28 November 1997

Why its still important to stay positive

These are gloomy times for

stock producers, but they

must stay positive, says

NFU man

FOR the second successive year farmers who attend the event are struggling to cope with unprofitable beef enterprises.

This year too their lambs have made less money, the sheep premium is likely to be cut by £2 a ewe, and those that farm less favoured land are being denied the usual full review of compensatory payment levels. Farming leaders claim that hill and upland farming is in deep crisis, and a recent survey indicated clear evidence of farmers children forsaking the industry.

David Williams, chairman of the NFUs national livestock committee, will spend his day talking to union members, including many who rarely attend meetings. He expects them to be gloomy, and with just cause.

"I am almost afraid to look at my own accounts," says Mr Williams, who farms at Upper Womaston, Walton, Powys. "A lot of livestock businesses are near to collapse. Farmers simply do not know which way to turn."

The NFU is, he claims, working flat out on many fronts from farm assurance and the clean stock issue, to getting the beef export ban lifted, and seeking compensation for green £ revaluations. Great effort was also required to ensure that the mass of new regulations emanating from Brussels was made as farmer- friendly as possible.

While he understands and shares producers frustration and concern about their futures, he hopes they will remain positive, and look at how they can reduce costs and improve their product quality.

"The ban will be lifted and when it does we must have the best possible quality beef to sell. The Winter Fair is an ideal place to get technical information on breeding, feeding and marketing. I hope it will be the place where many more producers will become convinced of the importance of traceability and farm assurance.

Sought after in Europe

"The same is true of sheep production. The strong pound has affected exports and prices this year, but there is no denying that UK lambs are sought after in the rest of Europe. Continuous improvement in carcass quality is essential to sustain that demand.

"We are going through very difficult times but we cannot afford to be too negative. We have to fight for our markets and our future in livestock production."

While the NFU handled the political battles farmers have to find their own technical solutions, whether this involves changing breed, becoming farm assured, adopting a new marketing strategy, making better fodder, or simply changing over to home mill and mixing.

David Williams, chairman of the NFUs national livestock committee, says the NFU is working flat out on farm assurance, clean stock, getting the beef export ban lifted and getting compensation for green £ revaluations.