Welsh Government launches Controlled Environment Agriculture project

The Welsh Government has recently launched a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) project with aims to increase the production of food in Wales which uses new technology in such a way that it has a positive contribution towards tackling climate change.

The project will support food businesses to use systems such as hydroponics, aeroponics and vertical farming where growing conditions such as water and light are controlled to maintain optimal crop development.

It will also contribute to the circular economy through the use of renewable energy.

While fruit and crops are difficult to grow in Wales and the land area appropriate for such use is limited, this project will enable producers to increase their output through means that contribute to mitigating climate change.

However, it must be noted that this can only be considered as one tool in the box for maintaining and increasing food production in Wales, contributing to the mitigation of climate change and ensuring that food security is maintained.

BEIS Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has recently announced that £4 million of the £1 billion net zero innovation fund will be used to support organisations to increase the production of biomass feedstocks in the UK.

A total of 24 projects will receive funding of up to £200,000 each to increase the production of biomass for the generation of green energy, an initiative the UK Government recognises to be part of the answer for tackling climate change.

Biomass materials such as grasses, hemp, timber waste and seaweed can also be used to create chemicals and bio-plastics.

Aberystwyth University has received £160,000 for its Miscanspeed Project which is looking at ways to improve the breeding of high-yielding, resilient Miscanthus or Elephant Grass that are well-suited for biomass production in the UK.

It is hoped that this strategy will reduce the demand for imported biomass products and that the 24 projects will support rural economies and jobs.

Expression of Interest Window Dates September 2021

Scheme Summary Window Close
Farm Business Grant

A new Farm Business Grant EOI window will open on 1st September 2021 with a budget of £2 million from remaining RDP funds.

Farmers will be able to receive support to invest in new technology and equipment to improve the farm performance.

Applicants are being asked to ensure that the items are still available to purchase within 120 days if a contract offer is made. If they are not, contact RPW to discuss the issue before accepting the contract.

All items will need to be purchased by the end of March 2022.

Further information can be found here: https://gov.wales/farm-business-grant

1st October 2021
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:

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 next Farming Connect training application window will open on 6th September and 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

Governments announce stricter animal movements and ban on live exports

The UK and Welsh Governments announced on 18th August that animal movement rules would be tightened up significantly, despite standards in other countries being far lower than what is already required in the UK. The announcement also confirmed that the new proposals would be introduced alongside a ban on live animal exports destined for slaughter.

This comes weeks after the UK agreed a trade deal in principle with Australia that will allow the importation of vast volumes of food produced from animals that are moved in conditions that would already be completely illegal in the UK.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards,” however, the UK Government chose not to enshrine those standards in the Agriculture Act 2020, nor in the recent Australia trade deal negotiations which agreed to massively increase tariff free access for Australian beef and lamb with negligible guarantees on welfare standards.

Nearly half of Australia's cattle and sheep live exports travel over 9000 miles by sea under far lower welfare standards than those required in the UK.

Merits and drawbacks of carbon trading quotas to be discussed by FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) is set to discuss the merits and drawbacks of limiting the amount of carbon credits that can be sold from Welsh land, carbon trading quotas and other approaches that might be applied in Wales.

During a recent meeting of the FUW Land Use and Parliamentary Committee, members expressed extreme concern that a large proportion of the carbon locked and sequestered in Welsh land could be sold to other countries and companies outside Wales, undermining the ability of Welsh agriculture or even Wales as a whole to become carbon neutral.

Delegates also highlighted ongoing concerns that Welsh farms are being purchased by companies from outside Wales in order to cash in on Wales’ carbon. Such concerns were recently reflected in a BBC report which revealed that twelve farms had been bought in mid Wales by companies outside of the country which aimed to largely plant trees on the land.

The committee agreed that a quota system should be introduced to reduce this risk, and it was agreed at a subsequent meeting of the FUW’s Presidential Policy Team that the pros and cons of such limits should be the subject of detailed discussion by all FUW Committee Chairmen and the Presidential Team.

FUW Animal Health & Welfare Committee responds to FAWL Standards Consultation

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) Animal Health & Welfare Committee held an emergency meeting on 28th July 2021 to discuss and form a response to the Farm Assured Welsh Livestock (FAWL) 2021 Standards consultation.

The consultation proposed the compulsory recording of antibiotic use data by the vet via an online calculator along with stricter environmental standards to name just a few.

The FUW made it clear that four weeks during one of the busiest times in the farming calendar was far from enough time for its twelve County Executive Committees to discuss the proposals and form a full, democratic response, and therefore requested for the deadline to be extended.

The majority of Welsh lamb and beef producers are FAWL assured and while it may be a voluntary scheme for many, it is in fact compulsory for the majority of dairy farmers’ milk contracts therefore the importance of changes to such standards must not be taken lightly.

FUW highlights importance of small abattoirs in response to FSA consultation

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has highlighted the importance of supporting small and medium sized abattoirs in response to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) stakeholder consultation on early proposals for a future delivery model.

The consultation set out proposals on how the future delivery model should move away from the current standardised approach and towards a targeted and modernised way of working to improve overall compliance and the distribution of resources.

The FUW supported proposals on a tailored presence for Food Business Operators (FBOs) with varying levels of compliance, different rules for those supplying the domestic and/or export markets and the collection of more accurate data, however, concerns remained in regards to how such changes could affect food safety and increase costs for small and medium FBOs.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) report recently revealed that there were 30,000 abattoirs in the UK in 1930 but in 2017, there were just 249, 56 of which were small red meat abattoirs.

British Wool launches traceable wool scheme

In an attempt to offer a premium payment for UK wool producers, British Wool has recently launched an initiative which aims to trace wool from the farm gate through to the end product.

The closure of global wool markets due to the Covid-19 pandemic left British Wool with around 7 million kilograms (kgs) of unsold stock from a total 2019/20 clip of 27 million kgs. This meant that producers were paid an average of 17 pence per kg for the 2019/20 season clip, around 70% lower than the payment received in 2019.

While British Wool has managed to clear the stockpile from last year and prices have therefore started to recover, prices aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022.

The new traceable wool scheme will allow consumers to understand the process wool must go through before reaching the shelf but also generate a premium price for eligible producers and aid the recovery of wool prices following the Covid-19 pandemic.

News in brief August 2021

i) Environment Agency publish new guidance on organic manure in England

In an attempt to allow farmers in England more time to adjust to the Farming Rules for Water being introduced in 2022, the Environment Agency has published its Regulatory Position Statement (PRS) 252 which sets out strict guidelines for the spreading of organic manure.

While farmers will be allowed to spread organic manure beyond the immediate needs of the crop but not exceeding the needs for the entire crop cycle, they will be required to demonstrate that spreading is the only option available for disposal.

From 1st March 2022, these exemptions will expire and the spreading of manure will be banned if it exceeds the crop needs or risks serious water pollution.

ii) New Woodland Creation Scheme in England untrusted by farmers

The new England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) has received around £16 million in funding to encourage farmers and land managers to plant more trees and meet the UK Government targets.

However, a poll carried out by The Farming Forum revealed that 59% of respondents would not trust any Government tree planting scheme. The scheme, it seems, aims to create large forestry plantations without taking into account changes in land value, restrictions on reverting land back to grassland or other tree planting initiatives such as agroforestry.

iii) Gower Salt Marsh Lamb receives GI status

Gower Salt Marsh Lamb has become the first UK food product to receive protected status through the new Geographical Indication (GI) scheme which was introduced after the end of the Brexit Transition Period.

Recognition as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product will allow producers of lamb on the Gower Peninsula to demonstrate and protect traditional agricultural practices and unique characteristics of the meat.

There are now a total of 17 GI protected products in Wales.

Update on BPS Entitlement values and Glastir Contracts

The BPS entitlement value for 2021 is £116.86 which appears to be around 4% (£5.30) less than the combined total of the BPS and greening payment values for 2020 which was £122.16.

Following previous assurances that the BPS budget for 2021 would provide the same level of direct payments to farmers in 2021, as was provided in 2020, the FUW requested clarification from RPW as to why the entitlement value is lower than expected.

In response, RPW has clarified that "In previous years the Greening payment allocated to each eligible claimant was calculated based on the activated entitlements in a particular scheme year. For 2021 the previous Greening budget has been incorporated in full into the BPS entitlement budget, however, the value of the Greening budget has currently been distributed across all entitlements held in our register and not just those that have been activated.”

“Prior to making BPS 2021 payments we will take account of all the entitlements held that are not claimed, together with the value of unclaimed National Reserve and will increase the value of the entitlements activated. BPS 2021 claimants will then see their entitlement value increase and a BPS payment in line with what was received for 2020."

These figures do not include the redistributive payment which is paid on the first 54 hectares of any claim.

We understand that the issue of Glastir contract extensions has been included in a policy proposals paper which is currently under consideration by the Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths in relation to a domestically funded Rural Development Plan for Wales.

Revisions made to Red Tractor Version 5 Standards

Following consultation earlier this year, Red Tractor has made amendments to its Version 5 Standards for the five different sectors.

The majority of the proposed environmental standards have been put on hold until legislation on environmental protection in Wales and England has been finalised.

Nitrogen fertiliser will need to be stored safely and out of sight, rather than locked indoors as originally proposed, and producers will be required to document up to date slurry storage calculations.

In terms of personnel, new staff will be required to receive an induction, which will have to be documented, including an explanation of health and safety policies and management reporting lines. All farms must also need a written health and safety policy.

The personnel and environmental standards which have not been included in the revised Version 5 standards have become ‘modular’ standards which will allow for the producer and processor or milk buyer to agree on which ones they wish to include as part of their farm assurance.