FUW SAYS TIR MYNYDD EXTENSION RECOGNISES GLASTIR PROBLEMS

Today's decision by the Welsh Assembly's rural affairs minister to extend the Tir Mynydd land management scheme for a further two years while its replacement Glastir scheme is rolled out is recognition of the problems facing Welsh hill farmers, the Farmers' Union of Wales said.

"We welcome Elin Jones's announcement as a small step in the right direction and some consolation to farmers who will be facing considerable cashflow problems during the next few years. However, fundamental concerns remain over the scheme's implementation," said chairman of the FUW's land use committee Richard Vaughan.

The Minister told the Assembly's rural development sub committee all farmers who make a Tir Mynydd claim on their 2010 Single Application Form (SAF) will be able to claim 60% of the payment on their 2011 SAF and 30% on their 2012 SAF.

Any eligible farmer who has not made a Tir Mynydd claim on their 2010 SAF and who has already submitted it to the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) is encouraged to contact their Divisional Office as soon as possible, and by no later than 17 May 2010, to modify their SAF application if they wish to benefit from the increased support.

The Minister also paid tribute to the contributions from the FUW and other stakeholders who provided solutions to a range of issues relating to commons and Glastir on the recently established commons working group.

She said: "The group, working closely with my officials over recent weeks, has resolved the remaining difficulties associated with commons entry into Glastir. This is an excellent example of what can be achieved when interested parties work together with a positive attitude and towards a shared goal."

But FUW common land committee chairman Lorraine Howells claimed that the minister's comments relating to common land were extremely misleading.

"We fully acknowledge the work of the minister and WAG staff in taking account of the many issues we have raised with them in relation to common land and Glastir, and progress has certainly been made in terms of many of these.

"However, there remain a number of problems in relation to which solutions still need to be found, and I certainly do not agree with the minister that we have 'resolved the remaining difficulties'," said Miss Howells.

"On the contrary, we maintain that the complexity of some issues relating to common land, coupled with the importance of commons to Wales, justifies delaying implementation of the Glastir scheme and an extension to the Tir Mynydd Scheme by at least twelve months."

FUW ANGLESEY HOLDS OPEN POLITICAL FORUM

Voters on Anglesey will get the chance to quiz the island's parliamentary candidates next week at an open political forum on "The agricultural industry and rural Anglesey" organised by the Farmers' Union of Wales' county branch office.

The event will be held on Thursday 29 April at the Bull Coach House, Llangefni, starting at 7.30pm.

The candidates ? Dylan Rees (Plaid Cymru), Anthony Ridge?Newman (Conservatives), Matt Wood (Liberal Democrats), Albert Owen (Labour), Elaine Gill (UKIP), Peter Rogers (Independent) and the Rev Dave Owen (Welsh Christian Party of Wales) will be allowed five minutes to introduce themselves and a question and answer session will follow.

The branch's annual general meeting will be held on Wednesday 19 May at the Cartio?Môn?Karting venue, Bodedern, Anglesey, at 7.30pm when the guest speaker will be Mike Steel, Director of Animal Health in Wales.

FUW MANIFESTO - FAMILY FARMS MUST BE AT CENTRE OF GOVERNMENT RURAL POLICIES

Politicians who ignore the central role Welsh family farms play in the community will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people living and working in rural areas, Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan warned today.

Launching the union's 2010 General Election manifesto "Farming for all our Futures", Mr Vaughan said the family farm was a key entity which had previously been overlooked and undervalued by many of our political leaders.

"Whatever the political issue, whether it is climate change, animal health and welfare, the negotiation of global trade agreements, or any of the other agriculturally-related topics that affect the electorate, the family farm has a central role to play, and those politicians who ignore this do so at our peril," he said.

Meanwhile, as UK politicians battle over the 6 May election, discussions regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are the focus of talks at a European level and the outcome of these may be as influential over the long term welfare of UK citizens as the forthcoming election.

"In 2007 and 2008 countries around the globe suffered conflict and social unrest due to food shortages. In some developed countries major retailers even rationed certain foodstuffs and, in July 2008, a discussion paper issued by DEFRA concluded that 'the current global food security situation is a cause for deep concern', listing high energy prices, poor harvests, rising demand, biofuels and food export bans in some countries as main factors.

"With the world population expected to rise to between nine and 10 billion by 2050, and predicted reductions in global agricultural productivity per hectare, there is clearly a need for appropriate action that balances food production against environmental considerations, and mitigating climate change without compromising food security is one of the most significant long term challenges facing mankind.

"There can be little doubt that joined up policies between Governments are needed to address these issues and the CAP, by design, provides just such a framework, allowing Europe to react to the imminent challenges that growing populations, global warming, rising sea levels, and peak oil represent in terms of food security."

Mr Vaughan accepted devolution had reduced the number of Welsh agricultural issues over which MPs have a direct influence, but said there remain a significant number of overarching policies of significant concern for Welsh rural communities, and the FUW's concerns and aspirations regarding the most significant of these are highlighted in the union's manifesto.

"Many of these topics will be the subject of detailed consideration during the next Parliament, and the decisions taken by Westminster that follow will have vital implications for both the agricultural industry and all UK citizens over the coming years.

"The FUW is not affiliated to any political party and therefore has a duty to work with both the Government of the day and the opposition parties, irrespective of their political persuasions.

"For the period of the next Parliament and beyond the FUW is therefore committed to lobbying all those in Westminster to ensure that agriculture and family farms receive the attention and respect that they warrant - for the sake of all our futures."

FUW SAYS TB CULL DECISION NOT A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION

The Welsh Assembly Government's High Court judicial review victory over its decision to carry out a limited badger cull in west Wales is not a cause for celebration, according to the Farmers' Union of Wales.

Welcoming the verdict, the union's TB spokesman, vice president Brian Walters, said: "This issue is not just about killing badgers - it's about preventing them and our cattle suffering from this terrible and costly disease.

"It is not a time for celebration - it's time for us to do all we can to stop all further suffering of cattle and wildlife affected by TB.

"Obviously, we are glad that the judge has ratified the considered views of the veterinary establishment and those scientific experts who have advised the Assembly's rural affairs minister.

"Now that the legal system has backed the Assembly's holistic approach to this issue we hope the preparations for the cull in the pilot area, together with more widespread cattle testing and further improvements to on-farm bio-security measures, will be allowed to proceed unhindered.

FUW APPOINTS NEW LIFE MEMBER

FORMER Farmers' Union of Wales deputy president Tom H Jones FRAgS has been elected a life member of the union in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the union and Welsh agriculture over many years.

Mr Jones fills the vacancy created by the death of influential past president Hugh Robert Môn Hughes OBE. Mr Jones of Maes Mawr, Llanfechell, Amlwch, was the union's deputy president in 1989-90 and vice president between 1984 and1989.

Mr Jones, a well-known dairy farmer, was awarded the FUW's internal award for services to Welsh agriculture in 2007.

He was educated at the University College of North Wales Bangor from 1968 to 1972, graduating with an honours degree in agriculture and agricultural economics.

From 1972 to 1975 he was a Milk Marketing Board (MMB) farm management consultant, working in East Anglia and Dyfed.

He was elected the MMB's regional member for North Wales in 1990. Three years later he was appointed a non-executive director of Dairy Crest plc, and was a member of the Audit Committee and chaired the Appointments Committee.

A past chairman of the Welsh Federation of Grassland Society, Mr Jones is also a former member of the Welsh Office Agriculture Advisory Panel and remains a member of the Welsh Assembly Government's Dairy Industry Working Group.

In February 2004, he was appointed a member of the Milk Development Council and in June the same year he was elected as a member of Anglesey County Council where he still represents the Llanfechell ward and holds the finance portfolio on the cabinet.

Announcing Mr Jones' selection at a meeting of the union's grand council, FUW life member Glyn Powell said: "Several names were put forward and after discussions on the amount of service they had given to the union we decided to recommend the election of Tom Jones." The recommendation was accepted unanimously by the union's grand council.

Responding to the appointment, Mr Jones said: "I am very grateful for this acknowledgment from my own kind of people and I consider it a great honour and privilege to be joining such an elite group."

FUW BACKS £3.3 MILLION BOOST FOR DAIRY INDUSTRY

THE Farmers' Union of Wales today broadly welcomed the Welsh Assembly Government's decision to invest £3.3 million in the Welsh dairy industry over the next three years.

The project, funded by the Supply Chain Efficiencies (SCE) scheme operates through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The SCE scheme provides financial support for co-operation projects that will develop new products, processes and technologies in the agriculture, food and forestry sectors.

The aim of the project is to help improve levels of efficiency, sustainability and added value in the dairy supply chain.

FUW milk committee chairman Eifion Huws said: "We are glad that the government has heeded our warning and are planning to invest in what is truly a struggling industry.

"I am sure that many farmers will find advice, support and information on issues such as energy efficiency, maximising production efficiency and profits, beneficial, but advice alone will not help tackle the problems that dairy farmers face on a daily basis.

"Without a fair price for their milk, a number of farmers will find that they don't have the means to act on the advice given to them.

"The crux of the matter is that many farmers are still being paid less for their milk than it costs to produce it.

"Of course this investment is a step in the right direction but without greater transparency throughout the supply chain farmers will continue to be short changed.

"Farmers in Wales are already bearing the brunt of lower milk prices compared to the UK as a whole and steps need to be taken to ensure that Welsh farmers are given a level playing field.

"All the sustainability and efficiency measures in the world cannot make a dairy farm profitable without a prolonged period of price stability.

"Only then will farmers have the confidence to invest in the future."

FUW ISSUES STARK WARNING OVER IACS/SAF PENALTIES

The Farmers' Union of Wales today warned farmers to take extra care when filling in their single payment forms - or risk losing all of their Single Payments.

FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: "Over recent years the FUW has dealt with significant numbers of cases where inadvertent errors have led to members losing a large proportion of their Single Payments.

"In some cases, tiny errors such as a box ticked incorrectly have led to the loss of entire Single Payments, equating to losses of tens of thousands of pounds for farm businesses."

The FUW has lobbied the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Parliament on the issue over a long period, urging them to adopt a proportionate approach to mistakes that are obvious errors or are the result of exceptional circumstances.

"However, WAG insists that the rules relating to obvious errors are extremely narrow and that EU auditors give them little or no leeway to be fair. This is even the case where all parties acknowledge that an inaccuracy was an inadvertent error," Mr Vaughan said.

He also urged farmers to carefully check the IACS/SAF acknowledgement letters that are issued by WAG as soon as they are received, and to notify any errors to WAG immediately.

"If WAG detects an error, the first a farmer may know about it is when they fail to receive their Single Payment in December. They will then have to go through the appeals process, which can take years and cost thousands of pounds, with no guarantee of a positive outcome at the end."

Mr Vaughan added: "Farmers should also notify WAG of any exceptional circumstances or Force Majeure that may affect their businesses as soon they are in a position to do so.

"We believe that many of the penalties applied under the current regime are completely immoral and disproportionate, and some of the cases the FUW has dealt with are truly heartbreaking. We are therefore committed to fighting for a more proportionate and fair penalty system.

"However, under the current regime the best way to minimise the risk of penalties is by checking and double-checking every single detail on the IACS, and by exercising extreme caution with regard to every aspect of the farm management and paperwork."

FUW VAT ON-LINE CAMPAIGN GATHERS SUPPORT

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today hailed the growing support the union has received for its campaign against HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) "absurd" decision to force farmers in areas with no or poor broadband provision to fill out their monthly or quarterly VAT returns on-line from 1 April this year.

Mr Vaughan, who lives in a broadband blackspot in Powys, welcomed Clwyd West MP David Jones' decision to protest to HMRC's director general Dave Hartnett stressing there are many areas of North Wales, including Gwytherin and Cwmpenanner in his constituency, which have no satisfactory broadband access.

Mr Vaughan also welcomed support from website ISPreview.co.uk - an independent source of Internet Service Provider (ISP) information, listings and reviews since 1999 - which stated HMRC's move "appears absurd" at a time when the Government's own Universal Service Commitment (USC), which aims to deliver a minimum broadband ISP speed of at least 2Mbps to virtually every household in the UK by 2012, has not even begun to be implemented.

In his letter to Mr Hartnett, Mr Jones described HMRC's position as wholly unreasonable and asked for an exemption for farmers in such circumstances. He has also written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, pointing out the unreasonableness of HMRC's position.

Mr Vaughan said: "We do not have broadband access at my farm in Dolfor, near Newtown - we were told our line is too antiquated for broadband.

"It's obvious that the HMRC don't fully appreciate the problems facing farmers and other businesses in rural communities like Powys. The age structure of the industry is such that lots of us grew up before the widespread use of computers and we're going to struggle."

The FUW's development director Emyr James had earlier contacted HMRC to find out what alternatives could they suggest if farmers were not able to go on-line. They replied that farmers could ask family or friends, who have a computer, to offer them Internet access or employ the services of an agent who could file the return on their behalf.

"This is a typically heavy-handed government approach, showing very little appreciation of the true situation for many small-to-medium-sized enterprises," said Mr James.

As a temporary solution the FUW will provide a service at its county offices where staff will file members' VAT returns on-line on their behalf. The paper-based summary should be completed in the normal way and taken to the county office.

FUW SLAMS 'HEAVY-HANDED' HMRC

The Farmers' Union of Wales today accused the UK Government's Revenue and Customs department (HMRC) of adopting a "heavy-handed" attitude by forcing farmers in areas with no or poor broadband provision to fill in their VAT returns on-line.

The union's business development director Emyr James reminded farmers of a legal obligation to comply with new regulations relating to filing VAT returns on-line, effective from 1 April this year, but HMRC has no alternative option for those who don't use a computer or don't have access to broadband.

Mr James was commenting on HMRC's reply to FUW representations on behalf of its members who, because of their location, are unable to receive broadband and have no plans to go on-line. "They have confirmed the legislation does not provide exemption and there will be no 'alternative' method to filing on-line.

"To fulfil their obligation, HMRC suggest that they could ask family or friends, who have a computer, to offer them Internet access or, alternatively, employ the services of an agent who could file the return on their behalf," he said.

"This is a typically heavy-handed government approach, showing very little appreciation of the true situation for many small-to-medium-sized enterprises.

"There is still a generation of people in society who did not grow up in an Internet environment and some consideration should have been shown towards this group of people.

"There are many farmers for whom the Internet remains an unfamiliar skill, whilst there are some who distrust modern communications technology. Also, many parts of rural Wales have no reliable broadband provision at all."

To overcome the problem, the FUW will provide a service at its county offices where staff will file members' VAT returns on-line on their behalf. The paper-based summary will be completed in the normal way and taken to the county office.

"This will complement a similar service already provided by county offices, whereby stock movements are registered with BCMS electronically," said Mr James.

FARMERS FAILED BY CHANCELLOR'S ELECTION-FUELED BUDGET

THE Chancellor has once again left Welsh farmers bitterly disappointed after failing to take on board the Farmers Union of Wales' demand for a freeze on fuel duty and the establishment of a fuel duty regulator, said the union's president today.

Instead Mr Darling announced that fuel duty will rise by 1p in April followed by further 1p rises in October and January. "This staggered approach will do nothing to alleviate rural dwellers' high transports costs and it will also ensure that we will see a rise in fuel costs for the foreseeable future," said Gareth Vaughan.

"The rising costs of transportation are having a profound effect on the sustainability of the agricultural industry. The current economic climate, coupled with high oil prices and a lack of investment in alternative fuel opportunities, has resulted in a significant increase in overheads for primary producers who cannot pass these costs up the marketing chain.

"The Chancellor's failure to freeze all fuel duty rises will leave us on an unfair playing field compared to our competitors and there is no doubt every commodity that has to be transported to rural areas will now cost farmers much more in the future.

"The effect of Mr Darling's decisions mean that farming suffers badly because for every 2p per litre rise in fuel duty the annual operating costs of just one 44-tonne articulated lorry increases by up to £900 - inevitably leading to increased prices for animal feedstuffs, fertiliser, and all other products farmers have to purchase," added Mr Vaughan.

On a more positive note, the union welcomed the decision to introduce a duty of 50p a month on all phone landlines to finance the availability of super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of the population by the end of 2017.

"The FUW has long campaigned that the lack of effective broadband in many parts of Wales is putting rural businesses at a severe disadvantage. I hope that this move will eradicate any black-spots that currently exist in Wales.

"Access to a fast internet connection is also becoming an increasingly useful tool for farmers with registering cattle movements online a regular task. It is vital that we have effective access to broadband technology to carry out these tasks quickly and efficiently," said Mr Vaughan.

The union also praised the Chancellor's decision to double the stamp duty limit for first time buyers from £125,000 to £250,000.

Mr Vaughan added: "We welcome this support for first time buyers as we hope it will allow young people who wish to stay in our rural communities to purchase houses within their locality.

"Retaining young people in rural communities is imperative for the sustainability of rural Wales."

FUW BRANDS QUEEN GUITARIST VISIT AS ‘CYNICAL PUBLICITY STUNT’

The Farmers' Union of Wales today branded Queen guitarist Brian May's decision to attend the judicial review in Swansea of the proposed badger cull in north Pembrokeshire as a "cynical publicity stunt".

FUW vice president Brian Walters, who has seen the rural community in which he has lived all his life ravaged by bTB over the past decade, said: "It is completely galling for those who have to live with the misery and financial losses caused by TB to see a millionaire rock star dropping in to talk about the proposed cull when he has no idea of the desperate need to control this disease.

"When was the last time Brian May had to go cap in hand to a landlord or the bank manager to explain that a TB outbreak meant he couldn't keep up with payments?

"People are having their livelihoods destroyed. The epidemic is ripping families and communities apart, driving people to the very edge and costing the lives of tens of thousands of cattle each year in Wales alone.

"Farmers do not have the luxury of sitting back and collecting recording royalties while pontificating about issues that do not affect them. We have seen tens of thousands of cattle taken away due to TB, yet we have not heard a single word from Brian May regarding this slaughter.

"Yet when the Welsh Government proposes a small-scale badger cull in an area where one in seven badgers is infected with the disease, Brian May announces on his website he is 'losing most of a precious day in the studio' to travel to Swansea to take part in a cynical publicity stunt.

"It shows a completely subjective approach to animal welfare and smacks of a condescending attitude to Welsh government. A vet wouldn't dream of telling him how to play his guitar, so why should he feel he has the right to tell vets how to control a dangerous disease.

"He may be losing a 'precious' day in the studio but does he know how many farmers are losing precious days of work to witness their animals being herded into trailers to be taken to slaughterhouses because of TB?

"Nobody agrees to the needless destruction of wildlife but TB is costing the lives of thousands of cattle as well and of badgers already suffering excruciatingly painful deaths due to the disease."

FUW WELCOMES COMMONS FUEL DUTY FREEZE BID

A Welsh farmers' leader today welcomed Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party MPs' decision to table an Early Day Motion in the Commons urging a freeze on fuel duty and repeating calls for the establishment of a fuel duty regulator.

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan also expressed his disappointment that fuel duty was being increased yet again despite the extreme economic pressures on the agricultural industry and wider rural economy.

He is concerned that fuel duty is set to rise by 2.55p per litre in April (1% above the rate of inflation) which will cost the average family an extra £200 a year. "The rising costs of transportation are also having a profound effect on the sustainability of the agricultural industry.

"The current economic climate, coupled with high oil prices and a lack of investment in alternative fuel opportunities, has resulted in a significant increase in overheads for primary producers who cannot pass these costs up the marketing chain," he said.

"The Chancellor must freeze all fuel duty rises because they give us such an unfair playing field over many of our competitors and there is no doubt every commodity that has to be transported to the rural areas will now cost farmers much more in the future."

Mr Vaughan originally wrote to Mr Darling in September 2007 urging him to defer the fuel duty increase scheduled for October 2007 but the Chancellor went ahead with a 2ppl increase then, another 2p on April 1 2009 and a third 2p rise last September.

"The effect of Mr Darling's decisions mean that farming suffers badly because for every 2p per litre rise in fuel duty the annual operating costs of just one 44-tonne articulated lorry increases by up to £900 - inevitably leading to increased prices for animal feedstuffs, fertiliser, and all other products farmers have to purchase," said Mr Vaughan.

YOUNGER FARMERS NEEDED FOR FUW PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTRYSIDE AWARD

Nominations are being invited for the Farmers' Union of Wales Pembrokeshire branch's annual Countryside Award which aims to highlight the achievements of younger farmers in the county.

Last year the award was won by a young farmer who achieved a 20-year ambition to run his own dairy farm when his local council offered him a holding.

Thirty-three-year-old Julian Nicholas, of Lower Coxhill Farm, Narberth, who has worked in agriculture all his life, was presented with the award plus £100 and a year's free FUW membership during last August's Pembrokeshire County Show.

The judges chose Julian because he had started and developed his business from scratch. "Also, he had chosen to move into dairy production at a very difficult time for the sector which showed a high level of determination and commitment to the industry," they added.

Inviting nominations for this year's award, FUW Pembrokeshire county chairman Dai Miles said today: "If the agricultural industry is to have a future in Pembrokeshire it is vital that we not only encourage new entrants into the industry, but that we also acknowledge the hard work of existing younger farmers and nurture them.

"In presenting this award we hope that the dedication and determination of the younger generation of farmers in the county will be highlighted and applauded," he added.

To be eligible for the award the nominee must be 40 years of age or under on January 1, 2010; actively involved in agricultural production or land management; and normally resident within Pembrokeshire.

A cash prize, perpetual trophy and a year's free FUW membership will be awarded.

Further details and nomination forms can be obtained by telephoning the Pembrokeshire FUW Office on 01437 762913. All nominations must be submitted by Friday 21 May 2010.

FUW SAYS GLASTIR IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

The Welsh Assembly Government's controversial land management scheme Glastir misses an opportunity to make a real difference to climate change, says the Farmers' Union of Wales today (Tuesday, 16 March).

"Glastir is missing the opportunity to make a real difference to climate change because it ignores the opportunities for sequestrating carbon from managed grazing and concentrates on tree planting. Such a measure is unlikely to be taken up by farmers as they would be reluctant to see agricultural land taken out of production with little gain," said the union's deputy policy director Rhian Nowell-Phillips.

"The Assembly Government is keen to promote Glastir as a land management scheme, but it has failed to 'think outside the box' to look at opportunities beyond those available under previous agri-environment schemes, which is disappointing given the emerging evidence about the contribution grazing systems can make to carbon uptake."

Ms Nowell-Phillips also expressed concern that bringing forward just one element of the targeted scheme could create even more confusion amongst farmers who are already not sure whether they will be able to access this part of the scheme.

"One of our concerns has been how difficult it will be for farmers to decide whether to go into the all-Wales element without knowing whether they will be accepted into the targeted element which is based on delivering six objectives including carbon and water storage, water quality, historic environment, biodiversity and access.

"The fact that the Minister has announced the early start of one of the elements of the scheme reinforces the FUW's view that the current timetable means that insufficient information is available to farmers who will need to indicate their interest in the scheme's ' targeted element' by ticking a box on their 2010 SAF form within the next few weeks.

"Farmers, like any other businessmen, need time to consider what is available to them under the provisions of the scheme before making a long-term business commitment.

"The FUW continues to demand a full economic impact assessment of the new scheme in view of the fact that the current Tir Mynydd scheme helped to avoid land abandonment and rural depopulation.

"Unless Glastir is made accessible and simpler there could be severe consequences for Welsh communities and environments, especially in the uplands."

The FUW also has great concern about the current timetable given the diverse problems associated with Glastir on common land and the problems that are arising with tenancy issues which are likely to preclude many farmers who may wish to access Glastir but through no fault of their own cannot meet the criteria.

"We fear it will be a complex enough process for normal farmland, but on common or tenanted land the complexities are multiplied due to the different ways in which common land is used in different areas and the types of tenancy and grazing agreements that exist in Wales."

FUW RENEWS ITS CALL FOR GLASTIR RETHINK

The Farmers' Union of Wales Grand Council, comprising of leading members from all the union's 13 county branches, has urged Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones to have a "complete rethink" of the Welsh Assembly Government's (WAG) controversial Glastir land management scheme.

At a quarterly meeting of the Grand Council in Aberystwyth, delegates passed a resolution calling for a complete rethink of the scheme and demanded WAG to deliver an easily accessible and simpler scheme, with project officer support, that is attractive to farmers and landowners.

Chairman of the FUW's land use and parliamentary committee Richard Vaughan, of Pall Mall, Tywyn, who proposed the motion, said the scheme should include support for capital works at entry level, take into account the importance of common land in Wales, and review the necessity of establishing grazing associations to implement the scheme.

Mr Vaughan added: "The current Tir Mynydd scheme's objective is to support and maintain livestock production in the less productive farming areas of Wales in order to avoid land abandonment and rural depopulation. Therefore, if Glastir is not made accessible and simpler it could have severe consequences for Welsh communities and environments especially in Wales's uplands.

"Glastir represents a seed change for farmers in Wales and it's high time that the Assembly realised that farmers need time to adapt and to be given more details about the scheme so that they can make the right business decisions."

Seconding the motion, FUW Meirionnydd county chairman Robert W Evans, of Sylfaen, Barmouth, said due to the scarcity of firm details about the current scheme making a decision on whether to sign up was like going into a restaurant without knowing what's on the menu.

FUW HAILS GLASTIR COMMONS WORKING GROUP BUT REPEATS CALLS FOR POSTPONEMENT

The Welsh Assembly Government's (WAG) decision to set up a working group to discuss and resolve issues and concerns raised by common land graziers over the introduction of the controversial Glastir land management scheme was welcomed by members of the Farmers' Union of Wales common land committee today.

"We have been calling for the establishment of this group for the past six months and raised the issue directly with the Minister on a number of occasions last year," said committee chairman Lorraine Howells. "We were, therefore, pleased when, in early January, WAG officials confirmed that this group would be set up.

"The first meeting was held on 17 February, and further meetings will be held on a monthly basis."

Miss Howells is a member of the Glastir Commons Working Group along with FUW policy director Dr Nick Fenwick and chairman of the union's hill farming committee Derek Morgan.

She told today's meeting: "We have been lobbying the Assembly regarding the particular problems associated with common land and Glastir and asking them to set this group up since last summer, so it is good that it is finally off the ground."

However, the committee was unanimous in expressing concern regarding the current timetable given the diverse problems associated with Glastir on common land, and reiterated calls for the scheme's implementation date to be postponed for 12 months.

"Almost 18 per cent of Welsh farms have common land, and this is therefore of critical importance to Welsh agriculture, especially in those areas where common land makes up the majority of farmland.

"Everything must be done to make Glastir accessible to as many commoners throughout Wales as possible but this will take time. The transition from LFA payments, in the form of Tir Mynydd, to the Glastir agri-environmental scheme means a massive escalation in eligibility and compliance criteria.

"This will be a complex enough process for normal farmland, but on common land the complexities are multiplied due to the different ways in which common land is used in different areas, and the diverse range of habitats that exist on Welsh commons.

"Tir Mynydd and its predecessors have helped stem rural depopulation and maintain livestock for decades. If we do not get Glastir right for common land it will have severe consequences for Welsh communities and environments, and accelerate the abandonment of the ancient hefting systems that have defined much of Wales's uplands."

GROCERY OMBUDSMAN VOTE IS MAJOR PROGRESS, SAYS FUW

Ynys Môn (Anglesey) MP Albert Owen's Private Member's Bill calling for the appointment of a Grocery Market Ombudsman has made major progress towards becoming law, Farmers' Union of Wales vice president Eifion Huws said today.

"The Bill, which enjoys cross-party support, needed 35 MPs to vote for it during its second reading in the Commons this morning and I am very pleased that it received 44 votes with none in opposition," said Mr Huws, a dairy farmer on Anglesey.

"By clearing this hurdle the Bill has made major progress to becoming law and we strongly hope the big supermarkets will not play for time and try to reduce the powers of the proposed Ombudsman as it passes through parliament.

"The Bill will now be referred to a standing committee and will need continued Government support to proceed further. The FUW will continue to give Mr Owen its enthusiastic backing and we sincerely hope his fellow Labour MPs will also give him their full support.

"The FUW has vigorously backed Mr Owen's campaign to create greater choice and quality for consumers while providing a fair deal to supermarket suppliers and I was delighted to travel to Westminster this week, together with the union's Anglesey county chairman, vice chairman and executive officer, to show our total support for his efforts.

"His Bill will enable the Government to implement the Competition Commission's recommendation for the creation of a new independent arbiter with the power to settle disputes between major retailers and their suppliers and to investigate possible breaches of the recently introduced Groceries Code of Practice.

"Both the Government and the Opposition have already indicated their support for the principle of an Ombudsman. Today's vote is a major step forward towards fairness for consumers above all but also for suppliers."

FUW WELCOMES ASSEMBLY REPORT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

A suggestion that dairy cows and some beef cattle be permanently housed so the methane gas they produce can be captured is only a small part of a proposed new strategy on how agriculture and rural land use in Wales can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Farmers' Union of Wales.

The union's deputy director of policy Rhian Nowell-Phillips said the report, presented by the Land Use Climate Change Group to Assembly rural affairs minister Elin Jones, contained a range of data, evidence and possible scenarios which would help inform the debate on future policy decisions.

"We may not believe that everything in it will, or should, happen but for once it does challenge some of the current assumptions that livestock production will have to be drastically reduced in Wales if the Assembly wants to mitigate methane production," she said.

"Food security will be an amazing motivator in the future and I have no doubt there will be a desire to balance the need for increased food production with ways to capture and reuse greenhouse gases.

"In the meantime, some of the practical aspects of the report could help start processes to help farmers identify the win wins for them in starting to mitigate climate change. For example, the use of feed additives to reduce methane, or the reuse of agricultural by-products such as biogas, heat and water, could help reduce fixed costs."

FUW DEMANDS IMPROVED RURAL SERVICES

The Wales Rural Observatory's report on "Deep Rural Localities" and many of the comments at the Assembly's debate on its findings yesterday are similar to concerns often expressed by the Farmers' Union of Wales.

The union's president Gareth Vaughan said today: "Many of the conclusions of the Wales Rural Observatory report are in line with the union's ongoing concerns, highlighted over several years, and we are not surprised that they support our standpoint on such issues.

"We have regularly called for planning changes to allow for more affordable housing in a bid to stem the migration of young people from rural areas. Increased public transport provision and improved broadband and mobile phone coverage are also a crucial necessity for those living and working in Wales' numerous isolated communities.

"These services are no longer merely desirable for rural dwellers - they are vital in enabling rural businesses to survive in these modern times. Farmers are increasingly required to access the internet to comply with new legislation affecting their livelihoods and traditional way of life and the FUW has long campaigned for reliable broadband and mobile phone reception to be widely extended.

"Meanwhile, rural dwellers have to face up to higher council taxes than urban areas, increasing their cost of living, yet still experience repeated cuts in vital services."

FUW GROUP BACKS LOCAL MP OVER SUPERMARKET OMBUDSMAN BID IN PARLIAMENT

A delegation of Farmers' Union of Wales officers and members will attend a parliamentary reception at Westminster tomorrow (4 March) to underline the union's support for a Supermarket Ombudsman.

Led by FUW vice president, Anglesey dairy farmer Eifion Huws, the delegation was invited by the island's MP Albert Owen to the reception, co-hosted by Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG) chairman Andrew George MP, on the eve of the second reading of Mr Owen's Private Members' Bill calling for an Ombudsman.

"The principle of having an Ombudsman now has the backing of all the main political parties who, like the FUW, recognise it is vital in order to enforce the Grocery Supply Code of Practice introduced by the Competition Commission last month," said Mr Huws.

"The union believes the code goes part of the way towards breaking the arm-lock supermarkets have over their suppliers by providing retailers with clear guidelines for dealing fairly with suppliers. It also strengthens the union's demands for the Government to take further prompt action and appoint an independent ombudsman with real teeth to ensure supermarkets adhere to the guidelines.

"It is only then that we can be confident that the supermarkets' arm-lock has been broken once and for all - almost nine years since Tony Blair told farmers the supermarkets had an arm-lock on us and promised it was something 'we have got to sit down with them and work out'.

"Mr Owen's Bill will enable the Government to implement the Competition Commission's recommendation for the creation of a new independent arbiter with the power to settle disputes between major retailers and their suppliers.

"It has received wide cross-party support and was sponsored by MPs from Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP. It has also been warmly welcomed by the FUW and a number of significant charities, consumer organisations and business groups."

Nearly six years ago the FUW joined 16 other farming, consumer, development and environmental organisations to form the Breaking the Armlock Alliance and demand stricter controls over the major supermarkets' trading practices, particularly to stop them passing on unreasonable costs and demands to farmers and growers in the UK and overseas.

The alliance - which also includes ActionAid, Banana Link, British Independent Fruit Growers Association, farm, Farmers for Action, Farmers' Link, Friends of the Earth, Grassroots Action on Food and Farming, International Institute for Environment and Development, National Federation of Women's Institutes, National Sheep Association, New Economics Foundation, Pesticide Action Network UK, Soil Association, Small and Family Farms Alliance and WyeCycle - launched its campaign at a parliamentary briefing hosted by Andrew George on 16 March 2004.

But as far back as back as 2000, a Competition Commission report acknowledged the biggest supermarkets were bullying their suppliers and since then mergers and buy-outs have tipped the power balance even further in favour of the retail giants.

In May 2006, following public pressure, the Office of Fair Trading referred the UK grocery retail market for a fresh market investigation by the Competition Commission which completed its inquiry and published its final report in April 2008.

It found supermarkets guilty of transferring unnecessary risks and excessive costs onto their suppliers. In its proposed remedies the commission recommended a new Grocery Supply Code of Practice - to replace the previously discredited Supermarket Code of Practice - and the establishment of an ombudsman to police the new code.

Mr Huws said: "We believe suppliers are forced to bear much of the costs when supermarkets decide to launch price wars. Consumers are happy to see prices fall, and I'm sure that most believe that it is the supermarkets that take a cut in their own profits on individual items to try and win a greater market share.

"But I don't think they would be so happy if they realised that it is the farmers and suppliers further down the chain that have their profit margins squeezed to allow the supermarkets to make even bigger profits, threatening future food security issues."

FUW URGES MEMBERS TO GIVE GLASTIR FEEDBACK

Welsh farmers are being encouraged by the Farmers' Union of Wales to provide feedback about the scoring system the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has set to gain access to its new Glastir land management scheme.

WAG has just published the documentation for the All Wales Element of the scheme - including the scorecard and guidance, Whole Farm Code and the All Wales Element Options - which can be found on the FUW's website at www.fuw.org.uk

The Scorecard has been developed as a guide to assist farmers in selecting the options available to them to complete on the farm. It will also determine the threshold number of points required to access Glastir based on the size of the farm and whether it is part of the Organic Scheme.

Once the chosen options which the farmer wants to or is able to complete have been added, the Scorecard will determine if the farm has accrued sufficient points to enter Glastir.

"The union is encouraging all its members to have a go at completing the Scorecard to ascertain how accessible Glastir actually is to farmers. We are also encouraging them to feed the results back to their county office," said FUW land use and parliamentary committee chairman Richard Vaughan.

"The feedback is vitally important to the union so that it can understand whether particular sectors are having difficulty in earning sufficient points to enter the scheme.

"This information can then be used as evidence to the Welsh Assembly Government on the accessibility of the scheme to its members."

FUW WEBSITE TO EASE FARM WASTE HEADACHES

The Farmers' Union of Wales has linked up with Environment Agency Wales to help Welsh farmers manage their agricultural waste better.

Recent research suggests Welsh farmers need more assistance with the problems of dealing with farm waste and a useful learning tool is now available in Welsh and English by clicking on the "Farm Waste No Bull" link on the FUW's website: www.fuw.org.uk

FUW president Gareth Vaughan said a recent "SME-nvironment" report by environmental guidance website NetRegs.gov.uk reveals the problem is farmers' recognition of specific waste regulations rather than compliance.

"The Hazardous Waste and Duty of Care regulations were both found to be misunderstood by farmers," he added. "Many had not heard of these regulations (Hazardous Waste 27 per cent and Duty of Care 27 per cent), meaning that they aren't taking advantage of specific support available to help them meet these rules.

"The research also reveals that while a third of farmers store agricultural waste on site, many do not recognise the important legislation which determines what can be stored, for how long and where permits are required. This research points to a need for clearer communication and support for farmers in recognising and so managing waste regulations."

The Environment Agency's NetRegs website is also seeking to clear up the confusion with its relaunched Learning about Agricultural Waste tool at: www.netregs.gov.uk/farmwaste

It provides the farming community with seven simple subjects for battling waste - including guidance on Hazardous Waste, Duty of Care and on-site storage and transport. It also details legislation specific to Wales.

Environment Agency in Wales land quality policy and strategy manager Simon Neale said: "Farmers' resources are stretched, particularly in the current climate, but we know that investing in environmental compliance can save rather than cost money.

"The good news for farmers is that the NetRegs' report reveals many in the agricultural community are already seeing the financial rewards of more effective waste management, through reduced operating costs and a more motivated workforce.

"We talked to farmers on the ground to find out what they would find helpful and our Waste Tool has been developed based on their feedback. The result is a single online access point to all the necessary information on waste legislation and we hope it's going to really help farmers."

ASSEMBLY GROUP TOLD GLASTIR SCHEME MUST BE DELAYED

The Farmers' Union of Wales has told Welsh Assembly Rural Development Sub-Committee members that the implementation date of the new Glastir land management scheme should be delayed by 12 months and the schemes it replaces should be extended for the same period.

The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) intends replacing Tir Mynydd, Tir Gofal, Tir Cynnal and the Organic scheme with the Glastir all-Wales land management scheme later this year.

But during an evidence-gathering session at Dolgellau, the chairman of the FUW's Land Use and Parliamentary Committee Richard Vaughan told the Rural Development Sub-Committee farmers had not been given enough time to consider the implications of Glastir on their businesses before the application window opens.

"Feedback from farmers who have participated in the pilot scheme suggests that Glastir is not as easy to enter as is being suggested by the WAG," said Mr Vaughan.

"The FUW believe that the scheme needs to be fully piloted before being rolled out and we have already made representations to the rural affairs minister Elin Jones to defer its implementation.

"The scheme should not be rushed out to meet an Assembly Government timetable which may result in the need for its early review if farmers don't enter the scheme.

"We do not see why the scheme is being rushed through and we have pressed home the fact that it should be deferred so that it can be put together with thought and utilising the practical experience of the unions to ensure it is workable and realistic.

Mr Vaughan added that the FUW doubts whether the Assembly's divisional offices will be able to cope with farmers' applications and interviews in 2010 and believes WAG has severely underestimated the ability and knowledge required by farmers to develop their own plans by the time they go to interview.

FUW OPTS FOR TWO-TIER DAIRY FUND DISTRIBUTION

Farmers' Union of Wales members have given their overwhelming support for an EU dairy fund distribution that favours smaller dairy producers.

The EU agreed in December 2009 to allocate €300m to help the European dairy sector which has been severely affected by low milk prices. Wales's share is believed to be around £3m.

Following a meeting of the FUW's milk and dairy produce committee in Aberystwyth, chairman Eifion Huws said: "The consultation was considered by the FUW's 12 county branches and by the union's milk and dairy produce committee.

"The overwhelming majority of members agreed that Wales should opt for a payment of 0.5 pence per litre (ppl) on the first 100,000 litres of production plus an estimated payment of 0.15ppl on production over 100,000 litres. This would target smaller businesses which, on average, have a lower profitability per litre.

"Members acknowledged the fact that all dairy producers had suffered as a result of low farmgate prices and high production costs, and that the profitability per litre was highly variable between farms.

"However, it was agreed that, on average, smaller producers had higher production costs and were, by definition, unable to benefit from production bonuses and other production related advantages.

"We are hardly talking about large sums of money here but the fund will, nevertheless, provide some relief for struggling dairy producers, and the union is firmly in favour of directing support where it is most needed."

CAERNARFONSHIRE FARMERS RAISE ISSUES WITH RURAL MINISTER AND LOCAL MP

The Westminster government's decision to scrap rules allowing holiday accommodation owners to claim certain tax benefits was strongly criticised when a Farmers' Union of Wales delegation from Caernarfonshire met their local MP and the Welsh rural affairs minister.

MP Hywel Williams and the Assembly minister Elin Jones discussed various issues with the delegation during a visit to the Betws Garmon farm of Dewi and Bethan Roberts to see how a young farming couple with three daughters had invested heavily to create holiday accommodation sleeping nine at the farmhouse and a further seven in a nearby workshop.

Benefiting from Wales Tourist Board funding, they also installed a hot tub to offer visitors something different to the usual holiday accommodation.

But their decision to complete the work this year - in a bid to secure exemption from the Chancellor's decision to repeal the Furnished Holiday Lettings (FHL) rules - has resulted in cashflow consequences.

The FUW delegation included the county's representative on the union's farm diversification committee, farmer's wife Anwen Jones, who lets out four holiday cottages at Bettws Bach farm, Rhoslan, near Criccieth, and has already raised the issue with Meirionnydd Nant Conwy MP Elfyn Llwyd.

"We again explained to Mr Williams and the minister how the scrapping of these taxation benefits will seriously affect the income of many FUW members who have diversified into letting out holiday accommodation," said the union's Caernarfonshire county executive officer Gwynedd Watkin.

"We repeated our previous demands on the Chancellor to change his decision, announced in last April's Budget, to scrap the rules which allow losses from FHLs to be offset against other income."

Mr Watkin said the delegation also demanded a curb on harsh cross-compliance penalties recently handed out to farmers which were often disproportionate to the "crime" - especially when a genuine mistake, with no financial gain, had occurred.

"We presented the minister and Mr Williams with a number of cases where farmers had been 'fined', ranging from £1,500 for a basic administrative error to over £90,000 for a planning issue involving 'possible' damage to an ancient monument.

"In the latter case, if the farmer had not been claiming subsidies, the maximum he could be fined by a court is £40,000. It is not right for farmers to be disproportionately penalised so heavily."

The delegation also discussed issues concerning the forthcoming Glastir all-Wales agri-environmental scheme. "Many frustrations were vented with regard to the lack of detailed information about the qualifying criteria and the minister assured us that more information will be forthcoming in the future," Mr Watkin added.

FUW WELCOMES WAG EXTENSION OF SUPPLEMENTARY FEEDING RELAXATION

THE Farmers' Union of Wales today welcomed the Welsh Assembly Government's decision to extend the relaxation of rules on supplementary feeding to 28 February 2010.

Reacting to the news, FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: "I am glad that the government has listened to our calls and that common sense has prevailed.

"The significantly colder winter has brought with it animal welfare concerns for livestock farmers.

"With more freezing weather expected this announcement couldn't have come at a better time as it will allow farmers to give additional feed to their livestock during this cold period without risking unfair penalties."

On 15 January 2010 livestock farmers were advised by WAG that they would be able to give their livestock additional feed to help maintain animal welfare during the period of cold weather.

It was announced at that time that the relaxation rules would remain in force until 31 January 2010 unless severe weather conditions persist but due to the prolonged severe weather conditions the relaxation of the supplementary rules has now been extended until 28 February 2010.

Farmers seeking further information should contact their local Divisional Office.

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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

Senedd Research Blog: https://seneddresearch.blog/2020/03/17/coronavirus-constituency-support/