Pig producers in East Anglia are gearing up for court action in a last-ditch effort to stop a new biomass plant in the area, which they claim will make straw unaffordable and threaten their livelihoods.
The producers say they are prepared to press for a judicial review if the plant, in Mendlesham, Suffolk, is given the green light by planners later this month, and have launched a fundraising drive to cover their legal fees.
They argue the plant, which will burn 240,000 tonnes of straw to generate energy, would increase competition for straw and lead to a spike in prices, making it prohibitively expensive for farmers to buy bedding for their pigs.
One Suffolk farmer, Jimmy Butler, said his production costs could rise by as much as £4 per pig if the plant were built. He added he was already set to spend an extra £70,000 on straw this year because of unusually high straw prices following shortages last year, and said he feared the plant could make higher prices permanent. “If the application is successful, the price at which you could be sourcing straw would be at that level every year,” he said.
But the company behind the plant - Eco2 - said it would not compete for straw with pig producers .”The success of a straw-fired power station depends on expanding the supply of straw, not competing with existing demand,” it said. “We offer long-term contracts for straw that offer an opportunity for others in the agricultural community to enter the straw supply market or underpin their existing supply businesses with a stable demand.”
A group of producers is currently seeking to raise £2,600 to pay for legal fees to fight the application and to build funds for a judicial review. The National Pig Association has agreed to make up any shortfall in funding.