At last... some good news

Finally, we have some good news about the Meat Hygiene Service. Not only have MHS bosses and union reps agreed on new terms and conditions to put forward to MHS staff, but UNISON has agreed to ballot its members with a neutral recommendation.

This is a far cry from previous ballots, which saw the union actively encouraging inspectors to reject proposals and vote for strike action. Now we can only hope that inspectors accept the offer. If the majority reject the proposals, however, industrial action seems inevitable.

Meanwhile, there is more good news on exports, with the Hong Kong ban lifted and the latest figures from EBLEX showing a 50% year-on-year rise in beef and lamb exports. The export boom has offered welcome relief for the British industry, but we must guard against complacency.

A big part of the industry's future success will lie with those who represent us, which is why the farming world has been shocked by the sudden departure of farming minister Jane Kennedy. The details of her departure are somewhat hazy - she says she was pushed, the government says she jumped - but she was a popular figurehead for farmers and will be missed. Her successor Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar & Canning Town, is rumoured to be a member of Greenpeace, the environmental lobby group, which this week accused the global beef industry of destroying the Amazon rainforest.

It will be interesting to see how Fitzpatrick's environmental views influence his approach to UK agriculture, and whether he will offer farmers the same support and enthusiasm that Kennedy did during her short term in office.