for farming causes

31 December 1999




Richard Haddock: Fighter

for farming causes

The farmers weekly Farm

Personality of the Year is

Richard Haddock with Terry

Bayliss coming in a close

second. John Burns and

Robert Davies talk to the

two men you voted for

THE very same qualities that earned Richard Haddock the title of farmers weekly Farm Personality of the Year may well have made him some enemies. His critics see him as cocksure, a loose cannon and permanently spoiling for a fight with anyone in authority. His over-the-top style irritates and infuriates them. But those critics are far outnumbered by supporters who at the very least appreciate that he is genuinely trying to help. They are pleased that someone is standing up for them in the Press and on radio and TV. And anyway, his mischievous delight in tackling the seemingly impossible is infectious.

Only a few know the full story behind this man. The nearest most of us will get to understanding what makes the mercurial Mr Haddock tick is the following brief life history since he left school. It reveals him as an achiever, ferociously determined to succeed in everything he gets involved in. At 19 – he left school early – he had already completed a four-year apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery, only to find the building trade in deep recession. But persistence earned him a start at a Cornish tin mine. There he stuck at a succession of tough jobs, learning skills which included drilling and blasting. He worked long hours, seven days a week, and had soon bought a house. Quickly promoted, he grew a beard to hide his youth. He learnt how teamwork improved productivity as well as safety. When the world tin price collapsed he used his mining skills on civil engineering projects, including the Thames Barrier. Further work in Cornish mines followed briefly before he returned to the building trade. Soon he had sold his house and set up first a building company and later a development company. His talent for persuasion, his belief in the publics common sense, if given the facts, and his dogged persistence helped him get planning approvals on sites abandoned by others. And he soon learnt the marketing skills to sell the houses he built. By this time he was 26 years old, married to Caroline Moore, the equestrian eventer, and living in a primitive caravan. They shared an ambition to farm and gradually acquired parcels of land, put up buildings and developed a calf-rearing business at the same time as they expanded the property development business. His last big deal was a site on which he won planning approval for over 100 houses and then sold very profitably. Advised to take two years off for tax reasons, he was bored after six weeks and went farm contracting for two years during which time he continued rearing calves for sale as stirks. After the 1989 BSE scare nobody wanted to buy. So they built up a suckler herd, eventually to 200 cows on about 120ha (300 acres) of scattered blocks of mainly rented land.

After many rejected applications for whole-farm tenancies they sold half their cows. Soon after, in September 1989, they were offered an opportunity at Coleton Barton, a National Trust farm in Devon. They bought a 51-year lease on it and invested over £250,000 in new buildings, fences, water, and reseeding. Suckler quotas arrived before they had rebuilt their herd. "So we were seriously short of quota. But Exeter NFU helped us get an extra 100 units and compensation." A successful business was quickly developed. More land was taken on as grass keep or share-farmed arable, and they were selling 10-month-old bulls for export at up to £1.40/kg when the next BSE scare hit them in July 1994. New rules required that beef exported from Britain had to be boned out and had to come from a holding where there had been no cases of BSE for the previous six years. The Haddocks herd had seen a few cases of BSE, all bought-in animals. Overnight their bull customer dropped his price to £1 a kg. They decided to make a strong challenge to MAFFs new rules in court.

Mr Haddock contacted farmers weekly and his story and picture appeared on Aug 5 1994. Others picked it up and he quickly learned how to deal with all branches of the media. Active involvement in support of live calf exports through Plymouth docks led to hate mail and threats of violence. The Haddocks say their mail is still checked for letter bombs before delivery. Looking to the market as well as politics, Mr Haddock helped set up English Aberdeen Angus Producers which ensured a 20p a kg dwt premium.

He and colleagues campaigned for old cows to be removed from the food chain, and met NFU president Sir David Naish at Smithfield 1995 to argue the case. "But they wouldnt listen." Then the Mar 20 1996 announcement of a possible CJD/BSE link dealt a further massive financial blow to their highly-geared business and led to the Haddock militancy. "Caroline and I could see ourselves losing every penny we had invested after all those years of hard work. So we decided to fight." Since then, Mrs Haddock has worked full-time running their 320ha (790 acre) arable/beef holding with two employees to allow her husband to spend an increasing amount of time on his many campaigns and serving Devon NFU as vice chairman and chairman for the past three years.

Haddock highlights

&#8226 August 94 First appeared in the Press arguing against MAFF BSE rules.

&#8226 September 96 Penned cull cows outside MAFF SW office to highlight OTMS backlog.

&#8226 July 96 Campaigned for a suckler cow buyout scheme.

&#8226 May 97 took on NFU President Sir David Naish who said militant protests were "crass stupidity".

&#8226 1998 Voted West Country TVs male personality of the year.

&#8226 January 99 Stood for NFU deputy president 1999.

&#8226 November 99 Jointly led a lobby of MEPs in Strasbourg about the beef ban.

&#8226 1994 onwards Involved in countless pickets, protests and blockades of ports, supermarket depots, fast food outlets.

HADDOCKHIGHLIGHTS

&#8226 August 94 First appeared in the Press arguing against MAFF BSE rules.

&#8226 September 96 Penned cull cows outside MAFF SW office to highlight OTMS backlog.

&#8226 July 96 Campaigned for a suckler cow buyout scheme.

&#8226 May 97 took on NFU President Sir David Naish who said militant protests were "crass stupidity".

&#8226 1998 Voted West Country TVs male personality of the year.

&#8226 January 99 Stood for NFU deputy president.

&#8226 November 99 Jointly led a lobby of MEPs in Strasbourg about the beef ban.

&#8226 1994 onwards Involved in countless pickets, protests and blockades of ports, supermarket depots, fast food outlets.


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