4 June 1999

US is the real


By Allan Wright

THE biggest threat to the future of British farming is the United States negotiating team at the next round of world trade talks, says John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association.

"They are bully boys with no interest in our farmers. They have made it clear they want a major share of the European food market and they will use every tool at their disposal to achieve it," he said during the Scotsheep event near Inverness last Friday.

"The EU is constantly playing catch-up in matching the free trade demands of the last world trade agreement. Now we are going into the next round with America as the definite aggressors. Unless we all get together and have a united front against America, they will wipe the floor with us again," said Mr Thorley.

The recent banana war and the push to export American hormone-fed beef to Europe was all part of the posturing before the trade talks begin at the end of this year.

Cheaper grain

"What is on the cards is cheaper grain. That will suit the massive pig and poultry enterprises in the US and their beef feedlots. It will hit our beef and sheep sectors like nothing has before and there is precious little time to get our act together," Mr Thorley said.

"These are bully boys we are dealing with. We need to understand that and work together to defeat them," he added.

Scotland, with its dependence on beef and sheep production, was in a most vulnerable position, being on the fringe of the EU and heavily dependent on subsidies.

"Your future is under threat, make no mistake about that. And without your livestock industry there really is no future for Scottish agriculture," Mr Thorley warned.

Scottish NFU president Jim Walker, opening the event, said he accepted the threat posed by the forthcoming world trade talks. But he insisted that there was a future for Scottish sheep farmers if they concentrated on the quality end of the market.

"We have to differentiate our produce. The Scottish name has a marketing edge and we can win a decent return from the discerning end of the market," he said.

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