FUW meets Plaid Cymru agricultural spokesman to discuss Labour-Plaid co-operation agreement

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) met Plaid Cymru spokesperson on Rural Affairs and Agriculture Cefin Campbell MS to discuss details of the recently published Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru Co-operation Agreement.

It was announced on 22nd November that both parties, subject to support from party members, have agreed to work cooperatively for the next three years on 46 policies where there is a common interest including second homes, tree planting, agricultural pollution, the Welsh language and the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

There were clear distinctions between the aspirations of Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru in their manifestos in the spring, but given the current balance of votes in the Senedd, Labour was willing to negotiate on a range of issues.

The agreement states that a transition period will be introduced as the system of farm payments is reformed so stability payments will continue to be a feature of the Sustainable Farming Scheme during and beyond this Senedd term.

The FUW has consistently argued for the inclusion of stability payments that protect Wales’ family farms in any future scheme, therefore, the commitment is welcomed.

FUW launches paper on payment capping at Royal Welsh Winter Fair

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) launched it’s paper on payment capping in future support schemes at this year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair.

In 2015 the Welsh Government introduced reductions for higher farm payments and an ultimate limit on the amount a farmer could claim through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) - a system known as payment capping.

Also introduced in 2015 was a ‘redistributive payment’ system which reduces payments for farms with larger areas and increases the amount of money small and medium sized farms receive - an approach that benefits the vast majority of Wales’ family farms.

The FUW has supported the capping of direct agricultural payments, after farm employee wages and other factors are taken into account, since 2007, on the grounds that this maximises the amount of money going to typical Welsh family farms and rural communities.

The Welsh Government has refused to commit to maintaining any form of payment cap or redistributive payment system, raising concerns that the future schemes will lead to money being taken away from hard working family farms and given to large landowners and charities - or even people based outside Wales.

Spending review reveals repeat of broken UK Government promise to farmers and rural communities

Relative cuts to Wales' agricultural and rural development funding allocation announced in the latest spending review break the Conservative manifesto pledge not to cut rural funding for the second year running.

The UK budget and spending review announced on 27th October revealed that an average of £300 million a year would be allocated to Wales for agriculture and rural development over the next three financial years.

This is £37 million less than the budget allocated in 2019 - a year in which the Conservative manifesto pledged to "guarantee the current annual [Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)] budget to farmers in every year of the next Parliament.”

The FUW made strong and valid arguments in response to the UK Treasury’s decision last year to adopt a creative interpretation of the manifesto commitment and allocate a budget some £137 million less than had been anticipated, by including unspent EU funds from the 2014-2020 CAP budgetary period in its calculations.

FUW expresses disappointment in response to the TB Eradication Programme announcement

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has again been left frustrated following the statement made by the Minister for Rural Affairs on 16th November regarding a TB Eradication Programme.

The Minister announced a 12 week consultation, ‘A Refreshed TB Eradication Programme’ that outlines future policy proposals by the Welsh Government in tackling the disease in Welsh cattle.

With the incidences of TB increasing in the Low TB Areas of Wales, it is frustrating that the only response the Welsh Government has to tackle this issue is with increasing cattle controls and with greater testing burdens being placed upon hard-working farming families.

There is increasing concern about the mental health and well-being of farmers and this latest statement will do little to alleviate the emotional and financial strains.

It is disappointing to see yet another consultation reviewing payments for cattle compulsorily purchased due to TB. The FUW has made its views on this matter clear; no farmer should be over or under compensated for such cattle.

News in brief November 2021

i) Major survey provides boost for Welsh red meat sector

A major survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by MRQual research on behalf of Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has revealed that Welsh-branded lamb is better-regarded than meat labelled at British.

Twice as many people answered that Welsh lamb (47%) tastes the best as opposed to British lamb (23%), 54% of respondents thought that Wales was the most natural place to rear lamb (as opposed to Britain as a whole - 27%) and 64% believed that Welsh lamb was produced on small family farms as opposed to 43% for British lamb.

ii) Welsh lamb enters Middle East hospitality sector

Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is working on a programme with importers, hotels and restaurants within the Middle East hospitality sector which saw Welsh lamb as a headline sponsor of the Leaders in Food and Beverage Awards.

The amount spent by visitors to the UAE doubled between 2016 and 2019 and work by HCC, Welsh processors and the Welsh Government led to a growth in lamb exports to the Middle East of around 400% between 2018 and 2020.

iii) Five major retailers pledge to halve environmental impact of weekly food shop

Tesco, Sainsbuyr’s, Waitrose, Co-op and Marks & Spencer have agreed to halve the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by 2030.

As part of the pledge, they have agreed to halve the food waste they produce, the environmental impact of the agriculture and seafood in shopper’s baskets, the forests that are cut down to create produce and the amount of global warming that their products cause.

 

Avian Influenza case confirmed in Wales

A case of Avian Influenza H5N1 has been confirmed in a small backyard flock located near Chirk, Wrexham on the 1st of November. A 3km Protection Zone and 10km Restriction Zone are in place around the site where the confirmed cases were found.

For further information regarding the location and measures imposed by the Protection and Restriction zone, please follow the link below where a Declaration and an Interactive Map can be used:

https://gov.wales/avian-influenza-bird-flu-latest-update

The Welsh Government has since declared an all-Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone.

The all-Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone urges all bird keepers to maintain high levels of biosecurity.

Clinical signs of bird flu include a swollen head, blue discolouration of the neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress and diarrhoea amongst other symptoms.

If you suspect a case of Bird flu contact the local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately on 0300 303 8268.

For further information on the measures and restrictions imposed by the all-Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, please follow the link below:

https://gov.wales/avian-influenza-bird-flu

UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2020 Report published

The 2020 UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance 2020 (UK-VARSS 2020) report has recently been published, showing a holding level or modest reductions in antibiotic use across many sectors.

The Responsibly Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance Targets Task Force report published last year outlined three new ambitions, namely; 1) maintaining sizeable reductions already secured, 2) forging ahead with further significant reductions, and 3) for those who have further to go in their antimicrobial usage journey, understanding usage in their sectors.

Since 2014, the VARSS reports have shown how data on antibiotic sales and on-farm use has helped show national trends and formulate actions.

The key highlights of this year’s report include:

Welsh police forces receive training on farm awareness

A total of 21 rural officers from all four Welsh police forces were given vital first-hand experience of farming recently by attending a “Farm Awareness” course at Coleg Sir Gar in Carmarthenshire, the first course of its type ever run in Wales.

Sponsored by the Welsh Government, the day gave Welsh officers the knowledge required to attend farms in the course of their daily duties with the confidence of understanding farming and importantly the dangers of this rural working environment.

The day started off with a session covering the different types of farming in Wales and the real issues that face the industry, from the impact of rural crime to governmental rules and movement licences of livestock.

The officers were then able to experience being around livestock by assisting in the gathering and the counting of sheep and also to understand the dangers that can be presented by working with cattle both indoors and outdoors. Different types of farm machinery were also on the agenda with health and safety covered and how to make farm vehicles safe if required to do so in an emergency, with some officers given the chance to drive tractors and experience first-hand their capabilities.

HCC launches practical guide on sustainable livestock farming

Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has recently launched a practical guide for farmers to make livestock farming in Wales even more sustainable.

The ‘Perfecting the Welsh Way’ document outlines ways in which farmers can reduce their carbon footprint. It is believed that on-farm measures, such as animal breedings and grassland management, could cut emissions from the Welsh sheep sector by 20% and that increasing carbon sequestration in soils and renewable energy generation could have an even bigger impact.

According to independent academic research, Wales is already one of the most sustainable places in the world to produce red meat, with its non-intensive farming based on abundant rainfall and grass growth.

The new document is aimed at helping the industry to improve further, to contribute to achieving the Welsh Government’s target of net zero by 2050, and ensure that consumers are given the choice to buy the most sustainable lamb and beef possible.

A major focus is grassland management. Grazed grassland, which is the large majority of agricultural land in Wales, can act as a carbon sink. Effective management of grassland will ensure both correct nutrition for cattle and sheep, while also helping to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

There is not one ‘silver bullet’ to making the most of Welsh agriculture’s potential to contribute to mitigating climate change, but a range of measures can lead to a substantial sustainability gain.

The ‘Perfecting the Welsh Way’ report can be viewed here: http://meatpromotion.wales/environment

Guidance for overcoming staff shortages by sponsoring a seasonal worker

The UK Government has published guidance documents to those in the horticulture, haulage, butchery and poultry sectors who want to overcome staff shortages through immigrations procedures.

The Seasonal Worker route allows employers in the edible horticulture sector to source workers for up to six months.

The Seasonal Worker route can also be used to sponsor poultry production workers between 11th October 2021 and 31st December 2021, workers undertaking haulage driving involving transportation of food goods between 11th October 2021 and 28th February 2022 and workers undertaking specified pork butchery work who must apply no later than 31st December 2021 and who can stay for up to six months.

This version of the guidance is valid from 1 November 2021: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/workers-and-temporary-workers-guidance-for-sponsors-sponsor-a-seasonal-worker

NZ deal shows UK Government willingness to sacrifice farming and food security

The agreement in principle of a trade deal with New Zealand has shown a willingness by the UK Government to undermine UK farming and food security in return for negligible benefits to the economy.

The UK Government’s own figures show that the deal will generate just £112 million in additional exports for UK firms compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The deal will allow New Zealand to increase their exports of food to the UK, representing a major threat to Welsh and GB farmers as well to UK food security.

In the first year, the deal would allow a 30% increase in the amount of New Zealand lamb that can be imported to the UK duty free (i.e. without tariffs), with this figure rising to 44% after five years, followed by further increases and ultimately the removal of all limits after 15 years.