say whether informal talks were taking place, but he hinted that he could have something to say on the topic in a "couple of weeks".

NFU Cymru president Peredur Hughes insisted he was the servant of his membership. He was not prepared to sever his members links with London and Brussels, but would be happy to talk to any organisation that wanted to work in the best interests of all Welsh farmers.

"I must say my door is always open, but this talk about creating a single union is an unwelcome distraction at a critical time for the industry," said Mr Hughes.

Meanwhile both unions seized on the chance to buttonhole Welsh National Assembly politicians as they toured the show.

When Mr Hughes met farm development minister Mike German he again emphasised the intensity of the anger and frustration felt by his members over the 20-day movement restriction. Livestock producers should get a sensible way of controlling diseases that did not leave them paying the price of inadequate import controls, he said.

Mr Parry also took up the 20-day rule issue, and the increasing practical difficulties it would cause this autumn.

"Unless it is abolished it will force many auction markets to close down permanently. With 90% of Welsh gross domestic product generated by the livestock sector, the movement restrictions could put traditional family farms out of business and destroy rural communities."