28 June 2002


Government inaction

on UK agricultures

desperate state means

the time for being

polite has come to an

end, says John Clark

It is time to stop being polite about the problems afflicting UK farming. Why? A raft of reasons, including the governments refusal to grant a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Then, its inaction in stopping illegal meat imports flooding into our country, the gross dragging of feet on the Curry Report, and the blatant message from ministers that no more cash for production support will be available for farmers. Neither should we forget the brainwashing messages that our modulated money is mostly for environmental measures and wildlife habitats. Nor the continuing power of the multiples to take most of the margin and dictate prices. The government shows no willingness to curb their power.

All farmers who rely on selling produce to support their families must be at the point of utter disillusionment. We should make a stand.

Some, up till now, have vented their anger on those that represent them – mostly the NFU. I understand why they are angry at the NFU. They expect the union to get results on the important issues.

But I believe we need to adopt a new approach. The NFU office-holders and staff cannot take radical direct action. Their job is to discuss and point out to ministers why policies are unworkable and to propose other options. In many areas, that approach is succeeding.

But they are ineffective in some of the main problem areas. We, the working full-time farmers, must co-ordinate some other action to show our support for the NFU and at the same time let the politicians and the public get a raw, unwatered message that enough is enough, we cannot face another season without a dramatic change in the present situation.

You will ask how we get this message across. Many of us will be attending agricultural shows. I suggest we try to persuade our MPs and ministers to attend such events. Then, lots of farmers should come to the NFU marquees bringing concise letters setting out why they are angry and cannot carry on. To be effective we need as many as possible to take this action forward.

Also we should display banners in our fields that adjoin main roads and motorways telling the public how untenable our present situation is. If that fails to stir the government, we should consider more direct action similar to past blockades organised by Farmers For Action.

The NFU should, and will, keep negotiating with the government and promoting British food. But each of us can do something to promote farming. The union cannot budge this government without the active involvement of all working farmers.

Meanwhile, the NFU will continue to keep the pressure on government to get British agriculture back into profit. It will also continue to push forward a big programme of promotion and education and a range of proposed changes to regulations and restrictions to get the best deal for British farmers.

Working farmers are being crushed by the present trading conditions. Union office holders and active members will not change this without total support.

Now is the time to join up and fight. If we are doomed to be crushed, then let us be crushed fighting and not watching on the sidelines, criticising those that have been fighting for many years.

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