It may seem that the NPA only ever have depressing news to share (and it’s true that a lot of what we have to immerse ourselves in is pretty grim), but I actually believe that when looking back over 2019, there is much to be thankful for.
Pig price is still going in the right direction (albeit too slowly for many), feed prices dropped, we have the most promising export market we have ever had and we don’t have any notifiable diseases!
I have rapidly gained a reputation within Defra for being that crazy woman who relentlessly badgers everyone to do more on African swine fever (ASF), but I am really starting to sense a shift in awareness and I know that the people that matter really are taking the threat seriously.
I’m not going to take that as my cue to go and seek out my next big crusade, as there is still much to be done, but it does mean that I feel slightly less nervous than I did a few months ago.
Team NPA have been working like Trojans to make sure that we are in the best possible position if we do end up dealing with an outbreak. Although with only five of us, it will be absolutely critical to ensure we manage our time properly so we can do our best to keep members, the media, the public and all other bodies informed and supported and we’ve got a plan for how we will do all that in place now.
As usual, however, there are many irons in the fire in addition to ASF preparation, but, unlike some issues where everything is slow burn and takes years of dogged determination to pay off, there have been some wins recently too.
We saw excellent support from members in helping us highlight our concerns to MPs and Defra Ministers about the mooted ban on farrowing crates, to the extent that it wasn’t even mentioned in the Tory party manifesto.
Although we know full well the pressure won’t go away, it did feel good knowing that our concerted efforts had paid off this time and allowed us more breathing space to collect that crucial evidence we will need.
We also had a good response when members wrote to their MPs about the proposed lack of equivalence on tariffs, although, clearly, the election has now overtaken that discussion for now (don’t forget to send our manifesto to all of your candidates too!).
A late but significant win for us this year was helping the police take some firm action to clamp down on the vegan activism that has been plaguing farms. Arrests have been made and the legal process is now in train. We are limited to what we can say at this stage, but we do firmly hope that an important message has been sent out and we have been so impressed with how proactive and committed the police have been. It’s great to finally be taken seriously on this issue.
It was also lovely to end the year seeing the various awards presented, reminding me what a proactive and positive bunch of people we have out there, who, despite being battered all the time in the media for not caring about animal welfare and killing the planet, are determined to show what an important contribution UK pig farming can actually make and prove all those negative Nellies wrong.
We were very proud to see our chairman Richard Lister receive the David Black Award for his leadership on antibiotic reduction, too.
So I end the year, full of cold and fed up of the incessant mud and rain, but hopeful that next year will be a good one. Yes it may well be challenging, but by working together, sharing information and getting involved, it’s surprising what can be achieved!
Happy Christmas all!