21 December 2001

Shadow minister offers her support to campaign

Our campaign to Save Our Markets has struck a real

chord with readers. Well over 1000 of you have already

registered your support and now the shadow minister for

agriculture is backing it, too. James Garner reports

HUGE numbers of our readers have backed our joint campaign with the Livestock Auctioneers Association to reopen livestock markets in the New Year.

This week, several hundred more letters and e-mails have arrived at farmers weeklys headquarters in London taking the tally over the 1000 mark.

And one of our recent backers is Shadow agriculture minister Ann Winterton. She says it is vital for producers that livestock markets fulfil their traditional role in agriculture and the farming industry.

"Livestock markets provide a valuable service to producers with stock to sell by offering transparency in setting prices through open and competitive bidding.

"Payment after sale is also prompt and assists farm cash flow in contrast to the increasing delays in payments for farmers by DEFRA."

There is further good news for the campaign, which looks like it is working. Indications are that government will allow markets to restart in February.

Therefore, this week will be the last time our letter addressed to junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty will be published in FW. If you havent signed one and returned it to us yet, then please do so now. This will be your last chance to show the government just how important livestock markets are to your farm business.

We have already delivered the first batch of your letters to DEFRA to ensure the government does give markets the green light. Those letters that follow will be sent on to DEFRA in the New Year.

Remember, this campaign is not just about having markets open again, but also about the conditions that they will have to adopt to reopen. Most like-minded farmers agree that biosecurity measures have to be tightened and that will mean, among other things, more disinfecting and cleaning of vehicles.

Other rules like the 21-day movement standstill are unworkable and will strangle the industry. Last week one of Scotlands leading industry figures – Brian Pack of ANM Group – told FW that this rule was "Draconian".

So keep sending in your letters. It is vital that we Save Our Markets and have the impractical 21-day standstill lifted. &#42

Lord Whitty

DEFRA

Nobel House

17 Smith Square

London SW1P 3JR

Dear Lord Whitty,

Re: Opening of livestock markets

For the sake of livestock farmers and the UKs livestock industry it is imperative that auction markets reopen as soon as possible in the New Year. This is with the proviso that there is a three-month clear period between the last case of foot-and-mouth and the commencement of sales. We feel that the livestock auction sector is now being made to suffer unnecessarily because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak. Since livestock markets have been shut we have not had the flexibility to market our animals as we would wish and have been left without an auction system to establish a true market value. While accepting this was a necessary evil because of the national crisis, we now believe the time is right to allow livestock markets to trade again, under reasonable biosecurity measures.

We, therefore, suggest that you consider the following:

1. The resumption of livestock auctions for cattle and sheep in the New Year, operating under practical biosecurity measures.

2. That all classes of cattle and sheep sales can take place on the same premises on the same day.

3. That the 20-day rule be removed as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

Name …………………………………………………………………………………

Occupation…………………………………………………………………………..

Address……………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………Postcode……………………………

Please return your letters to Save Our Markets, farmers weekly, FREEPOST (CN2908), Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5BR.

Should you wish to withhold your address, please sign the letter and attach your address on a separate sheet.

Shadow agriculture minister Ann Winterton says it is vital for producers that livestock markets fulfil their traditional role in agriculture and the farming industry.