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CHAPTER 15

NPA history

NPA was formed as the British pig industry's single voice in a turbulent era of market failure, rampant disease, retailer duplicity, political infamy and a dysfunctional levy-board. It had a faltering first year, but these days a top-flight management team is in place and NPA continues to change the face of the British pig industry for the better.

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Above: By night, BPISG was closing down Asda retail distribution centres. By day, Meryl Ward — one of BPISG's leaders — was negotiating with the retailer for funding for pig industry training group Agskills, which she chaired. That's what you call chutzpah!


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Above: A group of about 40 pig farmers from North and East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire hoped to lobby Minister of Agriculture Nick Brown at his constituency surgery in Wallsend on Tyneside. But instead they met only his agent, who told them he had been detained on business in East Anglia. John Rowbottom, of the British Pig Industry Support Group, who farms at Melbourne, near York, said he suspected Mr Brown could have been tipped off and wanted to avoid a confrontation."We saw his agent who got pretty angry and defensive and said he couldn't field any questions or say anything."


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Above: Members of British Pig Industry Support Group blocked Felixstowe docks in Suffolk for two hours to highlight the clangers of feeding animals meat and bonemeal that contained cancer-causing dioxin. The protest followed a huge food safety scare in Belgium after the government in Brussels disclosed two weeks ago that 176,000 pounds of animal feed had been contaminated.


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Yorkshire Post report...

East Yorkshire farmer's wife Sally' Osgerby was one of 40 activists throughout the country who visited local supermarkets buying bacon and other pork items.

These are being sent by registered post to the chairmen of the supermarket chains concerned, who will be asked to spell out the source of the meat.

Mrs Sagrada has seen the profitability of the 250-sow unit run by her husband Michael, and son William, at Sunk Island, Holderness, plummet.

They have' recently been forced to make a stockman redundant and the unit will have to be reduced in size.

Mrs Osgerby, who bought five different products from the Tesco store on Beverley Road, Hull, said: "I will be asking the chairman of Tesco to tell us where these products came from, and whether
these farms were up to British standard. Supermarkets say they are trying to help us, but sometimes it seems like they're
just paying lip service to the idea."

Chairman of the British Pig Industry Support group Stewart Houston, who farms near Ripon, said supermarkets generally got most of their pork from Britain, but about half the ham and bacon was foreign.

Worryingly, in the last month the amount of imported Dutch pork products had doubled to 3,000 tonnes a week, he said.

"The supermarkets asked for independent farm assurance schemes," he said. "The main British scheme has 148 points to
comply with and one of the most critical aspects is full traceability, which goes right back to the food ingredients the pigs eat.

"We find it strange that they ask for these stringent assurances but when it comes to it they fill their shelves with foreign bacon and ham, most of which we believe cannot be traced."


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'We're going to see
the death of the
pig industry in the
next six months'

From Press report: 'Reform
or die, Blair tells farmers'

Yorkshire farmer Stewart Houston, chairman of the National Pig Association's producer group, promised Mr Blair a hostile reception tomorrow from farmers who felt they were being treated by Labour with contempt.

He said: "We've had absolutely nothing from the Government. We've been stuck with extra production costs which they've helped to heap on us, yet they've been happy to see pig meat come into this country from abroad which doesn't comply with UK specifications, produced by methods which would be illegal over here.

"We're going to see the death of the British pig industry in the next six months if we don' t get support from the Government. The national herd is reducing by 20,000 sows a month and we're losing £14 on every pig we sell."


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I'll stop serving my sows
in March (and he did)

From the Yorkshire Post
January 2000

'Many farmers, especially pig producers like myself, will not even be making £21 a week. At present I am still making a loss of £15 on every pig sold.

'Forecasts that pig prices would rise towards the end of last year persuaded me to stay in production but one has got to draw the line somewhere and I have decided that March will be the crunch time when I stop serving my sows.'

Fred Henley said that were it not for his wife, Jane, having a full-time job as a librarian at York University, he would have been forced out of business long ago. 'It is her income that has been keeping us afloat.

'I have never experienced anything like this since we started in pigs in 1974. We have had our ups and downs in the past but always managed to survive reasonably well.

'I blame the Government for my demise and that of thousands of other farmers. They have clobbered us with welfare legislation which has cost us a fortune.

'But they are unwilling to insist that British pigmeat is clearly
labelled to differentiate it from cheap imports not produced to same high welfare standards.

'Even if they came up with money to help our industry now it would be too late to help a lot of people because hundreds of farmers like myself have already gone under.'


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You've made a good
case... but you can't compare pigs with
beef and sheep
because the regimes
are so different,
High Court judge
told BPISG

By Digby Scott
October 2018

The British pigmeat industry was suffering considerably from the knock-on effects of measures introduced to combat BSE, said British Pig Industry Support Group at its Judicial Review hearing before Mr Justice Richards at the High Court, in June 2000.

Eleanor Sharpston QC, appearing for BPISG, accused agriculture minister Nick Brown of 'a failure to act — and to act adequately'.

In 1996, Government extended its existing ban on meat and bonemeal in cattle feed to all animal feed. This threatened the collapse of abattoirs which had to pay for the disposal of meat formerly used as feed, and in turn jeopardised the viability of pig producers, who had to use more expensive alternative feeds and to whom the costs of disposal were passed.

The ban caused much higher relative costs to pig farmers than to beef or sheep meat producers, argued BPISG in court.

And unlike beef and sheep producers, pig producers received no direct payments by way of financial assistance, so the industry was more closely governed by the laws of supply and demand was susceptible to greater market fluctuations.

British Pig Industry Support Group said European Community funding of the beef industry amounted to 15 times the level of funding to the pig industry.

It told the court that under Article 87 of the European Community Treaty, aid granted by a member country which distorted or threatened to distort competition was banned, as being incompatible with the Common Market.

It pointed out that exceptionally, under Article 87 of the Treaty, state aid was allowed, to make good damage caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences — and the BSE crisis qualified as an exceptional occurrence.

Cost to the pigmeat industry of the meat and bonemeal ban was running at £74m a year, said BPISG. A request to the Ministry of Agriculture to relax the ban had been rejected on the advice of the Government's BSE advisory committee.

The Ministry of Agriculture had discussed a proposal by the industry for a temporary aid package, but had rejected the idea after the European Commission, during an informal consultation, said state aid was unlikely to be granted under Article 87.

From 1996 to 1998, a temporary, state-funded aid package, the Temporary Rendering Industry Support Scheme, had been introduced to alleviate the effects of the MBM ban. But it had been approved by the European Commission on the basis it would last no longer than two years.

In March 2000, a limited restructuring package was introduced to allow pig farmers to leave the industry or change roles within it.

BPISG challenged the Ministry of Agriculture's failure to apply for state aid, relying on the Community law principle of non-discrimination between producers.

Producers in the pig sector had received no assistance equivalent to that enjoyed by beef and sheep producers, and there was no objective justification for such discrimination.

In failing to apply for European Commission approval for state aid, the Ministry had breached its duty of sincere co-operation under Article 10 of the European Community Treaty and the principle
of non-discrimination, said BPISG.

The restructuring scheme so far adopted was inadequate, and the Commission might have approved further funding under Article 87.

For its part, the Ministry of Agriculture told the court it had not sought approval for further state aid for pig producers because approval would not have been granted by the European Commission.

Furthermore the principle of non-discrimination did not apply to state aid to agricultural producers, it argued.

In any event, the treatment of pig producers could not be compared with that of beef and sheep meat producers, as they operated under different 'Common Organisation of the Market' rules.

Any difference in treatment between beef, sheep and pig producers was justified by the different regimes in force and the varied circumstances faced by producers in each of the Common Organisation of the Market sectors, argued the ministry of Agriculture.

It claimed it was not in breach of Article 10 of the European Community Treaty, as it had no duty to apply for consent which it knew, from information already received, would be refused by the Commission.

Mr Justice Richards commended BPISG for the cogent and detailed way it had presented its arguments but dismissed the application.

In a written judgement, he said the beef and sheep sectors had been treated differently because they were subject to different Common Organisation of the Market support measures.

A breach of the principle of non-discrimination required proof of the different treatment of producers in similar situations or the same treatment of those in different situations.

Comparisons were difficult to make due to the different features of each regime, not least the vastly differing levels of European Community financial support already provided for in the Common
Agricultural Policy.

BPISG had not, he said, demonstrated any example of different treatment. Many of the measures adopted for the benefit of other producers to combat the effects of the BSE crisis were irrelevant to pig farming, and there had been no difference in treatment between the sectors in the application of the meat and bonemeal ban.

The fact that the ban had had a greater impact on the pigmeat sector was not in itself evidence of discrimination, he said.

Furthermore, a whole range of factors unrelated to the ban had resulted in the current slump experienced by the applicants.


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From Farmers Weekly's 1999 Pig Fair report... British Pig Industry Support Group activists at Pig Fair demonstrate against continued high levels of pigmeat imports which fail to comply with British standards of welfare and which they say threaten their livelihoods. Supermarkets are failing to source all own label pork and bacon to British specification. They were required by the government to do so by January 1, 1999, says BPISG. The group is convinced the Prime Minister has no intention of helping unless forced to do so, and plans to step up its public activities to inform supermarket customers of the difference between UK and European Pig production.

Pig farming is risky... and getting riskier

Press report, 1999

Pig farming has always been a risky business - but the risks are getting bigger, according to industry analyst Dr John Strak. Even the most efficient producers are now under threat, he will tell the People in Pigs '99 conference, at the Driffield Showground, next Wednesday.

In his paper, How to Improve Your Profits at a Stroke, Dr Strak will tell producers how to assess what level of risk they are happy with and he will explain how to deal with increasingly volatile markets.

The keynote address at the conference will be given by Lincolnshire producer and National Pig Association chairman John Godfrey. Other speakers include British Pig Industry Support Group member Richard Longthorp, of Howden, East Yorkshire, Stewart Houston, of Ripon, and BPISG members Tom Danter and Digby Scott.

In spite of the deepening crisis in Britain's pig industry, the show, organised by Pig World magazine, has attracted over 100 exhibitors, making it the largest event exclusively for the pig industry.

In his paper on Creative Confrontation, Mr Scott will report that conflict over labelling is now beginning to taint the supermarkets' image with customers and shareholders.

"The big retailers have noted how controversy over genetically modified organisms has hit Monsanto's shares. They've realised the same thing could happen to them if they don't clean up their act."

Currently, says Mr Scott, shoppers are particularly wary about foreign meat disguised as British following recent reports of sewage in French animal feeds, dioxins in Belgian animal feeds and poor animal welfare conditions in Holland.

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