Welsh meat campaign

5 February 1999

GMis out on protest farm

GMis out on protest farm

A NORFOLK farming estate, which was the target for Britains first protest squat against GM crop trials, has halted such testing on its land.

Crown Point Farms in Kirby Bedon has ended its relationship with Novartis Seeds and Monsanto because of the controversy about GM trials, their high profile media coverage and a direct action campaign by activists.

Novartis was licensed to continue GM trials on the estate until 2002 and Monsanto until 2003. But estate manager Roly Beazley said it had been decided to terminate the agreement.

"There is a huge public debate over GM crops and a lot of public disquiet. Crown Point Farms does not wish to be in the middle of all this," he said.

The crop squat at Kirby Bedon by 30 protesters last year ended after the estate went to court to obtain a possession order.

Novartis Seeds spokesman Richard Powell said it was becoming more difficult to rent land for GM trials because of the controversy surrounding them.

"We would like to see more positive directions on GM research given by the Government and its agencies so that trials can go-ahead without interference," he added.


&#8226 FURTHER delay in submission to government of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report on the Milk Marque selling system and other matters related to the selling of raw milk in the UK, has been sharply criticised by the Scottish NFU.

Tom Thomson, SNFU milk committee convener, said: "The industry is in limbo and stuck with low prices. We are at the mercy of processors in England who can exploit the one-sided selling system."

&#8226 SCRAPIE compensation for February will be £15.24 if the disease is confirmed by post mortem and a market value up to a maximum of £400 an animal if scrapie is not confirmed.

&#8226 FOOD producers within a 30-mile radius of Weston-super-Mare are being invited by North Somerset Council to become stallholders at a monthly farmers market.

Initially there will be a three-month trial period for the market, which will take place at the Winter Gardens on the second Saturdays of April, May and June.

&#8226 BSE compensation in February will be a maximum of £508 if BSE is confirmed by post-mortem and £635 if the disease is not confirmed.

Fight is on over new stock mart

By David Green

FARMERS have pledged to fight an attempt by animal rights activists to scupper plans for a new livestock market.

The plans, for livestock sales within a general farmers market, have been drawn up for a former airfield site two miles outside the village of Stanton in Suffolk.

The long-established Bury St Edmunds livestock market, the subject of criticism by animal welfare campaigners, was closed last year by auctioneers Lacey Scott and farmers are now having to transport animals to Colchester, Norwich or Northampton.

A consortium has been set up to manage the new market, expected to cost farmer and landowner Paul Rackham about £1m in capital investment.

But leaflets being distributed in Stanton claim the new market will be used to sell livestock for export and that the village will be the target of regular and noisy protests by animal welfare activists.

Peter Crighton, consultant to the Anglian Farmers Market consortium, said most of the claims in the leaflet were "wildly incorrect".

The proposed development would offer facilities for the sale of a range of farmers produce, not just livestock, and exporters would not be involved.

High animal welfare standards would be incorporated into the design of the buildings.

"We need to beat the power of the supermarkets and we want to create a farmers market," he said.

Mr Crighton said distribution of the leaflet had hardened the resolve of the 120-member consortium to proceed with the plans.

Animal rights protesters have already scuppered plans for a temporary Suffolk livestock market at Campsea Ashe, near Ipswich.

The site is owned by the Abbotts estate agency firm which withdrew its offer of facilities following threats to picket premises and intimidate staff.

John Gummer, a Suffolk MP and former farm minister, said this week that some of the farmers criticising Abbotts over the decision were threatening to withdraw business, including house sales and lettings, from the firm.

But David Fletcher, Abbots managing director, said he had received no such threats.

"We have had a couple of letters of complaint but also letters of support for a decision which was taken in the interests of my staff," he said.

Welsh meat campaign

A SENIOR NFU official is campaigning for a new meat plant in mid-Wales.

Gwynfor Jones, chairman of Ceredigion county branch, acknowledges failed previous attempts by farmers to get involved in the meat industry. But he claims that the power wielded by big retailers has changed the position of both producers and processors.

"We all have to co-operate and take marketing much more seriously," says Mr Jones, who farms 228ha (563 acres) with his two sons at Capel Bangor, near Aberystwyth.

"Our stock should be processed in the area and sold on as value-added products. We also need facilities to chill and store lambs reaching peak markets for release to compete with New Zealand imports."

He will meet other NFU chairmen to consider applying for EU Objective 1 funding, to assess whether farmers would match any grants obtained, and to discuss the feasibility of a joint venture with a meat company.

With the industry in crisis, Mr Jones admits it is a bad time to ask farmers to find venture capital for any project beyond the farm gate. But he believes many share his view that livestock producers must increase their marketing strength.

He has seen the benefits of that in the 8p/kg deadweight premium he gets for supplying cattle from his 120 cow suckler herd to the Welsh Black Marketing Group.

While still supporting the principle of livestock auctions, he is a committed deadweight seller and thinks more producers would feel the same if they were co-owners of the buying plant.

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