SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SUPPORTS FUW POSITION ON TB COMPENSATION

The current bovine Tuberculosis (TB) valuation and compensation systems are an integral part of Welsh TB controls and should be retained but irresponsible behaviour should be penalised, says the Farmers’ Union of Wales.

In its response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s consultation on bovine TB compensation arrangements, the FUW argues it is wrong to penalise herd owners for cattle contact with infected wildlife, when successive governments have introduced legislation that has led directly to a massive increase in the numbers of TB susceptible wildlife.

Today FUW vice president Brian Walters said: "Given that scientific studies have attributed high-risk spread to protected wildlife, it would be completely unfair to punish farmers for a problem that has been created by past governments.

"The FUW agrees that compensation should provide an incentive for good practices, but only where such practices have been shown statistically to be effective in reducing incidences of bTB, are practical and affordable, and relate to factors which are within the direct influence and control of the herd owner."

The response also highlights the ambiguous findings of past studies of biosecurity measures. "All farmers should remain vigilant and, wherever practical, take steps to minimise the risk of disease transmission.

"However, scientists have concluded there is no universal solution for farm management to reduce the risk of a herd becoming a TB breakdown, as risk factors can change from year to year and be different from region to region.

"Measures that link compensation to biosecurity measures must therefore be statistically relevant and within a farmer’s control."

The response also brands proposals to publish details of compensation paid to individuals as "fundamentally wrong".

Mr Walters said: "In terms of the financial and emotional impact of bTB for Welsh herd owners, studies by the University of Exeter have shown that the value of cattle slaughtered is around 66 per cent of the total cost of a breakdown, and that the disease effects economic performance and growth of farm businesses, while causing serious stress for farm families.

"Herd owners who receive compensation due to bTB do so as a result of circumstances that are beyond their control. They do not volunteer or apply to receive such payments, and have no control over the size of an outbreak.

"Due to the complexity of issues that relate to bTB breakdowns, such as disease vectors, the nature of farm business structures and the industry as a whole, and the consequential losses incurred by businesses, most members of the general public will never be in a position to view payments made to individuals in the context of the net losses suffered, and the extreme emotional stress that TB places on families.

"Above all else, since the publication of details of individual payments will have no impact on incidences of bTB, the FUW fails to see why this proposal should form part of a programme of activities aimed at eradicating bTB in Wales.

"The implication that the publication of compensation details could contribute to bTB control is no more valid that the assertion that publicising the wages of public servants would encourage them to take a more proactive approach to controlling endemic diseases."

PROCESSORS AND SUPERMARKETS URGED TO STAND BY THE DAIRY INDUSTRY

The Farmers’ Union of Wales today renewed its call for processors and supermarkets to stand by the dairy industry following a further spate of farmgate milk price cuts.

The union’s milk and dairy produce committee chairman Eifion Huws expressed his bitter disappointment, stating that for some farmers the big reductions in price could be the last straw.

"During the last month we have seen processor after processor announcing price cuts and today’s announcement by the Dairy Farmers of Britain (DFB) co-operative that they are cutting 2.2ppl off their milk price from April 1 will shatter confidence for many producers.

"Farmers are at the end of their tether and it is therefore vitally important that processors and supermarkets stand by the industry at this difficult time."

A new DairyCo report disclosed worrying statistics with 14% of dairy farmers stating they intend to leave the industry within the next two years and only 18% stating they have the confidence to expand their businesses.

"The gap between farmgate prices and the price consumers pay at the supermarket is ever growing and this is undermining farmers’ confidence in the industry," added Mr Huws.

"UK milk production is at its lowest level for 34 years and therefore processors and supermarkets alike must pay a fair price to farmers in order to avoid a further fall in milk production.

"I believe that in the absence of an ombudsman it is imperative that the government meets with supermarkets and large retailers to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their produce in order to bring stability back to the industry.

"As the DairyCo report indicates there is a need for all parts of the dairy supply chain to recognise the vulnerability of the supply base and work together to build farmer confidence."

EUROPEAN REPORT HIGHLIGHTS MASSIVE COST OF EID FOR MEMBER STATES

The cost of implementing sheep and goat EID in just four of the EU’s 27 Member States could total an astonishing £109 million, the Farmers’ Union of Wales revealed today.

The startling figure was disclosed in a report by the Joint Research Centre, the body that advises the EU on technical issues, which compares costings for numerous EID implementation options in the UK, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Spain.

"Even the estimate of the cost of full EID implementation for the UK alone is more than £65 million," said FUW’s hill farming committee chairman Derek Morgan, who represents the union on the Welsh Assembly’s sheep EID group.

"This is a cost that will not be borne by our competitors from outside the EU and, once again, highlights the completely disproportionate expense of implementing a technology that can have major technical problems associated with it.

"I dread to think what the full costs to the EU sheep industry will be."

Even the cheapest option, which involves market reporting rather than on-farm reporting, would represent a cost of £31.024 million for the UK.

The study, requested by the EU’s Directorate General for Health and Consumer Affairs (DG SANCO), involved an economic analysis of EID for different production forms present in the Community from 2010.

The costs of equipment, tagging, and reading were calculated for different implementation options applied in Cyprus, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

The options studied were: full implementation for all animals born after 2009; implementation with a slaughter lamb derogation; full implementation with all movements being reported by markets and slaughterhouses; and options that included EID for animals born before 2010.

The cost of the various options in the UK, which has the largest flock in the EU, ranged between £31 million and £90 million, while costs for the Spanish industry were between £16 million and £55 million.

"This report simply adds to the already overwhelming evidence that shows that the costs of EID are completely disproportionate, while the benefits are negligible, and could actually be negative in the case of a disease outbreak," said Mr Morgan, who has tested EID on his Llangurig sheep farm.

"We are committed to fighting this ridiculous legislation to the bitter end and this is yet more evidence that totally undermines the basis upon which the Council of Ministers has made its decisions.

"However, the industry must also brace itself and start planning on the assumption that it will come in next year, because the majority of Member States are hell bent on ignoring the evidence."

FUW CALLS FOR NATIONAL DEBATE ON MILK QUOTAS

Farmers’ Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today called for a national debate on the impact abolishing milk quotas will have on the Welsh dairy sector.

Last November the 27 EU agriculture ministers agreed to lift quotas by one per cent per year before scrapping them altogether in 2014-2015.

Mr Vaughan has written to Assembly rural affairs minister Elin Jones informing her the issue has attracted growing attention on the Continent during recent months, and prompted significant debate at last week's meeting of the EU Council of Ministers.

"There is growing concern amongst many farmers in Wales, and in other parts of the EU, that the full implications of the abandonment of the quota regime have not been properly recognised by the European Commission and others," Mr Vaughan wrote.

"Many believe that such a change would have a destabilising effect on an industry that is already suffering as a result of market volatility, and would have a particularly adverse impact for family farms."

Mr Vaughan told Ms Jones the FUW recognises the restrictions the current regime places on the industry’s ability to react to market demands and believes a more flexible approach to such challenges is needed, rather than the wholesale liberalisation of the current regime.

These concerns were discussed at a meeting last April between the FUW and EU Agriculture Commissioner Fischer Boel and, while the Commissioner was "resolute in her belief that the quota regime should be abolished" by 2015, she also made it clear the matter would be revisited in 2010.

"Given this and the recent volatility of milk prices, there is a real need for the Welsh Assembly Government to engage in further discussions on the impact that abolishing the quota regime will have for the Welsh dairy sector.

"I believe this should happen as soon as possible in order to inform next year's review," Mr Vaughan added.

"It seems perverse that, while the global economy is reeling as a result of under-regulation of the financial sector, and the G20 are proposing far stricter controls, the Commission seems hell-bent on deregulating the milk regime.

"We do not want to find ourselves in a similar situation to the one we now face with regards to sheep EID, with Member States only realising the serious repercussions of what they have agreed to when it is all but too late."

FUW PREPARES CASE FOR EU OMBUDSMAN OVER EID

The Farmers’ Union of Wales revealed today it is preparing a case for the European Ombudsman to investigate the EC’s handling of the introduction of compulsory electronic identification (EID) of sheep.

Chairman of the FUW’s hill farming committee, Llangurig sheep farmer Derek Morgan, told the Assembly’s rural development sub-committee of the union’s intentions to contact the Ombudsman during a meeting at Lampeter University.

"I made it perfectly clear to the sub-committee that the union is leaving no stone unturned regarding this ridiculous regulation, and that we believe there are sufficient grounds for the EU Ombudsman to investigate the fact that we will next year be forced to use a technology that has been shown to have major flaws.

"I have first hand experience of EID, having used it on a small proportion of my Welsh Mountain sheep for the past six years, and found that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock. This has also been the experience of the vast majority of farmers and slaughterhouses taking part in the latest trials.

"Even when dealing with a small number of sheep that are electronically identified, we are forced to manually record information on paper due to reliability issues with the technology. It's all very well using it to record and monitor a small specialist flock, but scaling its use up for every sheep in the country is madness."

In a written submission to the sub-committee’s EID inquiry, the FUW emphasised the particular problems the regulation would bring for Welsh farmers, highlighting the fact that 80% of Wales comprises Less Favoured land, and that Welsh farms are therefore dependent upon moving animals from the mountains into the lowlands for wintering.

"The impracticality of recording such movements individually on paper means that Welsh farmers are likely to have to invest more heavily in the technology than those in other countries.

"Wales’ largely Less Favoured status also means that Welsh farms are particularly reliant on livestock markets in terms of selling animals to finishers from the lowlands, and the cost of implementing the regulation in markets is likely to either be passed on to farmers, or result in market closures.

"The FUW maintains that the current system of recording and reporting sheep movements represents a more than adequate method of sheep traceability for the purposes of disease control.

"Moreover, the experiences of industry and government during the 2007 Foot and Mouth disease outbreak clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of existing controls in terms of limiting the spread of a virulent animal disease, and problems encountered by the authorities were not related to the absence of a system of recording individual sheep movements.

"The FUW believes that it is unacceptable that the EU intends to impose the costs and impracticalities of EID on farmers within some Member States, while not requiring Third Countries, against which we compete to comply with similar systems of traceability.

"In conclusion, the FUW believes that there is overwhelming evidence to support the withdrawal of the current regulation regarding sheep EID, and that the Ombudsman must investigate this matter thoroughly."

FUW HEARS OF SUPPLY CHAIN CONCERNS

Dairy UK’s Farmers Forum chairman Roger Evans issued a stark warning about future milk production levels when he met the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ milk and dairy produce committee.

During the meeting in Aberystwyth, Mr Evans, a former chairman of First Milk, told the committee of his concerns about the ongoing decline of milk production and dairy farmer numbers.

"Milk production is now at its lowest for over thirty years and something must change in order to arrest this decline," said Mr Evans, who farms 350 acres in Shropshire.

"I am also extremely concerned that this decline will accelerate as dairy farmers struggle to meet the costs of complying with NVZ regulations."

Committee members called for a fundamental change to address the imbalance between farmgate and supermarket check out prices.

After the meeting, committee chairman Eifion Huws said: "There was unanimous agreement with the sentiments expressed by Mr Evans and the union will shortly be meeting with politicians in Westminster and Cardiff in order to raise our concerns.

"It is imperative both government and supermarkets take a long term view in order to address issues such as food security and market volatility.

"Companies that take the short term view undermine farmgate prices making it impossible for businesses to plan for the future.

"Family farms are the backbone of the dairy industry in Wales and the ongoing exodus from the industry should be a major cause of concern for government, consumers, and all those involved in the dairy supply chain."

FUW REBUFFS RSPCA BADGER CULL CLAIMS

The FUW today rebuffed claims by animal rights groups that proposals to cull badgers to control bovine TB would make it impossible to know which parts of a control strategy may work.

FUW vice president Brian Walters said: "There is solid scientific data that shows controlling badger numbers reduces incidences of TB by between 50 and 60 per cent. There is also solid scientific evidence showing that cattle controls, when applied in the absence of a wildlife reservoir, reduce TB incidences.

"We therefore know that a combination of both policies will accelerate the eradication of TB.

"No-one with a rudimentary knowledge of basic scientific principles would deny this, and in my mind claims to the contrary by animal rights groups such as the RSPCA and the Badger Trust demonstrate their wish to mislead the general public."

Mr Walters, a Carmarthen organic dairy farmer, also condemned comments by animal rights groups as "deliberately inflammatory" and "designed to mislead the general public".

"The RSPCA has described the decision as one that will ‘‘eliminate badgers from a large area of the Welsh countryside’’. Yet even after five years of badger removal in the English trials badgers numbers remained at levels well above the European average.

"The Minister has also made it clear that healthy badgers could be relocated into the area in order to ensure a sustainable and healthy livestock and badger population would coexist, side by side.

"The comments of the RSPCA are therefore utterly misleading, and the general public must not to allow these to deceive them. Anyone who reads this nonsense should take a step back and look at this situation rationally.

"The science shows that the prevalence of disease in badgers is thousands of per cent higher than it is in cattle, and we know that the disease can pass back and forth between both species, so we clearly need to control the disease in both cattle and badgers.

"That does not mean eradicating either badgers or cattle. The science supports the measures that have been proposed and no one should allow themselves to be misled by statements made by the RSPCA, the Badger Trust, or anyone else."

FUW SAYS MINISTER’S TB ANNOUNCEMENT IS MAJOR STEP FORWARD

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed an announcement today by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones that she intends to set up an intensive action pilot area that will address the issue of TB in wildlife.

The Minister told AMs that the zone will cover north Pembrokeshire where badgers will be culled by cage trapping.

Together with the cull there will be a raft of extra cattle control measures in the area to maximise the impact of the disease eradication programme.

Speaking after the announcement, FUW President Gareth Vaughan said: "This marks a significant step in the fight against bovine tuberculosis in Wales, and I commend the Minister and her staff for their resolve."

Last year the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales due to TB rose by 52%, to more than 12,000, while the disease prevalence in Welsh cattle was found to have increased by more than 30%, to 0.75%. Ten years ago the number of Welsh cattle slaughtered was just 1,046.

"We know from figures released in 2007 that the prevalence of TB in Welsh badgers is around 13%, and in some regions one in four badgers have been found to be infected," said Mr Vaughan.

"That is around 30 times higher than the rate of TB in cattle. The figures speak for themselves.

"For more than a decade we have been killing more and more cattle and increasing the strict controls on cattle movements, while letting the problem in the badger population spiral out of control.

"Each night there are tens of thousands of uncontrolled badger movements between farms, and there is no doubt in my mind that badgers are the main cause of the spread of the disease.

"The English badger culling trials have succeeded in reducing TB incidents in the trial areas by 54% yet they have not wiped out badgers from those areas. They have simply reduced their numbers to an acceptable level which has also led to positive environmental benefits such as increases in hedgehog numbers.

"Even if badger numbers were significantly reduced in the pilot area this would still allow healthy vaccinated badgers to be re-introduced, achieving healthy cattle and wildlife populations."

Mr Vaughan also called on the Minister to stand firm if animal rights groups launch a judicial review.

"The Minister has previously faced legal challenges and defended the current cattle testing regime, and she must do the same now in terms of defending moves to control the disease in wildlife. Commonsense must prevail.

"This is a dangerous disease that is starting to be seen at increasing levels in pets and other domestic animals, including llamas and goats. It has also been found increasingly in humans, and we therefore need to tackle it.

"We have worked relentlessly for many years for a return to commonsense. It previously took decades to rid our herds of this disease and we are only now starting out on a journey of disease eradication.

"The farming industry must have patience and fully support this programme."

FUW LEADER URGES UK MINISTER NOT TO PULL PUNCHES OVER EID

Welsh farmers’ strong objections to EU plans to introduce electronic identification (EID) of sheep were today firmly underlined to Defra Farming and the Environment Minister Jane Kennedy by the Farmers’ Union of Wales deputy president Emyr Jones.

Mr Jones met the Minister in Brussels shortly before the EU’s Council of Agricultural Ministers discussed a call by the Hungarian government for sheep EID to be voluntary rather than compulsory from December 31, 2009.

"I made it clear to the Minister that she should not pull any punches in showing her support for Hungary's proposal," said Mr Jones, of Bala.

"There is now an almost unanimous acceptance across Europe that the technology has serious problems associated with it in terms of implementing the Regulation on farms and in markets and slaughterhouses, yet some Member States are suggesting that making it a legal requirement is a good way of encouraging companies to improve the technology."In my mind that is like forcing people to drive cars that have failed their MoTs, and is completely unacceptable when we are talking about animal health and welfare and disease control, not to mention the financial consequences of forcing people to use a costly technology that is not fit for purpose."

"The latest statistics show that sheep numbers in Wales fell by around 10% between 2007 and 2008, while total EU sheep production fell by around 2.5% during the same period."For many producers this Regulation is likely to be the final straw, resulting in further reductions in flock sizes, which in turn threatens the viability of the entire supply chain, especially in Wales," Mr Jones added.

FUW REMAINS STRONGLY OPPOSED TO EID, SAYS PRESIDENT

The Farmers’ Union of Wales remains strongly opposed to the controversial introduction next year of electronic identification (EID) of sheep, the union’s president said today.

"We oppose this legislation and are committed to fighting it until the bitter end," Gareth Vaughan told county delegates during the union’s quarterly grand council meeting in Aberystwyth.

He said among the many topics of conversation throughout Wales’ rural communities, the subject of sheep EID was top of the agenda. "It is the one subject that is guaranteed to get our blood pressure up.

"And this message was recently made clear by the chairman of the union’s hill farming committee at a recent meeting with top officials from the European Commission and the Joint Research Council.

"However, unlike other farming organisations I do not intend to raise expectations unnecessarily on this issue. Our chances of winning a reprieve grow ever dimmer and, with January 2010 rapidly approaching, we must face up to the possibility that we will not receive the support from other Member States that is needed to reverse the decision.

"The crux of the matter is that we have been successful in persuading the Rural Affairs Minister in Cardiff that this law is impractical, and we have also persuaded Defra Minister Hilary Benn not to support EID.

"But unless Ministers from other EU countries start to recognise these concerns, there is nothing further our own governments can do.

"Nothing short of a massive U-turn by the majority of the EU's 27 Agriculture Ministers will stop this legislation coming in next year, and we therefore need to start thinking about how we will cope if the battle is lost.

"We have already won a two-year delay, and concessions that would make the legislation far less burdensome, and following tough negotiations with the Commission, there may be some more commonsense in the pipeline.

"I therefore say again, that we do not intend to give up our fight - but we will not mislead our members and give them false hope. Burying our heads in the sand, as other organisations are doing, is simply not an option - if we did that we would be failing our members."

ASSEMBLY MINISTER SEES EID PROBLEMS FIRST HAND

ASSEMBLY Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones will be given a demonstration of the controversial sheep and goats’ electronic identification (EID) technology on Friday, February 13 on a farm at Saron, Llanwnda, near Caernarfon.

Farmers’ Union of Wales member Huw Jones' farm, Pengwern, is one of 14 farms taking part in a joint Hybu Cig Cymru-Welsh Assembly Government pilot trial into the feasibility of introducing EID to the Welsh sheep industry.

"I have been trialing the EID technology for the past 12 months and I am convinced the system is totally unworkable after 20 per cent of my flock lost their tags," said Huw Jones.

"I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the technology to work for me on my farm and I found that although the electronic hand-held reader reads the tags relatively well, using this type of equipment is a lengthy process and is unpractical to say the least.

"The electronic race-reader is much better in theory but in practice I found it very unreliable. I recently brought 150 ewes down from the mountain and put them through the race and the reader only recorded 108 ewes.

"Such unreliability is just not good enough. I have no doubt that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock."

Alun Ffred Jones, Arfon’s Plaid Cymru AM, said: "I’m aware of the concerns regarding the EID tagging scheme and that many see it as unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy. I look forward to discussing the matter and listening to suggestions from people within the industry who will have to deal with the repercussions of the scheme’s implementation."

The visit, arranged by FUW’s Caernarfon county executive officer Gwynedd Watkin, will give the Minister the opportunity to see the technology at work at first hand.

Mr Watkin said: "The policy of EID for sheep has not been thought through properly and could ruin the financial viability of the industry.

"The technology used for EID is temperamental to say the least, even the slightest hitch with the technology could bring a livestock market or abattoir to a standstill, with major financial consequences for all concerned.

"I have invited John Lloyd Williams of Bryncir Agricultural Auction Centre and Gren Jones of Conwy Valley Meats to be present at the meeting so that the Minister can hear the concerns from all aspects of the industry."

FUW HIGHLIGHTS EID CONCERNS TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION

The Welsh farming industry’s objections to the compulsory electronic identification (EID) of sheep were today made clear to the European Commission by Farmers’ Union of Wales hill farming committee chairman Derek Morgan.

Mr Morgan’s comments were made during a meeting with EC officials in Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, organised by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Speaking after the meeting, the Llangurig sheep farmer said: "Unlike most farmers I have first hand experience of EID, having used it on a small proportion of my Welsh Mountain sheep for the past six years.

"In my six years experience, I have found that the technology is not sufficiently developed to be practical for the average Welsh flock and, even when dealing with a small number of sheep that are electronically identified, we are forced to manually record information on paper due to reliability issues with the technology.

"It’s all very well using it to record and monitor a small specialist flock, but scaling its use up for every sheep in the country is madness."

Mr Morgan also emphasised the particular problems that the Regulation would bring for Welsh businesses, highlighting the fact that 80% of Wales comprises Less Favoured land, and that Welsh farms are therefore dependent upon moving animals from the mountains into the lowlands for wintering.

"This means that Wales, out of necessity, has a particularly high number of movements which, in turn, means that we will have to invest more heavily in the technology than in other countries."

Throughout today the Commission heard a range of concerns regarding the impact of the technology on the entire sheep industry during meetings with farmers, abattoirs and livestock auctioneers.

"There are serious concerns regarding the impact that compulsory EID will have for the entire supply chain," added Mr Morgan. "Even the slightest hitch with the technology could bring a livestock market or abattoir to a standstill, with major financial consequences for all concerned.

"As upland farmers, we are particularly reliant on the market system in terms of selling animals to finishers from the lowlands and I am extremely concerned that the cost of implementing the Regulation in markets is likely to be passed on to farmers or result in market closures.

"Market closures would increase the control that the supermarkets have over the supply chain, and that would be extremely bad news for the industry."

FUW URGES FARMERS AND AUCTIONEERS TO STAND FIRM ON BSE TEST COSTS

Farmers’ Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today commended the decision by Pembrokeshire auctioneers J J Morris to cancel a Red Market sale at Whitland.

Mr Vaughan also called on farmers and auctioneers to stand firm against aggressive moves by processors and supermarkets to pass their overheads on to farmers via the auction markets.

The Whitland sale was due to have been held today, and would have involved the sale of some 120 cattle from farms under TB restrictions.

"The cancellation of Wednesday's Red Market at Whitland comes as a huge blow to Welsh farms that are under TB restrictions and had animals booked in to the sale" said Mr Vaughan.

"These businesses need to move animals off their holdings as soon as possible in order to alleviate the huge pressures that accompany TB movement restrictions, and the decision will add significantly to the problems in the area, and could even affect the Welsh Assembly's TB control programme," said Mr Vaughan.

"However, the industry should not give in to this kind of intimidation by supermarkets and abattoirs, and I commend the stance taken by the livestock auctions.

"Moves by abattoirs and supermarkets to levy farmers, whether via the livestock markets or otherwise, should be resisted. If we bow to this it could be the thin edge of the wedge.

"At what point will the auctioneers then be asked to deduct fixed charges to cover water and electricity bills, or other abattoir or supermarket overheads?

"The bottom line is that this is a public health issue, and should either be picked up by government or passed down the chain to supermarkets and other customers."

Mr Vaughan added that he was deeply suspicious about the apparently coordinated way in which the livestock auctioneers had been asked to levy farmers.

"The way in which some appear to have stood together on this issue smacks of collusion. Companies that work together in order to manipulate the market place risk falling foul of the law, and we shall pass on any evidence of such practices to the Office of Fair Trading."

"It is disgraceful that the supermarkets and abattoirs may make the TB situation worse due to tactics that are effectively designed to drive farmgate prices down."

FUW ANGLESEY AWARDS PRESENTED TO LOCAL FARMERS

WELSH Black Cattle Society president Richard Hughes has won the FUW Anglesey branch's "Gwobr Garreg Fawr" for his contribution to agriculture and Brian and Ffiona Thomas from Beef Direct have won the "Dyfeisgarwch award" for ingenuity or initiative.

Mr Hughes of Glan Rafon, Bodorgan, has never travelled more in Wales than during his first half year in office. His Rafon herd of pedigree Welsh Blackcattle was established in 1967.

He has met society members at six of the leading summer shows - Aberystwyth, Anglesey, Flint & Denbigh, Pembrokeshire, Llanrwst and the Royal Welsh Show.

Farm visits to members, organised by the North Wales Breeders Club, included a modern dairy complex with the Plumbley family at Calveley green Farm, Cheshire, and to Peter and Yvonne Brown's Chastleton Hill Farm, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucester.

Both farm visits were to progressive Welsh Black breeders and were well received by hosts and visitors who believe in good public relations and communication between society officials and members.

The president also joined the South Wales Breeders Club at their annual farm visit hosted by the Williams family at Tyddyn Bach, Llanfachreth in Merionethshire.

Mr Williams, whose Machreth Herd was established in 1956, has in recent years seen many cattle registered from the home-bred bull, Machreth Cai 7th.

During the autumn Mr Hughes joined 100 members at the South Wales Breeders Club dinner at the Plough Inn, Rhosmaen, Llandeilo. Within a week both Mr and Mrs Hughes had met the patron, the Prince of Wales, and presented him with a china Welsh Black Bull to celebrate his 60th birthday.

Mr Hughes, who now has nine breeding cows, is a regular exhibitor at Anglesey Show and won breed champion on many occasions. He also purchases store cattle at Dolgellau to fatten in the spring and sell in the autumn direct to the abattoir.

During the Winter Fatstock Fairs Mr Hughes was delighted to witness the success of one of his own home bred steers Rafon Keith 3rd winning awards the length and breadth of the country.

Rafon Keith 3rd, exhibited by Robin Roberts, Anglesey, won the champion native steer at the Royal Highland Show and was in the best group of three pure beef breed animals at the Royal Smithfield Show held in the Bath & West Showground, Somerset.

Mr Hughes is the fourth generation of his family to farm at Glan Rafon and the third generation to be members of the Welsh Black Cattle Society.

The idea for Beef Direct was born in 1998 as Brian and Ffiona Thomas were fed up with having no control over their prices which at that time were below the cost of production for beef and lamb.

They felt that the supermarkets were paying farmers as little as possible and charging the housewife as much as possible. Logically, therefore, there was a reasonable margin to be had from direct selling.

In August 2000, after doing their research, Beef Direct was launched at the Anglesey Show. The idea was that as farmers' markets were just starting up in England they would go there to sell their Welsh Black Beef and lamb.

Initially, they worked with their local butcher and his son. Foot and Mouth shut the business down for four months in 2001. After this it was decided to upgrade the old stables which was adapted to a licensed working butchery and employ a full time butcher.

Both Brian and Ffiona attended a number of food-related courses to gain the necessary qualifications. Their aim from the start has been to produce the best quality meat possible from their herd of pure Welsh Black Cattle and lamb relying largely on the clover rich Anglesey pastures to enhance the flavour.

The business has expanded every year and at present three full-time employees work in the butchery. Demand for Welsh Black Beef is on the increase and with the advent of DNA testing it is envisaged that there will be a greatly increased demand for their pure Welsh Black Beef from the catering industry as well as the public.

They are looking to expand their premises in the near future and hopefully create more employment. The first recognition of Beef Direct's excellence was when they were invited to become one of Rick Stein's Food Heroes in the early stages of their meat business.

Other accolades have since followed- Great Taste Awards three gold stars for their Welsh Lamb 2008, Great Taste Awards one gold star for their beef 2008, Great Taste Awards reserve best speciality food from Wales 2008.

They have also won prizes at the Oyster Festival for their sausages. At New Ferry Farmers' Market, which won Radio 4 UK's Best Farmers' Market 2007, Beef Direct have won several awards including the overall best producer and runner-up in the Customer Service Award which recognised their excellent produce by customers who buy their meat on a monthly basis.

On being told that they were to receive the FUW Award for Ingenuity they commented: "The award given by the Anglesey branch of the FUW to us is very important and greatly appreciated as it is the first award we have received from fellow farmers. We are absolutely delighted to be receiving this award."

The awards were presented at the branch's annual dinner on January 30.

FUW URGES TESCO TO HELP FUND WELSH DAIRY CENTRE TOO

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ dairy committee chairman today welcomed the launch of Tesco’s national dairy centre in the Wirral and called on the supermarket to consider assisting a similar centre already set up in Wales.

"The Tesco Dairy Centre of Excellence at Liverpool University’s Wood Park farm is a welcome development as it will bring together experts from across the dairy sector to look at issues from animal welfare to consumer trends," said Eifion Huws.

"But I would also urge Tesco to think about making a financial investment in Wales’ Dairy Development Centre at the Gelli Aur Farm and Technology Centre near Llandeilo which has been going since January 2002.

"It aims to facilitate the development of the Welsh dairy industry through a proactive technology transfer service; market information; demonstrating best practice methods of production; and research and development."The centre has a network of demonstration and development farms to help get best practice methods and new technologies to farmers throughout Wales," Mr Huws, an Anglesey dairy farmer, added.

"Its two development farms aim to demonstrate research work on a commercial scale, illustrate sustainable husbandry, compare various dairy systems and publish physical and financial results.

"The demonstration farms are commercial working farms demonstrating better practice methods of varying dairy production systems whilst maintaining a viable farming business. The centre is financed by the Assembly’s Farming Connect scheme and DairyCo."

Tesco say their project builds on many unique initiatives such as Local Choice milk and the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group which illustrate its commitment to the dairy industry.

The new centre will bring Tesco, farmers and dairy experts together to work on issues facing the industry and help to build a more sustainable dairy industry in the UK.

Some of the key areas it will look at are:

  • Ways in which to help farmers to deliver commercial benefits on farm
  • Exploring consumer trends and product innovation
  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental best practices
  • Milk quality

FUW SEEKS MEMBERS’ VIEWS ON NEW TB COMPENSATION SCHEME

The Farmers’ Union of Wales will gather the views of its 12 county branches to develop a formal response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s (WAG) proposals to overhaul its bovine TB compensation scheme.

"Meanwhile, I would encourage all Welsh farmers to read WAG’s consultation paper and respond to it before the closing date of April 10," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

WAG proposes to link bovine TB compensation payments to good farming practices and disease control measures and the consultation document is available at www.wales.gov.uk/consultations/currentconsultations or by request via e-mail from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A key aim of its £27m programme of bovine TB eradication is to amend the current system to "ensure a fair deal for herd owners and taxpayers by linking compensation arrangements with the encouragement of farmers to comply with best practice requirements".

Bovine TB in Wales has increased substantially in the current financial year and since last April over £17,734,564 compensation was paid in Wales, compared with £11,185,340 in the same period the previous year - an increase of 59 per cent.

WAG’s consultation paper considers the responsibilities of herd owners and the principles of compensation and, in particular, how these principles can encourage positive on-farm actions and help modify behaviour to prevent the reintroduction of the disease into herds in Wales.

Mr Vaughan said: "No-one would disagree that genuine irresponsible behaviour should be penalised but the approach must be proportional, particularly given past government failures to address the issue of bTB in wildlife which has created the massive problems we are now facing.

"It would be completely unacceptable for a farmer to be penalised if his animals are infected by wild animals over which farmers have no control whatsoever - especially given that it has effectively been illegal to control the disease in wildlife for decades."

FUW REACTS ANGRILY TO MORE FARMGATE MILK PRICE CUTS

The Farmers’ Union of Wales today reacted angrily following the latest round of farmgate milk price cuts.

Their response follows Arla Foods decision to cut its milk price to farmers by 2p per litre (ppl) and First Milk by 1.25ppl.

FUW milk and dairy produce committee chairman Eifion Huws said: "This time of the year almost always brings bad news for dairy farmers with farmgate milk price reductions and increased input costs, energy prices and regulation leading to falling confidence.

"All dairy farmers have serious concerns about their future as they face difficult times in the months ahead. They are already experiencing very tough conditions, with historically high prices still for many inputs and pressure on returns.

"This latest round of milk price cuts began in November when Dairy Farmers of Britain announced a 2p per litre reduction. At the time the FUW called for increased support for the dairy industry but obviously that is not happening.

"For some dairy farmers these big reductions in milk price could be the last straw. It is vitally important that processors and supermarkets stand by the industry at this difficult time and do not let these difficulties trigger a downward spiral.

"I firmly believe the Government should take urgent action to prevent this happening in order to secure jobs in the farming and processing industries."

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