Trade relations breakdown must be avoided at all costs in NI protocol talks says FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has urged the UK Government to work within the Northern Ireland (NI) protocol and to carefully consider the benefits of the concessions put forward by the European Union - or risk severe adverse impacts for UK businesses from a breakdown in trade relations between the UK and EU.

Following a meeting of the FUW’s Presidential Policy Team (PPT) on 13th October, members discussed the problems caused by the protocol, the EU’s proposals to allay these within the terms of what the UK agreed and signed up to, and the threat for Welsh agriculture and UK businesses of a breakdown in trade relations between the UK and EU.

It was concluded that the most pragmatic way forward was for the UK to consider the significant improvements put forward by the EU in a positive light, and that Welsh and UK businesses already facing major disruption due to issues such as worker shortages should not be placed at greater risk through the UK seeking to renegotiate an international agreement.

Attempts by the UK at a wholesale renegotiation of the protocol and its fundamental principles so soon after agreeing it have already brought the UK into disrepute on the international stage and in recent weeks led to stern warnings by US President Joe Biden.

The protocol, negotiated by the UK and EU in 2019 and finalised in December 2020, is designed to avoid the severe repercussions of the creation of an EU-UK hard border on the Island of Ireland by keeping NI in the EU Single Market and creating an effective GB-EU customs border in the Irish Sea.

FUW discusses tree planting and carbon trading with Minister for Climate Change

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) recently had positive talks with Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, with tree planting and the purchase of Welsh land for the purpose of carbon offsetting by businesses from outside of Wales taking centre stage.

The FUW has received reports from members on almost a weekly basis of whole farms or parcels of land being bought up by individuals and businesses from outside of Wales for the purpose of tree planting in order to invest in the growing carbon market or offset their own emissions rather than seeking to reduce their carbon footprint in the first instance.

The Presidential Policy Team discussed the Union’s policy on carbon trading and was more recently agreed in a meeting of the FUW Council:

‘Whilst it is recognised that carbon credits could potentially become important income for some farms in the future, given:

  1. The sale of carbon credits from Welsh farmland risks undermining the ability of farms, Welsh agriculture or Wales as a whole to become carbon neutral
  2. The concerning rise in the sale of Welsh farmland to individuals and companies from outside Wales in order to create carbon for sale outside Wales or offset their own footprints
  3. The fact that in at least some instances such non-Welsh entities and individuals are being funded by Welsh Government to plant such areas

The Welsh Government and Senedd should take urgent action to tackle this issue through some form of control mechanism, and that while carbon quotas may not be the best way forward it is among a range of measures that should be considered in order to prevent growing adverse impacts for Welsh family farms, Welsh communities and Wales as a whole’

The current method of selling carbon risks undermining the ability of farms, Welsh agriculture or Wales as a whole in becoming carbon neutral if urgent action isn’t taken by the Welsh Government.

FUW Diversification Committee Highlights Housing Emergency

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ (FUW) Diversification Committee has highlighted the need for the Welsh Government to take robust action to protect rural communities from the impacts of second home ownership and other factors that are depleting local housing.

During a FUW Diversification Committee meeting held on Thursday 14th October during which the Welsh Government consultation on local taxes for second homes and self-catering accommodation was discussed, delegates expressed acute concerns regarding the impact second home ownership and similar factors are having on the affordability and availability of homes for local people, and how this is threatening the rural communities of Wales.

Around 60% of residents are currently priced out of the housing market in Gwynedd and around 11% of the county's entire stock is being used as second homes. However, the problem is one that impacts areas across Wales and is continuing to grow.

The massive rise in second home ownership and houses purchased by outside investors as AirBnB type accommodation since the beginning of the pandemic has added to existing problems.

The Committee recognises the importance of tourism and self catering accommodation to the economy, but many coastal and rural villages in Wales are seeing their communities devastated, with serious implications for Wales’ heritage and culture.

In considering the Welsh Government’s consultation, the Committee highlighted a number of moves that the Welsh Government and other authorities should take to stem the impact.

UK food supply chains face major disruption

New Brexit export controls coupled with impacts of the pandemic, veterinary and slaughterhouse worker shortages, the loss of the Chinese market and CO2 shortages has resulted in a backlog of more than 100,000 pigs on UK farms.

The UK Government announced on 15th October that measures such as a private storage aid scheme will enable meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for three to six months and process them at a later date.

They are also allowing up to 800 new temporary pork butcher visas for a period of six months as part of the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is working to identify new domestic and export markets for pork.

Despite the UK Government’s three week support package for the reopening of the CF Industries plant which produces 60% of the UK’s CO2 demand, the impact of the short term closure is already having an impact with the FUW receiving reports of fertiliser prices having increased to beyond £700 per tonne.

It is also understood that the loss of foreign workers has resulted in reductions of staffing levels in processing plants from between 12 and 25% while butcher numbers are down by around 16%.

News in brief October 2021

i) Ireland agrees new trade deal with China

The Republic of Ireland has agreed a new trade deal with China which will allow for the export of sheepmeat and breeding pigs.

China accounts for 38 percent of global sheepmeat imports (365,000 tonnes), although a large amount of this will be from countries which are net exporters of red meat such as New Zealand and Australia.


ii) Carbon neutral potatoes from Wales to be sold in Co-Op

The UK’s first carbon neutral potatoes grown by Puffin Produce in Pembrokeshire will be sold across 200 Co-Op stores.

What are known as Root Zero potatoes are sourced from local farmers and are carbon neutral and grown sustainability. The carbon footprint calculations also include the footprint from the entire supply chain.

Puffin Produce has set a target to reduce the carbon intensity of Root Zero potatoes by 51% by 2030 and its operational emissions by 46% by 2030.


iii) German Agriculture Minister calls for more consistent standards in future trade deals

German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has urged the European Commission that calling for a Green Deal for EU agriculture while not maintaining the same ambition in free trade agreements with third countries will place domestic farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

This is one of the many concerns the FUW and others have raised in regards to the free trade agreements between the UK and Australia and New Zealand.

Water Resources ‘NVZ’ Regulations still apply despite review

The FUW is reminding its members that the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) regulations still apply despite the ongoing Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Senedd Committee inquiry.

The FUW responded to the Committee inquiry with written evidence in September which can be viewed here.

The Welsh Government has also published an Excel Farm Workbook which can be used (although not compulsory) to help with completing the calculations.

As a reminder, the regulations that came into effect on 1st April 2021 are below:

RABI Big Farming Survey reveals alarming statistics

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) has published the results from its Big Farming Survey, the largest ever research project in England and Wales relating to the wellbeing of farming people.

The survey ran from January to March 2021 with the goals to:

  • Understand the wellbeing of a farming generation
  • Understand the health of our farmers and their businesses
  • Gain insights into external impacts and pressures
  • Shape future support and services

While more than 50% of the 15,000 plus survey respondents remain optimistic about the future of their farming businesses, the results found that:

  1. 36% of the farming community are probably or possibly depressed
  2. Over one-half of women (58%) experience mild, moderate or severe anxiety
  3. An average of six factors cause stress across the farming community. The most commonly reported sources of stress are; regulation, compliance and inspection, Covid-19, bad/unpredictable weather, loss of subsidies/future trade deals
  4. Over half (52%) of the farming community experience pain and discomfort, one in four have mobility problems and 21% have problems in undertaking usual tasks due to health issues
  5. 59% of respondents believe their business is viable over the next five years.

These alarming results, which demonstrate the importance of providing support for mental health, will be used by the RABI and other farming mental health charities to help shape future services.

Red Tractor publishes first UK Trust in Food Index

Red Tractor has produced a report on the UK’s first Trust in Food Index which analyses whether British consumers trust the food that they eat.

The report is based on 3,500 responses from adults across the UK and examines the degree to which the public understands the relationship between UK food and food standards.

It has revealed that British customers ‘overwhelmingly’ believe that UK food is safe, traceable and of good quality, with 84 percent of consumers trusting UK produced food. From a global context, 73 and 70 percent of consumers trust food from Ireland and New Zealand respectively, yet only 25 percent trust food from the US and 11 percent from China.

It was also revealed that English consumers generally trust food across the UK equally whereas Welsh and Scottish consumers trust their own food more than from other nations.

The final report can be found here: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/HL_UKTIFI_landscape_pr13_final.pdf

New ELISA test available for diagnosing sheep scab

Moredun Research Institute, along with the Stoc+ project and the Wales Veterinary Science Centre (WVSC) has developed a new sheep scab ELISA test which is now available via the WVSC.

Stoc+ is a project led by Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) aimed towards working with farmers and vets to promote proactive flock and herd health management. Of the sheep farms taking part in the project, 24 have identified sheep scab as one of their animal health priorities.

Sheep scab is prevalent in around a quarter of Welsh sheep flocks and costs the industry around £12 million every year.

The FUW worked with the Sheep Scab Industry Group to submit an industry-led sheep scab report to Welsh Government in 2018 which recognised the need for coordinated treatment across contiguous premises and outlined a sheep scab control programme which would increase the likelihood of neighbouring farms working together to eradicate scab through a more holistic and workable approach.

Despite a free pilot scheme for the testing of skin scrape samples, the industry is yet to receive the promised £5.1 million for an eradication programme from more than three years ago.

GWCT survey on the control of magpies in Wales

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) are collecting data on the extent and range of magpie control in Wales, with the intention to challenge NRW’s consideration that magpie may not be suitable for inclusion on general licences as indicated in their current consultation - ‘NRW’s approach to regulating the shooting and trapping of wild birds and the destruction of eggs and nests’.

All data will be anonymised.

The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/magpie-control

Expression of Interest Window Dates October 2021

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Farming Connect What’s On

As a result of the pandemic, Farming Connect has taken the decision to postpone all open events and one-to-many events until further notice. They are conducting a number of activities digitally or over the phone where possible.

More information can be found here:
https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/whats-on

 
Farming Connect ICT Programme  Farming Connect is now offering ICT training courses for beginners and intermediate learners.

One-to-one sessions and online workshops are also available on integrating ICT technology into your farm business

To book, please contact Lantra on 01982 552646 or Mae'r cyfeiriad e-bost hwn wedi'i warchod rhag robotiaid sbam. Rhaid i chi alluogi JavaScript i'w weld.

Further information can be found here.
 

Farming Connect Training Application Window

The current Farming Connect training application window will close on 29th October 2021.

Those registering for the first time in order to apply for a funded training course or that need to update their account details, please contact Farming Connect before 17:00 25th October 2021.

More information will be available shortly on the Farming Connect website: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/

29th October 2021