February heralded a year that unfolded as the most wretched in the living memory of most UK farmers, thanks to foot and mouth. As culled livestock burned and farmers despaired, the then agriculture minister Nick Brown repeatedly declared the epidemic was under control. And, as its spread relentlessly continued, he rejected calls for vaccination and stuck firmly by his slaughter policy. An EU-wide ban on UK pork, beef, lamb and some dairy products followed in March. In an exclusive interview with The Grocer, Brown denied that supermarkets had contributed to the epidemic by squeezing farmers on prices, forcing them to cut corners. As the disease reached Northern Ireland, leading multiples pledged £2m to an IGD-managed fund for farmers and the NFU set up the Supporting Farmers in Crisis fund. By April, overseas consumers were running scared of British food. In May Brown announced a £15.4m recovery package for farmers, including £3m to boost exports. Following June's General Election, Brown made way for Beckett and Lord Whitty became the new food and farming minister. MAFF was renamed DEFRA ­ the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs ­ and Beckett unveiled plans for three inquiries into the foot and mouth crisis. Northern Foods non-executive chairman Lord Haskins was made rural recovery coordinator in July. NFU president Ben Gill worked like a man possessed throughout the year. He met industry representatives in July to unveil the NFU's survival strategy for UK agriculture. He called for an end to wars between supermarkets and producers. The farmer suicide rate was rising and the multiples promised cash to support local growers. Prince Charles said the key catalyst to increasing local sourcing would be buyers. The Commission on the Future of Food and Farming was set up in mid-August, led by former Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Sir Don Curry. Gill accused the media of a "black propaganda campaign" against farmers when the disease was at its peak. {{NEWS }}