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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.
Fighting fund launched in bid to bring Minister to court
By Jo Makel, Yorkshire Post
Crisis-hit pig farmers have set up a £100,000 fighting fund for a legal battle against the Government, in a desperate attempt to save the industry from collapse.
The farmers, who claim they have been unfairly discriminated against and are owed up to £80m a year in compensation, say court action is their only hope.
The legal challenge, put forward by the British Pig Industry Support Group has backing across the industry.
Fundraising initiatives include a voluntary two pence-per-pig levy which would be collected from farmers by slaughterers, who would then match the sums raised.
The money will initially fund an application in the fight to prove that pig farmers have been illegally discriminated against to bring Agriculture Minister Nick Brown before a judicial review.
The case is being prepared by European law specialists, and action organiser Meryl Ward said last night that the industry had a strong case.
She told the Yorkshire Post: "Although litigation is expensive, we feel we'll have no problem raising the finance. Really, it's the only alternative we have left.
"This isn't just about us making a smaller profit margin than our European counterparts; we're being forced out of business.
"There are things the Government could have done which it hasn't done, and in some quarters there's still talk that this is a situation of our own making. For all the Minister's tea and sympathy, he hasn't listened very hard."
As highlighted by the Yorkshire Post's Save Our Farmers campaign, pig farmers, say they are facing their worst crisis in 50 years.
Prices have slumped well below the cost of production in the last 18 months, losing the industry an estimated £4m a week.
The farmers blame unfair costs, imposed on them to improve animal welfare and because of the BSE crisis.
'I could name you five producers who have gone bankrupt this week alone' — John Rowbottom
They are outraged that retailers and caterers still get meat from the Continent which has not been produced to the same welfare standards as that in this country.
And, having been left out of both of the Government's agriculture aid packages, they say they simply do not believe Mr Brown's claim that he cannot give state aid to the pig industry.
Although Mr Brown announced new labelling guidelines last month to prevent imported meat, processed in Britain, ending up with a British label, Mrs Ward said it was too little too late.
Meanwhile, Tory agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo pledged to press the Government over clear labelling for foreign pork products when he visited East Yorkshire at the weekend.
He told pig farmers in Holme-Upon-Spalding Moor there was no apparent reason to stop the Government acting over labelling now that the European Commission had bowed to French demands over the labelling of British beef.
"It seems that now the European Commissioners have approved the requirement for British beef to be labelled, there's no reason why it shouldn't apply to pork," he said. "It 's just not acceptable for Nick Brown to say he's looking at this; the industry needs action now, not next year."
But even if swift action is taken on labelling, farmers say it will not prevent dozens of them going bust every week.
John Rowbottom, who has a 12,000-pig unit near York, said: "I could give five names of people who've gone into voluntary liquidation or bankrupt this week alone."
Nick White and Richard Longthorp with Winnie, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.
British Pig Industry
By Robert Benson, Yorkshire Post
Pig farmers, who have made huge financial losses over the last two-and-a-half years, are to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on June 7, 2000, at the start of their industry's Judicial Review in an attempt to gain compensation from the Government.
The Government is facing a High Court challenge lasting two days over allegations that it is guilty of discrimination against the pig industry because of its failure to provide aid following the BSE crisis.
The case is coming to court earlier than expected because the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court has dispensed with submissions and granted an "expedited" — fast track — hearing.
The farmers are seeking £200m in compensation and more than 500 plan to gather outside the court to demonstrate to Agriculture Minister Nick Brown the strength of feeling in the industry over Government policy.
They say that British legislation has put them at an unfair disadvantage and that it is impossible for the industry to ·survive under current conditions.
The British Pig Industry Support Group (BPISG) in its submission will claim that the industry requires aid to deal with continuing losses incurred' as a result of the BSE crisis which the European Commission has accepted is an exceptional occurrence justifying state aid.
The Government applied for, and was granted, state aid approval for British beef and sheep farmers who as a result received assistance with the cost of BSE measures.
But pig farmers who have never been directly involved in the BSE crisis are having to meet the cost of precautionary measures themselves.
The costs — which mainly involves offal disposal — amount to over £5 per pig, reducing pigmeat's competitiveness compared with beef and lamb and making British pigmeat uncompetitive in Europe.
The BPISG claims the Minister is under a duty to grant aid to the pig industry to avoid continuing discrimination.
BPISG chairman Matthew Atkin, who farms at Everingham, near York, said the group had raised nearly £100,000 towards its costs via cooperative fimd-raising.
Pig farmers blockade Felixstowe docks
By Peter Crichton
More than 250 angry farmers blockaded Felixstowe docks last night, claiming that some Belgian pigmeat imports may be contaminated with dioxin.
Farmers from across EastAnglia converged on the port and succeeded in closing it for more than two hours.
The farmers were protesting against pigmeat imports which may have been fed on animal feed contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.
Their action caused huge traffic tailbacks and caused major disruption to the country's major container terminal.
The port blockade was organised by the grass-roots farmers organisation called the British Pig Industry Support Group.
Pig farmer Ian Campbell, the BPISG's East Anglia chairman, said the purpose of the protest was to draw attention to the food safety issues raised by pigmeat imports.
Mr Campbell claimed the Belgian health minister had admitted there were no controls whatsoever on the raw materials used in animal feed.
British pig farmers are expected to bring further pressure on domestic retailers and caterers to avoid all imported pigmeat that does not match United Kingdom standards.
The BPISG is calling on agriculture minister Nick Brown to ban all food imports not produced to the high standards in place in the United Kingdom.
However, it is likely that any such move by Whitehall would be challenged by other European countries at the highest level in Brussels.
'Few people today have any direct contact with farm animals. Yet many have strong views about how they should be treated and feel qualified to dictate to those who have their daily care and management.
'It is an irony that organisations that deal in practical animal welfare and try to eliminate suffering, such as the Humane Slaughter Association, have difficulty raising funds for their work, while organisations which spend vast sums on sensational advertising seem to have money to spare.
'But those who shout the loudest are not necessarily the best friends of the animals themselves.'
Before we called her Winnie...
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Yorkshire Post report
Lawyers acting on behalf of Britain's beleaguered pig farmers are to proceed in an attempt to haul Minister of Agriculture Nick Brown before a judicial review to prove that the industry has been illegally discriminated against by the Government.
The move follows the failure of the Minister to reply "positively" before last Friday's deadline to a letter from the lawyers asking him to reconsider granting aid to the crisis hit industry.
If successful, pig farmers say they will ultimately seek compensation from the Government.
The farmers argue that the industry is owed £80m a year in compensation for ongoing BSE costs which have been unfairly stacked on them, even though pigs have at no time been implicated in the scare.
The European Commission has recognised that the BSE crisis is an "exceptional occurrence", justifying state aid. Such aid has been granted to the beef and sheep industries on that basis.
The lawyers acting on behalf of the British Pig Industry Support Group claim the Minister is under a duty to provide the pig industry with aid in order to avoid continuing discriminatory treatment of the three meat industries.
The pig industry has been in crisis for almost two years, mainly as a result of European-wide over-production and the strength of sterling.
As highlighted by the Yorkshlre Post's Save Our Farmers Campaign, this has led to supermarkets and caterers purchasing cheap imported pigmeat from the Continent which has not been produced to the same high welfare standards forced on British farmers.
Industry losses to date have reached £340m and are rising at £4m a week.
A leading light in the National Pig Association, John Rowbottom, of Melbourne, near York, said yesterday: "It is no great surprise to me that the Minister has not replied favourably saying he has any intention of wanting to help the industry. But this was a great opportunity for him to contact us with an offer to have a dialogue."
Pig farmers' immediate hopes now rest on a face·to-face meeting next week between top officials of the National Pig Association and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who announced last week that he was prepared to sit down with industry leaders in a structured way to try to sort out the problems. It is not known whether Mr Brown will be in attendance.
Mr Rowbottom said: "We intend to make Mr Blair fully aware of the damage being done to the industry and suggest what can be done towards restructuring it."
|BPISG in East Anglia|