3 September 1999

Were all in hands of politicians, says NFU deputy chief

LIVESTOCK farmers left NFU deputy president Tim Bennett in no doubt about their desperation when he visited a Welsh market.

He said: "They reinforced what I had already heard in six counties over the last week; some sectors are close to melt down and the whole industry is in deep crisis. I told them what the union is doing on their behalf, but in the end we are all in the hands of politicians.

"What is absolutely clear is that farmers are fed up with farm minister, Nick Browns, sympathetic words and want action, especially to deal with unwanted calves and cull ewes."

At Brecon Market, located in the heart of the area with the greatest density of sheep in the UK, Mr Bennett heard that, without a cull ewe buying scheme, tens of thousands of old ewes would be shot on farms, or tupped and carried over winter. "The last thing the sheep industry wants is a roll-over of what happened last autumn, which left us with more than 1m extra ewes and the lambs they produced.

"There is an export market for the better culls, but not with the add-on costs they have to carry, including specified risk material controls imposed two years ago," said Mr Bennett.

"Government regulations are responsible for creating the cull ewe crisis and it is beyond belief that nothing has been done. For gravely concerned sheep breeders at the end of their tether trying to dispose of old ewes it is a sad joke that the UK is importing mutton from New Zealand," he added.

Individual farmers urged Mr Bennett to fight for the re-opening of calf exports to protect both traditional beef producers and farmings image. &#42