Agricultural Policy

FUW Tells Commissioner that Regulations Must be Future Proofed

Earlier this month, the Farmers Union of Wales met with Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, in order to discuss how the aims of the Well-being of Future Generations Act could positively impact on both public procurement and other issues such as bovine TB regulation.

The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

Under the Well-being of Future Generations Act, the Welsh Government is obligated to take account of the long-term impact of their decision making. Given that the current regulation pertaining to a bovine TB breakdown can lead to loss of stock, problems with cash flow, costs of housing and feeding additional stock, loss of business control and uncertainty over the future, there will inevitably be an impact on the emotional well-being of farming families and the long-term success of the business. However, the true impact is likely to have been underestimated.

The FUW’s very real concern is that policies which are not future-proofed will undoubtedly increase mental health issues and poverty among the farming community in Wales and this is in direct opposition to the obligations and aims of the Act.

Given that mental health is inextricably linked to farm business sustainability and solvency, we must fully understand the economic consequences of a bovine TB breakdown in order to future-proof farm businesses.

 

 

Potential for Blue Box Subsidies Increase under CAP Changes Says WTO

According to a report by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), changes in the CAP have allowed a shift in EU farm payments from income support based payments into more Blue Box payment types which can distort trade.

Under WTO rules, the Blue Box is for subsidies that are tied to programmes that limit production and can therefore distort trade. Blue Box payments include payments which relate to animal numbers and acreage but within schemes that also function to limit production in some way or which require land to be set aside.

At present, farm subsidies remain decoupled from both production and prices and this latest WTO report may highlight potential repercussions for UK administrations designing new payment scheme proposals in England and Wales.

 

 

 

FUW Raises Concerns Over New Immigration Point System

Earlier this month, the UK Government announced the end of free movement and the introduction of an Immigration Bill to bring in a points based system designed to cater for highly skilled workers.

Under the new proposals, points will be awarded for a suitable job offer, being able to speak the English language and a salary threshold. The government accepted the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendation to lower the salary threshold from 30,000 to 25,600 pounds; with some flexibility for those wishing to take up work in a profession where there is a skills shortage . The salary threshold for the latter has been set at 20,480 pounds. Applicants will also be able to trade characteristics, such as qualifications, against a salary lower than the threshold.

Initiatives are being developed for sectors such as agriculture, however there remains a concern that the current system could result in higher labour costs; particularly for seasonal workers who work long hours and play a vital role in horticulture businesses. Where the points based system leads to a shortage of workers in the processing sector it is likely that throughput will be slowed, reducing efficiency and indirectly forcing farmers to keep stock for longer, increasing costs and bringing potential welfare issues.

The UK Government confirmed that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Pilot for 2020 would allow for 10,000 pickers to enter the UK for harvest, although Defra Secretary George Eustice requested at least 20,000 spaces.

The FUW have continuously expressed concerns over the potential for post-Brexit labour shortages throughout the agricultural industry and it is essential that future migration policies do not place additional costs upon a sector which already suffers from low profitability and tight margins.

 

Is the UK preparing to break with the EU at WTO meeting?

The City A.M. website has reported that Downing Street is considering taking an independent stance on food safety at a forthcoming WTO meeting, raising concerns that the way is being paved for a US-UK trade deal that would allow the importation of food produced to standards not currently legal in the UK.

The meeting on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures is expected to see the UK making a statement about future intentions in relation to issues such as beef hormones, gene editing, GM foods and the use of acid to wash poultry.

Aside from concerns about allowing imports of food produced to environmental, animal welfare and other production standards which fall short of those legally required of UK farmers, the reports have also raised concerns that such a statement could breach commitments made within the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Last November, leaked US-UK trade negotiation documents revealed the degree to which the US wants UK standards to be relaxed to allow imports of food currently illegal in the UK and EU.

 

Just over half New Zealand EU sheep quota met in 2019

2019 saw imports of New Zealand lamb to the EU at just over half the allocated import quota as Brexit uncertainty led to products being delivered to stronger non-EU markets.

The overall weakness of the pound is thought to have been a factor in reducing exports to the UK to 47,000 tonnes, a fall of by 22% compared to 2018, but the strength of non-EU markets, especially China, is also considered to have been a factor.

NZ Lamb and beef exports to the EU between October 2018 and June 2019 fell by 18% compared with the equivalent 2017-18 period, while exports to northern Asia increased 16% to 126,400 tonnes, accounting for 37% of all NZ lamb exports.

NZ meat industry experts have warned that if the UK and EU fail to reach a trade agreement, UK lamb normally sold in the EU will flood the UK market, collapsing prices and making exporting to the UK uneconomical - but also potentially creating an opportunity for NZ to fill the gap on the continent.

Meat Industry Association trade and economic manager Sirma Karapeeva recently told the New Zealand Farmers Weekly that the country’s negotiations will centre on a NZ-UK free-trade agreement, and that its red meat sector is looking to build on current World Trade Organisation access rights in the current EU-NZ trade negotiations.

 

COVID-19 - Important Information for our members and customers

 

In view of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve taken the decision to help protect members, customers and colleagues by closing all FUW offices.

All staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, meaning our team will be continuing with exactly the same service but over the phone/email/skype or other means of remote communication instead. 

Members and customers should continue to contact us as they would, as all our team can be contacted via the usual phone numbers. 

We will be making sure that our service levels are maintained. SAF/IACS appointments will carry on as normal but will be conducted over the phone. 

Contact details for your local office can be found here: https://www.fuw.org.uk/en/contact-us 

 

Important links relating to the Coronavirus:


The TB Hub have prepared a list of FAQs regarding how TB procedures will be affected by the virus: https://tbhub.co.uk/statutory-tb-testing-of-cattle-in-gb-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Red Tractor Updated Covid-19 position here: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/contentfiles/Farmers-7085.pdf?_=637206600290507095

Livestock Auctioneers Association LAA - 25/03/2020: https://www.laa.co.uk/news/3989/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-to-members-and-farmers/

Business Wales (including details of coronavirus support for businesses): https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) available through participating lenders: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) guidance on Coronavirus: https://www.naac.co.uk/coronavirus-guidance-issued-to-contractors/

National Milk Recording services 24/03/2020: https://www.nmr.co.uk/about-us/coronavirus