South-west threatens to split NFU

30 April 1999

South-west threatens to split NFU

By John Burns

FARMERS in the south-west have threatened to split from the National Farmers Union (NFU) and set up their own separate organisation.

Richard Haddock, Devon NFU chairman, has warned that his members could establish a regional organisation with its own council separate from the main NFU.

The new organisation would be affiliated to the national NFU council in London, but its power would be equivalent to that enjoyed by Welsh members, he claimed.

Mr Haddock said he shared members disappointment at a speech made by NFU president Ben Gill to farmers in Exeter last week.

He said Mr Gill had lectured farmers by stating that marketing and sticking together in large collaborative groups was the answer to producers problems.

Many farmers at the Exeter meeting said they were insulted by what they felt was a lecture by Mr Gill about marketing farm produce.

“It was more like a sermon,” said Ian Pettyfer, one of the farmers responsible for development of branded Breakfast Milk.

“You cant accuse me of any shortfall on marketing.”

Mr Pettyfer told Mr Gill: “I dont think you are doing a very good job for one section of your members – the lowland beef and sheep producers.”

Rod Mackenzie, too, interrupted to tell Mr Gill he had not come to be lectured to.

Earlier, Mr Gill had suggested that lowland livestock farmers were romantically attached to their cattle and had been reluctant to stand up for their industry.

Producers had to find ways to get higher returns for their meat, he said.

Mr Haddock said he felt Mr Gills refusal to accept most of the meetings concerns showed the impossibility of having one union policy for the whole of England.

“I was elected chairman to look after our members interests and I was elected livestock delegate to London to look after specifically livestock members,” he said.

“I intend to do whatever it takes to do just that.”