Foundation for Common Land slams Defra’s exclusion of low input and unimproved grasslands from England’s Sustainable Farming Incentive

The Foundation for Common Land (FCL) has slammed Defra’s decision to exclude low input and unimproved grassland from its Sustainable Farming Incentive - a scheme which is supposed to bridge the transition from the ‘old’ BPS payments system to the new English Environmental Land Management (ELM) public goods payment scheme.

Under Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan, English farmers with a claim of £30,000 or less will see a five per cent cut to their BPS in 2021, followed by a 20 per cent cut in 2022, 35 per cent in 2023 and 50 per cent in 2024. Higher payments will be cut by significantly more.

With work on England’s Environmental Land Management scheme still in its early stages, the Sustainable Farming Incentive was supposed to fill the gap caused by the cuts to BPS payments.

However, despite Defra’s commitment that all English BPS applicants would be able to apply including those in existing Stewardship Schemes, low input and unimproved grassland - some of England’s most precious wildlife habitats - have been excluded.

According to the Foundation for Common Land, much of England’s lowland unimproved grassland is common land, including 20,000 ha of the New Forest, the Malvern Hills and Minchinhampton, the Devon heathlands and Cumbria’s coastal marshes.

News in brief July 2021

i) Defra promises 30% increase in payments for improving soil health

The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the payment rates for the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) at Cereals 2021.

Those joining the SFI from 2022 will be paid around £26/ha for the most basic soil management and up to £70/ha for increasing soil organic matter. This “roughly equates to a 30% uplift on what would have been the case had the old EU methodology been applied” according to Mr Eustice.

However, it is believed that smaller and horticultural farmers are unlikely to benefit and that farmers will need to pursue other streams of revenue as the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is phased out.

ii) Consumer awareness of regenerative agriculture

A recent questionnaire conducted by AHDB and YouGov revealed that only 14% of British consumers have heard of regenerative agriculture, however, those aged 16-44 are more aware (16%) than those aged 45+ (13%).

Welsh consumers are also more likely to have heard of regenerative agriculture (21%) compared with the UK average (14%).

73% of consumers believed that British farmers and growers have done a good job in producing food for consumers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

iii) Fourth UK beef processing site approved for exports to US

The Foyle Food Group in Glocester has become the fourth UK beef processing site to be approved for exports to the US on the ‘USDA Approved’ list.

The UK has exported more than £3 million worth of beef to the US since it was granted access to the market again in 2020 as US beef prices rise and consumers demand more premium products.

FUW highlights critical issues during virtual Royal Welsh Show

The Farmers’ Union of Wales and FUW Insurance Services Ltd. highlighted and discussed many of the critical issues affecting the agricultural industry through a series of webinars at the virtual Royal Welsh Show.

The variety of webinars ranged from the rural housing crisis, climate change, mental health, digital connectivity and farm safety.

For those who were unable to join them during the show week, they are all available to watch via the members section of the FUW website and the Royal Welsh show events pages.

Rural communities across the UK have been under pressure due to second home ownership and related effects for decades, especially in ‘honeypot’ areas such as National Parks, but the pandemic has accelerated the trend, causing rapid house-price inflation and placing rural houses even further beyond the financial reach of rural and agricultural communities.

RHWG sets targets for eradicating certain animal diseases

The Ruminant Health and Welfare Group (RHWG) has recently set UK targets for the eradication of sheep scab and BVD by 2031 along with other goals during a workshop held on 29th June.

The workshop was attended by 70 leading farmers, vets and Stakeholders from across the UK to discuss and agree on the targets of the RHWG for the priorities identified by the recent grassroots survey results.

Sheep scab currently affects 10-15% of UK farms with around 8,000 outbreaks per year costing as much as £202 million.

The group set out co-ordinated control, compulsory annual screening, traceability and vaccination to work towards sheep scab eradication. Although a new Moredun vaccine is being developed which has shown to have up to 80% efficacy, it needs to be considered as one tool in the box for the sustainable control of sheep scab rather than a silver bullet.

New changes for Approved Finishing Units and Orange Markets

Since 1st July 2021, cattle from Approved Finishing Units (AFUs) in Wales and England and Approved Finishing Units (Enhanced) with grazing (AFUEs) inn England have been allowed to move under licence and be sold at approved TB dedicated sales - known as Orange Markets - in Wales and England.

Unsold cattle from an AFU in Wales can be returned from an Orange Market to an AFU.

An unsold animal returning from an Orange Market to an AFU does not count as a move for these purposes.

Animals that have already moved into an AFU in Wales from an AFU, or an AFUE, can be moved under licence to an Orange Market, but a licence condition will be that they can then only be sold at the Orange Market for slaughter, or to an AFU / AFUE in England.

This condition is not yet included in the licence, but in the interim period until the licence is updated, the licence can still be issued to AFU operators in Wales.

Guidance on the Welsh Government website and TB Hub is available.

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water free pesticide disposal scheme relaunched

Dŵr Cymru - Welsh Water has relaunched its free pesticide disposal scheme for farmers & growers, gamekeepers, foresters and land managers in Wales as part of the PestSmart project.

The aim of the scheme is to reduce the risk posed by unwanted, out of date or revoked registered plant protection products and undiluted sheep dip.

Those who believe they are eligible need to register an interest before 5pm on 9th August 2021, however, it will be a first come, first served basis. An appointed contractor will then get in touch to confirm which products are eligible for collection.

Participants that took part in 2019 and/or 2020 can take part again in 2021 and dispose of 30L/Kg of eligible products for free.

For more information on the scheme and how to register, please click here.

To register via telephone with a member of the PestSmart team, please call 01443 452716

BeefQ videos on beef eating quality available to view

During the summer, the BeefQ project intended to work with Farming Connect and their demonstration farms to demonstrate how farmers can contribute to improving the eating quality of beef that they produce.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, they have instead produced a series of videos which help to describe how aspects of farm management can have an impact on beef eating quality.

How genetics influence beef eating quality and how producers can have a positive impact can be viewed on YouTube here:

How animal health influences beef eating quality and how producers can have a positive impact can be viewed here:

How animal handling influences beef eating quality and how producers can have a positive impact can be viewed here:

Participate in this survey on antimicrobial resistance

The FUW has been contacted by researchers from the James Hutton Institute to invite UK livestock farmers and farm employees to complete an anonymous survey on antimicrobial resistance.

To gather a better understanding of farmers’ experiences and views, the survey asks to share experiences and reflections and contribute to an international project around rethinking antimicrobial decision systems in animal production management.

For each survey completed, a donation will go towards farming-based charities.

The survey will take around 30 minutes to complete and can be found here:

Expression of Interest Window Dates July 2021

Scheme Summary Window Close
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.
Nuffield Farming Scholarships Applications for the 2021 Nuffield Farming Scholarships are open.

Successful applicants tend to be from those working in farming, food or horticulture and are provided a substantial bursary to fund travel to study their chosen topic.

Further information and details on how to apply can be found here:
31 July 2021
Rural Business Investment Scheme Non Agricultural - Window 2

This window of the RBIS has been allocated a budget of £2 million and covers capital investments costs and supports project in Wales that contribute to at least one of the below:

  • the diversification of the rural economy, 
  • the development of the supply chain for natural products, 
  • increasing the productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of rural businesses. 
  • The scheme is open to existing and start up Non-agricultural micro and small enterprises including farmers or members of the farm household diversifying into non-agricultural activities.

Applicants will be required to demonstrate that a viable market has been identified for  their product(s) and that the project would not proceed without the grant.

The maximum grant rate for any individual investment project is 40% of the total costs.

The maximum grant threshold per undertaking for any individual investment project is £50,000, and the minimum is £5,000

Further information and how to apply can be found here: 

20 August 2021

UK - Australia trade deal agreed in principle sparks major alarm

The UK and Australia signed a trade agreement in principle on 15th June just days after the G7 Summit in Cornwall where global leaders met to discuss the recovery from the pandemic.

This was despite the FUW raising grave concerns during numerous meetings with Conservative MPs including differences in scales of economy and production, animal welfare standards, and the likelihood of surges in food imports from Australia given the volatility of commodity markets.

If the deal is signed as it currently stands, Australia will gain immediate access on the UK market to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes for beef, rising in equal instalments to 110,000 tonnes in year ten. There will also be immediate access to a duty-free quota of 25,000 tonnes for lamb, rising in equal instalments to 75,000 tonnes in year ten.

In terms of dairy products, tariffs will be eliminated over the first five years. There will be immediate access to a duty-free quota of 24,000 tonnes for cheese, rising in equal instalments to 48,000 tonnes in year five. For butter, it will be 5,500 tonnes rising to 11,500 tonnes and non-cheese dairy will be 20,000 tonnes from day one.

Review of Control of Agricultural Pollution Regulations welcome

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed the decision of the Senedd to review the Control of Agricultural Pollution Regulations, which are currently being phased in and are set to impose strict and costly regulations across every farm in Wales.

The joint opposition party motion calling for a Senedd committee to hold an "urgent" review of the new regulations was passed by 58 votes to nil on 9th June.

It is pleasing to see that a robust discussion in the Senedd has led to all Welsh Senedd members backing a review into the regulations as they currently stand.

The FUW and other industry bodies have repeatedly expressed frustration and anger at the way these regulations were rushed through the Senedd without scrutiny and warned of the dangers that will come with what is currently being phased in.