National Farmers Union: Making Government Policy Since 1947
Many people have heard of the National Farmers Union, but how many of us are aware of the power the National Farmers Union has to make legislation, or determine prices. In a shocking discovery, it appears that not only does the National Farmers Union have these powers, but they have been made statutory.
As has been widely reported, the planned badger cull, a government initiative in response to the alleged rise in Bovine TB in cattle, was postponed. What is most interesting about the reports is that they highlighted the fact that the decision did not come from DEFRA, but did in fact come from the National Farmers Union, who claim to be a benign organisation that is simply a voice for farmers; not affiliated with any political party.
It is clear from the rest of the article that the NFU actually has immense political power - yet it is a minority group ( little more than 15% of farmers are actually members) and it is not democratically elected.
9 Jan 2017, 4:35 PM
The NFU - an English agribusiness lobby group NOT a union for the majority of farmers.
Soon after Ethical Consumer began campaigning against the badger cull, it became clear how central the National Farmers' Union (NFU) was to pushing the current cull forward. One of the striking things about the NFU is the degree to which it appears unconcerned about either scientific evidence or the opinions of the general public.
Modern consumer-facing businesses, like most UK supermarkets and indeed many industry bodies, at least pretend to care about environmental and social issues. Not so the NFU, which appears to view the general public with disdain. The EC wanted to try to understand why this was, and so began researching it in 2015.
It is freely available to download as a PDF (150 pages). The core of our report is broken down into four sections:
Economic Lobbying – undermining the smaller farmer Environmental Lobbying – unconcerned about sustainability Animal interventions – keeping protection to a minimum Social Lobbying – passing costs on to the rest of us.
It is clear from our research that DEFRA's consultations with the NFU outnumber those for all other organisations. As one expert pointed out in our interviews:
"Government shouldn’t only talk to the NFU and think they’ve heard the voice of farmers – the blame lies with the Government as much as the NFU." 
No doubt DEFRA will need reminding that, with the NFU, it is only possible currently to get the perspective of an English Agribusiness Lobby Group – a group that currently seeks to pass costs on to the rest of society by undermining protection for other interests. Reminding DEFRA of this fact is one purpose of the report.
Read the damming new report free of charge at the Ethical Consumer website. The report was launched on 5 January 2017 at the Oxford Real Farming Conference.
The President of the National Farmers Union has told Farming Today that the decision not to communicate with the media during last year's pilot badger cull was down to a decision from the highest level of government. The pilot cull took place in Somerset and Gloucestershire as part of the government's strategy to tackle bovine TB. This was told to Farming Today's reporter, Anna Jones, during a session at the Pig and Poultry Fair in Stoneleigh, looking at how farmers should be more open with the media. Defra say there is no truth in this.
Info from www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0435c7s
So I wonder who is telling the truth?
9 Dec 2013, 5:34 PM
Although it claims to be the voice for the entire English farming community, the NFU counts a meager 55,000 as members -- 18% of the 307,000-strong national agricultural workforce.
Info from: www.eenews.net/stories/1059991389
24 Sep 2013, 8:20 PM
Police accused of bias over culling of badgers reports the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/24/police-accused-bias-culling-badgers).
Officer 'threatened to pass protester data to farmers' while civil rights lawyers call tactic 'highly questionable'
Officers policing the controversial badger culls in England have been accused of "highly questionable" actions by civil liberties lawyers, after they told protesters their personal details would be passed to the National Farmers' Union and handed out NFU-produced leaflets about the union's civil injunction.
Gwendolen Morgan, a solicitor at Bindmans, said: "The police's actions here appear highly questionable. The passing of personal information to a private body, without any apparent legal basis, is a serious concern. Since when did the police become the enforcers of the NFU's civil injunction?"
In a video filmed last Thursday in Gloucestershire passed to the Guardian, a police officer tells a protester: "Because you have obviously been in the vehicle whilst the alleged offences happened. OK, your details will be passed to the National Farmers' Union, and it is possible you may now be subject to the civil injunction they have taken out … but that will be up to the National Farmers' Union as to whether they wish to put that through court."
The protester told the Guardian: "The police say they are being independent but this looks like they are acting as a private security firm for the NFU." He was not arrested and those arrested on that night have now been released without charge.
Officers have also been giving protesters NFU-produced leaflets that state a breach of the civil injunction may lead to "summary arrest without warrant" and that "you are hereby put on notice of the injunction". In an earlier incident recorded on 6 September, an officer is asked why some protesters are being detained. He replied: "The NFU are coming down to give them an official warning because they committed aggravated trespass."
Morgan said: "There are major civil liberties issues at play. If the police are exercising their powers to satisfy a private interest group, that would be very improper and very concerning to the majority of peaceful citizens concerned about the cull. It seems like the police are going beyond their powers and doing more than is permitted."
A spokesman for Gloucestershire police said: "The officer in this case should have stressed that we can pass information onto the NFU, rather than will. As the high court issued the injunction and the NFU would not be able to enforce it without details of possible breaches, we believe in certain circumstances there is a pressing social need to disclose information." The police also said their communication had been "unclear" regarding the 6 September incident and said the NFU have no power to issue official warnings.
Regarding the distribution of NFU legal leaflets, the spokesman said: "To help those who do wish to protest we feel it is important they are aware of the injunction so that they can ensure any action they do take is legal. Therefore protestors have been issued with an explanation of the injunction."
The NFU's relationship with the government is also causing controversy, after the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) refused to disclose information on the cull on the grounds that communications with the NFU constituted "internal communications". The Information Commissioner has ruled against Defra's refusal, but the department is appealing the decision and on Thursday, Morgan, who acts for the Badger Trust, filed new legal documents challenging Defra's appeal.
"If Defra were to succeed in their use of the 'internal communications' exemption, this would be a very worrying development for democratic decision-making," said Morgan, adding that it would set a precedent of secrecy for any lobbyists' communication with government. "The Badger Trust is going above and beyond the call of duty and taking on the wider case on behalf of all those organisations who campaign for transparency in decision-making."
8 Jul 2013, 12:39 PM
In an email today JK draws our attention to George Monbiot who slams the NFU in the Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2013/jul/08/national-farmers-union-public)- 'The National Farmers' Union secures so much public cash yet gives nothing back.'
'The NFU's grip on agricultural policy helps enrich millionaire landowners while destroying biodiversity, polluting water and wiping out pollinators.'
He then goes on to list many examples.
23 Jun 2013, 7:37 PM
Farmers who are not NFU members have sent this (email dated 20/6/13)
Question: How is it that the National Farmers Union can operate outside of the constraints placed on all other unions and, despite being unaccountable to the electorate, clearly has undue influence on government policy?
Union rules, especially the need for private ballots, were brought in to protect union members from being manipulated by union leaders to achieve their own ends.
The NFU has railroaded the badger cull policy through without a private ballot of union members.
When Adam Quinney, vice-president of the NFU was asked on Twitter if they had balloted their members on the subject the badger cull, he replied "no, policy is formed through discussion with elected member delegates and members in forums" - https://twitter.com/ACQuinney/status/334779416901210112 .
This is unacceptable especially from a body which infers by it's public statements that all farmers countrywide support the badger cull and on whose word the current Defra Ministers are acting, seemingly, without question.
It is also bad practice that you have to be a member of the NFU before you can download the NFU's Constitution & Rules.
The NFU clearly has no mandate to speak on behalf of the farming industry as a whole.
Their membership (55,000) www.nfuonline.com only represents 18% of the agricultural workforce in England (307,000) - Defra - Structure of the agricultural industry - England .
The NFU is not accountable to the electorate and yet the badger cull demonstrates that they have undue influence over govt policy which is completely unacceptable in a democracy.
The NFU's ability to 'fast-track' it's policies through government ministers, without being accountable to the electorate, opens the door to infiltration by those with vested interests, such as the hunting lobby, exposing a dangerous loophole which must be stopped.
6 Jun 2013, 12:51 PM
Reading through the EFRA report (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenvfru/258/258.pdf) and seeing the criticisms re delays in process or the implementation of a vaccine for cattle I wonder why the NFU has been so quiet in this respect? In view of the considerable political influence the NFU clearly has one wonders why this powerful lobby, purporting to represent farmers who are sick and tired of all the skin testing, has done very little expedite the procedures necessary re cattle vaccination, including trials - or is this a deliberate attempt to keep the focus on the badger? Farmers tell me there are too many badgers - they dig up fields, eat crops, have to be kept out of buildings ... what better way to get rid of this protected species - cull in the name of disease.
4 Jun 2013, 5:17 PM
This is from a farmer in an email today:
'The NFU are not answerable to the electorate and yet they have undue influence over govt policy which is unacceptable in a democracy.'
'We are cattle farmers who are opposed to the badger cull. We are very concerned that the NFU purports to represent the entire farming industry on this issue when their membership (55,000) only represents 18% of the agricultural workforce in England (307,000) - Defra - Structure of the agricultural industry - England.'
'In addition, Adam Quinney, vice-president of the NFU, has recently confirmed on Twitter that the NFU have not even balloted their meagre membership on the subject of the badger cull - https://twitter.com/ACQuinney/status/334779416901210112 Defra's Animal Health & Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) held a consultation for farmers/stakeholders and the published reports from these events show no concensus for a badger cull. They also show that farmers are concerned about the indiscriminate shooting of large numbers of badgers without first indentifying those that are infected and that there was far greater support amongst participants for vaccination of both badgers and cattle rather than a badger cull.'
'It seems that the AHWBE has still to make their recommendations to Defra based on these consultations but the current Defra ministers are continuing to elbow their way through regardless. http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahwbe/work/bovinetb/'
'We have repeatedly written to David Heath, Lib Dem Agri Minister, asking him to meet with us and other farmers who oppose the cull but he has repeatedly said he does not have the time. Yet we see from this story in the Somerset Standard that he can find the time to meet up with a local shoot.'
'We feel that farmers in general are being inaccurately represented on this issue and would question how it is that the NFU can influence government policy in this way without having to provide incontrovertible proof that they have the mandate to do so?'