North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has pledged to carry on fighting for the county's farmers despite losing his position as the head of Defra, the Government's environment, food and rural affairs department.
Mr Paterson, who lost his seat in the Cabinet two weeks ago, said the issues surrounding the control of bovine TB were still high in farmers’ minds and he has strong views on how best to control the spread of the disease.
Speaking at Oswestry’s annual agricultural show on Saturday, Mr Paterson said bovine TB was a subject which was still high on the agenda with farmers he spoke to throughout his constituency.
“The main thing for cattle farmers would be where we’re going with TB,” he said. “I’ve a very clear policy on it that you have to bear down on the disease not only in the cattle but in wildlife. If you do it just in cattle, you kill hundreds if not thousands of cattle and still don’t control the disease.
“It is a national scandal that the future of our cattle industry is under threat as a result of the failure to control bovine TB.
"The first pilot cull of badgers gave hope to our farmers and demonstrated that we are prepared to bear down on the disease in wildlife as well as cattle.”
Mr Paterson said he is also frustrated by European rules which were introduced to protect insects in the UK at the end of last year, which he says is now leading to reduced crop yields for arable farmers.
The European Commission restricted the use of three pesticides for a period of two years after it identified them as being high risk to bees.
But Mr Paterson said as a result of the restrictions farmers are now struggling to produce the amounts of crops they have in previous years.
He said: “They will get dramatically lower yields if they have to use old technology, which may be licenced but will almost certainly do more environmental damage. They will have much better crops if they are allowed to use modern methods of farming.”
And he said he is also keen to see Shropshire’s farmers be able to sell their produce to a wider market.
“We opened up 112 new export markets last year but there is a worry for beef farmers still. There needs to be a better cooperation with suppliers. Improving grain processes as well will actually help livestock farmers.
“These issues are causing a lot of uncertainty among farmers at the moment.”
Crowds flocked to Oswestry Showground on Saturday for the annual agricultural event, with a line-up of cattle, sheep and equine competitions sharing the spotlight with jazz musicians, gymnasts and junior motorbike stunt riders.
It rained, the sun broke through, it poured and finally the sun won out, but the fickle weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the thousands of people who turned out.
Malcolm Roberts, chairman of the show committee, said he was delighted with the turnout of entrants, visitors and trade stands to the one-day show.
“Oswestry has always benefited from good support,” he said. “We had good weather conditions until the day before the show, but we knew the forecast wasn’t good and we do the best we can, but getting towards lunch it was subsiding and people looked as if they were enjoying themselves.
“We’ve had well over 200 entries in the horse classes and 170 cattle entered, including some of the best in the country.
“Horticulture had over 800 entries from potatoes on a plate to the finest arrangements of foliage and flowers. We have some extremely talented ladies and gentlemen entering those classes.”
Taking top billing in the main arena was Neptune Collonges, Shropshire’s 2012 Grand National winner.
The retired racehorse, owned by John Hales from Cosford, led out a new class for this year, the racing horse to riding horse class. Although the grey gelding wasn’t competing in the class, he was still welcomed into the arena by huge cheers from the gathered crowds.
Mr Hales said: “A lot of people put the horses in the field for the rest of their lives, some become hacks for families. We welcome this class now for retired racehorses. We always look for good homes for our horses when they retire, but because Neptune is quite famous he’ll be with us the rest of his life.”
One family pleased to see the racehorse was the Carters from College Road, Oswestry.
Dad Brian, 35, who is a keen racing fan, took his three children Molly, 10, Jack, eight, and Harry, five, to the show, but said Neptune Collonges was the main draw as far as he was concerned.
“He’s a beautiful horse and he made me some money at the National so I wanted to see him and say thank you,” he said.
“The kids have had a great day. We went inside to look at the chickens and rabbits when it rained, and now my youngest wants to know if we can get some hens. The older two had a great time on the funfair.”
There was a great atmosphere among the exhibitors as well, with many taking the chance to catch up with people they hadn’t seen for a while.
Bob Mumford, who was helping to look after Highland cattle from Walton Fold in Much Wenlock, said the atmosphere among the entrants at the showground was like “a big happy family”.
He said: “I started showing cattle in 1966 with Herefords and haven’t stopped since. It’s a good day out at shows like this.
“The camaraderie between all the exhibitors is wonderful. If anything happens someone will help you, and you go and help them if they’ve forgotten something or need a hand. It’s like a happy family.”
Over in the sheep pens the exhibitors were just as relaxed, with many simply enjoying a day out with family.
Monica and John Heather had entered four Texels from the Six Oak Flock, Whixall.
Mrs Heather said: “We didn’t bring as many sheep as usual and we couldn’t bring any lambs this year, but it’s been a good show.”
Entrants arrived from as far afield as the Falkland Islands and New Zealand for the sheep-shearing contest, which this year was a qualifying event for the Welsh national championships. And it drew crowds of people to watch each heat as the shearers faced off against each other to cleanly shear four sheep as quickly as possible. Gwyl Davies, 46, from Sarnau, and his wife Anwen, 41, spent much of the afternoon watching the competition.
Mr Davies said: “I’m always very impressed the way they get the wool off so clean and so quick. I tried it when I was helping my dad on his farm and they never came as tidy as that, even in twice as long.”
Once the sun came out in the afternoon, the village green bandstand provided the central point for people to sit and relax while they listened to Brownfield Byrne Hot 6 Jazz Band and watched displays by the children of the Border Counties School of Gymnastics.
Sheridan the robotic sheepdog proved a hit with visitors on his first visit to the show. The old English sheepdog, which got around the site by pedalling his tricycle, talked to visitors of all ages as he explored the exhibits. His owners and operators Bruce and Brenda Grantham, from Northampton, said they loved to see the look on children’s faces when the mechanical pooch started talking to them.
“I’ve got a microphone and an earpiece so I can stand away from him and still hear what they say to him,” Mr Grantham said. “He’s very popular and people love to come over and meet him”
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson praised the work that had gone into organising the event. “This show is fixed in my diary every year. It’s a great advert for Shropshire,” he said.
“The mood is good and this is a one-day show that works really well.”
* A vintage tractor enthusiast who has travelled the world competing in events was taken seriously ill during Oswestry Show.
Sonny Smith, 81, from Ford, near Shrewsbury, is understood to be in hospital in Stoke.