27 August 1999
Postal votes in Somerset NFU election
By John Burns
SOMERSET farmers will choose their National Farmers Union council representatives next year by a postal vote, despite it being the method rejected by the unions council earlier this year.
The NFU council agreed to introduce a one-member-one-vote system for electing London delegates, but rejected the postal vote option when amending the unions constitution.
Instead, the new rules say that meetings should be convened, open to all members, for voting to take place.
In Somerset, however, the postal vote concession was won by the four dairy farmers who ignored NFU advice and dumped 43 bull calves at Carla Lanes animal sanctuary earlier this month.
The four producers had threatened to call an extraordinary meeting of Somerset NFU at which they would seek the resignations of two key county officeholders would be sought.
Union south-west regional director Anthony Gibson then offered Somerset NFU members the postal vote – and gave them a written guarantee that it would take place.
The move was welcomed by local dairy farmer Derek Mead who said a postal vote would ensure the right people went to London.
At an on-farm meeting at Sparkford on Tuesday evening (24 August), Mr Gibson also congratulated the four members on “the Carla Lane business”.
“They were right and I was wrong. I thought they were playing with fire,” he said.
The event had been more effective than anything else in bringing to public attention the problems caused by the ban on UK calf exports, added Mr Gibson.
Mr Gibson also publicly endorsed direct action, provided it was aimed at those who could change things and that it did not alienate the public.
“With a situation as bad as it is at present, direct action has got to play a part,” he said.
His suggested action list included nationwide resistance to the proposed £7 fee for every cattle passport.
An effective protest could be made if everyone applying for passports submitted applications without including any payment.