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It is partly through my training that I know what the NFU is like.I have a degree in planning and economics, specialising in rural issues,and graduated in 1983 at the age of 41.I also served on a Labour party committee drawing up rural policy ready for when they won an election.
The NFU is a supremely skilled lobbying group. Subscriptions are based on acreage which on the face of it is fair but in practice means that large farmers interests are paramount, because they contribute more.They also predominated in the ruling council because they could employ farm managers to run the farm while they are at meetings in London.
There was a cosy relationship between MAFF and the NFU who would negotiate and agree on policy. MAFF refused to meet other farming groups eg Farmers' Union of Wales and the NFU claimed to represent all farmers (it still does) Their project was to have fewer, larger more 'efficient' capital intensive farms and squeeze out family and marginal farms.
I'm dubious about claims that the EU has ordered Britain to carry out this policy. I think it more likely they asked MAFF to write a policy document on the future of farming and this is what they came up with.It is true that the EU strongly influences agric. policy but there is room for manoeuvre within states. France supports its family farms and Ireland pays marginal farmers for looking after the environment, maintaining hedges, walls etc.
The rural committee wanted a food standards agency because the interests of (literal) consumers were not well served by MAFF and also a ministry for rural affairs which would have responsibility for the rural economy generally, as well as agriculture. When it became clear what a devastating effect the FMD policy was having on the rural economy, which did not appear to have been considered by MAFF/NFU it seems this suggestion was hastily taken out of the filing cabinet and DEFRA was born.
I do get angry about the NFU's role in spreading misinformation, aka lies, about vaccination, sowing doubts in the public's mind about vaccinated animals, claiming to speak for all farmers while destroying the livelihoods of many, mostly for no good reason. I think I'm having an attack of the Bryns!
And yet ordinary NFU members go to meetings to socialise, keep up to date, get advice. What reason have they to mistrust what they are told?
My local paper carries a farming column each week, mainly written by the NFU rep. So far he hasn't organised a meeting on the Animal Health Bill - what it means to you, so I wrote to the paper myself and ended by saying for more info. visit warmwell.com. Ben Gill says 60% of his members are on the internet so some of them here might just do that. Of course it could be another one of his lies.....!
It must be a lot of work keeping the site going but I find it so valuable and comforting to know there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way.
Thank you. Best wishes, Julia