25 September 1998

Severn bridge

protesters attack

Welsh Secretary

By FW reporters

FARMERS responsible for the Severn bridges protest at the weekend reacted angrily to condemnatory statements by Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, both Welsh farming unions and Milk Producers Dairy Crest Shareholders Association.

Protest group spokesman Andrew Thomas said the members of the public that the farmers on the Severn bridges met on Sunday had not previously appreciated agricultures current desperate state, nor the importance of agriculture to the financial wellbeing of the UK.

Farming unions could not criticise. They had achieved nothing when they met Ron Davies this week. "And the Dairy Crest statement was both ill-informed and unhelpful," said Mr Thomas.

"Farmers will continue to seek just treatment from the government and we will not rule out further acts of civil disobedience."

David Parker, executive secretary of the Milk Producers Dairy Crest Shareholders Association, accused the protesters of "washing their dirty linen in public" and doing nothing for their image by causing large traffic jams. "Stop whingeing and carping and start co-operating on production and marketing for a start, then move into processing and the other links in the chain," he said.

Responding to criticism that upsetting the public was not the way forward, one of the organisers, David Sadler, said: "We have tried all the other approaches and got nowhere. Somehow we have to get the public to put pressure on the government and then they will have to do something. It is all very frustrating.

Nothing to lose

"A farmer phoned me recently threatening to put his head in the flail. My own farm is on the market. Quite frankly I have nothing to lose now."

Meanwhile, arrangements are being finalised for the farmer rally and protest march in Blackpool on Sunday. Farm minister Nick Brown is expected to address the rally, which begins at 2pm at Blackpool Football Club.

Pig farmers are planing to hold their own Labour Party conference demonstration at Blackpool next Wednesday (Sept 30).

Stewart Houston, of the Pig Industry Support Group, said efforts would be made to persuade Mr Brown or junior farm minister to meet the farmers. &#42