28 November 1997

West stock producers want march

WEST Country beef and sheep producers, facing a collapsing market, want to march on London while they are still in business. But the NFU leadership wants to carry on talking to government.

David Williams, the unions national livestock chairman, visited the south west this week to defend his efforts on behalf of beef producers, and to present the NFUs policies for the future of the industry.

But at his first meeting, in Taunton on Tuesday, members did not want to know. They made it clear that they wanted immediate and dramatic action. Mr Williams was told that store heifers had sold for 40p/kg in Salisbury market that day.

Bill Hosking, Devon, a former national NFU livestock chairman and a union member for 52 years, warned: "Unless we can do something our membership can see, that membership wont be there next spring."

Drastic action call

The farmers insisted that drastic action was needed, whether it was demonstrating farmings role in the economy by cancelling all but essential purchases, or by taking to the streets of London.

Mike Fry, Somerset, said: "We must go to London for the sake of the whole countryside. If that fails, then it is down to the docks to stop the imports. We have got to do it." Many others spoke in similar terms.

But David Taylor, chairman of the SW NFU livestock committee, warned of the risk of upsetting the public. He asked how many members would turn out for a mass demonstration. Almost all present indicated they would.

Mr Williams accepted that matters were coming to a head. "More and more cuts, more add-on costs for passports and SRM disposal, the strong £ making imports cheap and depressing our prices. It cant go on much longer," he admitted.

Devon NFU vice-chairman, Richard Haddock, announced while visiting a South Devon farm with Mr Williams on Wednesday: "If there is no progress by the weekend, I, Richard Haddock, and colleagues will start with tractors and trailers and we will bring certain areas to a standstill for half an hour.

And we and the whole rural industry will be in London before Jan 15, the deadline for getting Green £ compensation from Europe."