September 2014: Get ready for the hustings

While many of you are hopefully raking in a bumper harvest, we’ve been using the time when most of Brussels and half of DEFRA seems to be on holiday to plan ahead for the autumn. We’ve started our election planning, and although that might seem a long way off (it’s not until February next year), we’ll be opening the doors for nominations in October, so there’s not long to go really.

The NPA has always been blessed with really strong and supportive producers and allied industry members to fill the roles on our Producer Group and Allied Industry Group committees, and many have stood for re-election in the past to continue their support.

This time, however, many of those stalwarts are standing down, and although we’ll seriously feel their absence, this does give a good opportunity for us to have some fresh input into our policy making. So, if you’re thinking about standing for either group, but aren’t sure, do please give me a call.

You might think that the NPA staff are just a bunch of bossy, passionate, pig-obsessed ladies who like to get their own way (and you wouldn’t be far wrong), but all of our efforts would be in vain without the support and guidance from our elected committees.

Planning for the autumn NPA regional meetings has also begun and we’re carrying on with the theme of the summer, which has largely been focused on doing everything we can to keep PEDv and Afrcan swine fever as far away from our shores as possible. So, we’ll be looking at biosecurity and where it has worked, and what the value has been to those who have taken the time to do things differently.

Collectively, the industry is busy preparing protocols for all stages of the production chain, from feed lorries to abattoirs. But the tricky part is going to be encouraging people to see the benefit of following them, especially in pig-dense areas where your success is largely dependent on the chap down the road.

Discussions on antibiotics have been on the up again this month, with the Today programme interviewing Richard Longthorp for a piece.

While I agree that we need to engage on this issue as more and more questions are being raised (notably by pressure groups, but decision makers are listening to them), we really need to get a good understanding ourselves of what we use and why, otherwise we’ve no hope of defending our position.

I certainly don’t want to end up with the ridiculous and meaningless reduction targets that other EU member states have brought in, but I agree that we need to be able to robustly respond to the challenges.

It may well be yet another annoyance, but getting more information about on-farm use of antibiotics is going to become crucial in order to help us do that. I’m just glad that we have such a well-run and respected organisation like the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance to collectively fall in behind. At least then we’re all relaying the same message – as little as possible, but as much as necessary!

> Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: www.npa-uk.org.uk

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