FUW URGES EXTRA FUNDING FOR IBERS TO PREVENT JOB LOSSES

The Farmers' Union of Wales today called on the Westminster and Assembly Governments to provide extra funding urgently for Aberystwyth University's world-class Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in a bid to prevent it shedding 70 jobs.

The university announced the proposed job losses at a private staff meeting today and revealed IBERS faces a £2.4m deficit over the next two years.

"We believe that there is a strong argument for the Welsh Assembly Government and central Government to step in and provide funds to meet the expected deficit that has led to the imminent loss of these well-paid jobs," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

"Over the years spending on scientific research has been scaled down and now is the time that we should be seeing an increase in funding for the type of work being carried out at IBERS, given the importance of agriculture in terms of climate change and feeding the world.

"The work undertaken out at IBERS is within that fundamentally important research area that will affect all our lives in the near future."

FUW WELCOMES NEW GROCERY CODE BUT REPEATS PLEA FOR SUPERMARKET OMBUDSMAN

The new Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice just introduced by the Competition Commission has only gone part of the way towards breaking the arm-lock supermarkets have over their suppliers, a Welsh farmers' leader said today (5 February).

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan welcomed the code which was introduced yesterday. "It should provide retailers with clear guidelines for dealing fairly with suppliers.

"But it also serves to strengthen the union's demands for the Government to take further prompt action and appoint an independent ombudsman with real teeth to make sure the supermarkets adhere to the guidelines.

"It is only then that we can be confident that their arm-lock has been broken once and for all. It's 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'.

"However, recently reported actions of some supermarkets that have made the most unreasonable demands for retrospective payments and changes to trading terms illustrate that we still have some way to go to solve this big issue."

Meanwhile, the FUW is strongly supporting Ynys Môn's (Anglesey) Labour MP Albert Owen's Private Member's Bill, to be debated in the Commons on 5 March, which will provide the perfect opportunity to appoint a Supermarket Ombudsman, said Mr Vaughan.

"Mr Owen's Grocery Market Ombudsman 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.

"The Bill 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 MP on the 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," said Mr Vaughan.

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 (GSCOP) - to replace the previously discredited Supermarket Code of Practice - and the establishment of an ombudsman to police the new code.

Mr Vaughan said: "Our experience has shown that it is the supplier who has to bear much of the costs when supermarkets decide to launch price wars. Consumers are no doubt happy to see prices fall, and I am 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."

NORTH WALES FARMERS RAISE CONCERNS WITH MEPS

A five-man delegation of Farmers' Union of Wales members from North Wales took the opportunity on a recent visit to the EU Parliament headquarters in Brussels to raise numerous issues concerning the farming industry with all four Welsh MEPs.

The delegation - vice presidents Glyn Roberts and Eifion Huws and the union's Caernarfonshire county chairman Morgan Jones-Parry, vice chairman Dewi Roberts and executive officer Gwynedd Watkin - all called for the retention of milk quotas and the historic basis for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.

In separate meetings with MEPs Kay Swinburne (Con), Jill Evans (Plaid), Derek Vaughan (Lab) and John Bufton (UKIP), the delegation also demanded a curb on cross-compliance penalties which, they stressed, were often disproportionate to the "crime" - especially when a genuine mistake, with no financial gain, had occurred.

Earlier, the delegation attended a Welsh farmhouse breakfast in the Parliament building, hosted by Dr Swinburne, where a cross-party group of MEPs from all parts of the UK and senior EU officials were treated to a hearty breakfast of Gwendraeth Valley bacon, sausages from Welshpool butcher John Langford, Caws Cenarth's Perl Wen and Caerphilly cheeses, and yoghurt from Rachel's Dairy.

Mr Roberts told the gathering that around 1,500 functions were held in the UK to celebrate the annual Farmhouse Breakfast Week but the FUW's event in Brussels was the only one held overseas.

"Our president and senior policy staff were here over a month ago and the FUW fully appreciates the hugely important role the EU Parliament now plays in agriculture ion Wales. We want to work with you - we want to meet with you regularly," he said.

Dr Swinburne said she was delighted to meet the FUW delegation who took the opportunity to lobby for the interests of Welsh farming and promote quality, fresh Welsh produce."

Speaking after the breakfast, Mrs Evans said: "It was a good opportunity to show off the excellence of Welsh farm produce to EU law makers and officials.

"It also gave us a chance to discuss a wide range of issues that are of concern to Welsh farming such as milk quotas, CAP reform, food labelling and climate change.

"The Common Agricultural Policy is being reviewed so it's more important than ever to make sure the voice of Welsh farming is heard in Brussels."

FUW RAISES SMOKIES ISSUE IN BRUSSELS

The Farmers' Union of Wales today welcomed the Food Standards Agency's move to push for a change in European Union (EU) law to allow production of smoked skin-on sheep meat - commonly known as "smokies" - for human consumption.

Representatives from the FUW currently out in Brussels today discussed the FSA's recommendations with all four Welsh MEPs and have urged them to support the action taken by the FSA board.

Research by the FSA and representatives of the UK meat industry have indicated that it is possible to produce such meat safely and hygienically in approved slaughterhouses.

"The FUW has long campaigned against the illegal trade in smokies, and was one of the first organisations to push for FSA research into making their production legal," said the union's president Gareth Vaughan.

"We have been well aware for several years that there is a demand for this type of skin-on-meat amongst certain communities, but we remain concerned that until now the only way this demand can be met is via illegal means.

"The manner in which this meat is currently produced in unlicensed and unhygienic conditions not only puts the health of the customer at risk but also does farmers no favours.

"So we welcome this latest news and if the EU agrees, then skin-on-meat could soon be produced under clean conditions in licensed abattoirs and sold openly to those customers who want this type of meat.

"It will be good news for Welsh sheep farmers, who will have the opportunity to add value to their older sheep as a new market place opens up for them," said Mr Vaughan.

Last year research undertaken by Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales indicated that the legal production of "smokies" could be worth more than £3m to the Welsh red meat industry.

"I hope the European Commission will look favourably on the results of the research and give the go-ahead for the legal production of smokies at the earliest opportunity," he added.

The FSA board will now seek clearance from Ministers to make an approach to the EU to allow for the legal production of smoked skin-on sheep.

FUW ISSUES ARSON WARNING

The Farmers' Union of Wales today warned farmers in Gwynedd to be vigilant after two suspicious fires in one week badly damaged farm buildings and equipment some 10 miles apart at Pencaenewydd and Llaniestyn on the Lleyn peninsula.

North Wales Police and the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service are investigating and the FUW urged farmers to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious.

"This is a cause for concern for a great number of farmers in the area," said FUW Gwynedd county executive officer Gwynedd Watkin.

"Farms, because of the nature of the industry, have been expanding, and there are also fewer people around in rural areas to keep an eye on what is going on," he said.

Mr Watkin said that because the farm house was often a distance from farm buildings it made them "easy targets" for anyone intent on causing damage.

He said the fires had not been confirmed as definitely deliberate, but there was nothing - such as electricity - in either of the two sheds which could have started a fire.

Mr Watkin added he was hopeful the situation could be sorted out soon. "This is a massive loss for the farmers, even though the insurance should reimburse them.

"I cannot put enough emphasis on how important it is that everyone keeps an eye out and reports anything suspicious to the police," he added.

FUW Insurance representative Irfon Hughes said the fires highlighted how important it is to keep all paper work up to date.

He said that location made it difficult for people to find their way around, and it was possible that anyone responsible would be familiar with the area.

"I've been working on the Lleyn for two years, and it has taken me that long to get to know all the little lanes in the area," he said.

He warned too that it was only a matter of chance that no livestock was lost during the recent incidents, as a shed of calves were saved just before the fire spread.

FUW BOOSTS BID TO EXPORT WELSH LAMB TO CHINA

A bid to put Welsh Lamb on the menu in China could take a step closer following a function organised by the Farmers' Union of Wales at the House of Lords tomorrow (Wednesday, 20 January).

A top-table guest at the union's annual lunch to celebrate the Home Grown Cereals Authority's Farmhouse Breakfast Week will be Zhou Xiaoming, Minister Counsellor of Economic and Commercial Office of the UK's Chinese Embassy, who is in charge of all trade and investment issues between China and the UK including agriculture.

The function is being hosted by Lord Livsey of Talgarth, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnor whose successor to represent the constituency Roger Williams, currently Lib Dem Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, led a delegation to the Chinese Embassy in London two years ago to promote Welsh Lamb.

Although Mr Williams doesn't run his Breconshire farm himself anymore, he is still responsible for a flock of 600 ewes and 60 beef suckler cows. He will also be on the top table at the lunch - one of three FUW functions to herald Farmhouse Breakfast Week (24-30 January).

The other two are traditional Welsh breakfasts at the National Assembly's Senedd building in Cardiff Bay today (Tuesday, 19 January), where rural affairs minister Elin Jones is the main speaker, and at the European Union headquarters in Brussels next week (Wednesday, 27 January) when an FUW delegation will meet Welsh MEPs.

Mr Williams' began his bid to boost exports to China when he helped arrange for farmers from his constituency provide 40kg of Welsh Lamb for a Chinese New Year reception at the Chinese Embassy in January 2008.

The idea was first discussed when Mr Williams' neighbour Glyn Jones, a farmer and director of Farmers Fresh which manages an abattoir and is directly involved in the export market, came up with the idea to promote Welsh Lamb.

Mr Williams said: "Welsh Lamb is the best lamb in the world and the Chinese market presents a massive opportunity for the Welsh agricultural sector. In the past decade alone, meat consumption in China has been rising at an average of 2kg per capita per year.

"Over the past few decades, consumption of meat in developing countries has grown at a rate of five to six per cent a year and is growing 10 times faster in newly industrialised countries. This is a trend that will continue as China's economy carries on growing and one that should create a nation that has more disposable income.

"If Chinese consumers choose to spend this money on Welsh Lamb then, apart from the high quality product they will receive, domestic meat producers will benefit."

Average meat consumption in China is now 54kg/person, compared to 70-130kg/person in Western countries. Forty years ago, it was just 4kg/person in China.

Another top-table guest at the Lords function, Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales chairman Rees Roberts, said: "Welsh Lamb is big business overseas, with one in three lambs destined for export.

"Europe has traditionally been our largest overseas market, and continues to be so, but Welsh Lamb has an enviable reputation as a quality brand, leading to new markets opening up across the world.

"One of those markets is China. There is already demand for Welsh Lamb in the restaurants of Hong Kong and HCC is working on ways to make our produce available in mainland China. Meanwhile, we are continuing our marketing efforts in other parts of the Far and Middle East, including Singapore and Dubai."

Another speaker at the Lords lunch will be Andrew Denham, chairman of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: "In 2008 RABI gave out some £318,000 to beneficiaries, both working and retired in Wales. As well as regular quarterly grants it helped with specialist items such as mobility scooters, riser recliners and stair lifts.

"For working farming families, help has been given for domestic bills, where there has been illness within the family or TB in the herd, and help towards farm worker costs where the farmer has been incapacitated due to injury or illness. Income for 2008 from Wales, where RABI has 223 of its total of 1,434 retired long-term beneficiaries, was some £92,000."

FUW's Caernarfonshire office has organised the following farmhouse breakfasts at members' farms and Bryncir Market in support of the Home Grown Cereals Authority's Farmhouse Breakfast Week (24-30 January) - Ty'n Hendre, Talybont, Bangor (on Monday, 25 January); Bodnitho Farm, Botwnnog (Wednesday, 27 January); Fferm Llwyndyrys, Llwyndyrys (Thursday, 28 January); Dylasau Uchaf, Padog, Betws-y-Coed; Gwern, Saron, Llanwnda; and Bryncir Market (all on Friday, 29 January).

Everyone is welcome and to book your place at the table contact FUW county executive officer Gwynedd Watkin or Gwenda Williams on 01286 672 541. The cost is £10 per person and all proceeds will be shared between the FUW president's charity, Wales Air Ambulance, and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

FUW LEADER URGES CHANCELLOR TO SLASH FUEL DUTY

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today repeated previous pleas to the Chancellor to slash fuel tax and introduce a fairer vehicle taxation system after numerous 4x4 vehicles had provided a lifeline to people living in the countryside during the current icy weather conditions.

"The treacherous Arctic weather conditions prevailing during the past fortnight have clearly illustrated how essential and important 4x4 vehicles have been. Without them whole areas of the countryside would have been no-go areas," said Mr Vaughan.

"I am taking this opportunity to urge the government once again to review its tax position on some types of non-luxury, work-horse types of 4x4s. They should no longer be described as 'Chelsea tractors' because time and time again they have provided a lifeline for fully stretched rural areas during severe weather conditions including flooding."

Mr Vaughan has already written to Mr Darling and his predecessors on numerous occasions regarding the impact fuel duty and vehicle taxation has on the viability of Welsh rural businesses and has regularly highlighted the necessity for an equitable system that reflects the unique needs of rural Wales.

"Welsh farmers and many other rural businesses are heavily reliant on 4x4s due to Wales' geography and topology, meaning that successive hikes in the taxation classes of such vehicles have a disproportionate impact on rural families and businesses.

"In view of the acute and growing pressure fuel price increases represent for rural businesses, not to mention businesses across the UK, I believe that we have reached a critical point at which action must be taken by the Chancellor to significantly reduce fuel tax in order to aid the economy.

"I also believe that an equitable vehicle taxation system must be introduced that recognises the stark differences between those who choose to drive 4x4s and those who do so out of necessity."

Support for the FUW's campaign arrived earlier this week when the Association of British Drivers (ABD) stressed the recent wet summers and snowy winters - that the Met Office's "global warming alarmists failed to predict" - had once again demonstrated the usefulness of owning a 4x4.

ABD stressed the extra traction can be a life saver in the dry, wet, mud or snow and on un-gritted roads but 4x4s had been attacked by so-called "environmentalists" using exaggeration, myths, "direct action" and punitive vehicle excise duty rates imposed by "our tax-hungry, anti-car government".

ABD environment spokesman Paul Biggs bought a Honda CR-V "soft-roader" in 2006 following the association's "Freezelock" prediction of severe winter conditions. "It has proved to be invaluable in summer floods due to its higher ground clearance and the extra traction certainly helps in snow or ice.

"I can also tow my touring caravan safe in the knowledge that I'm less likely to get stuck on muddy fields. For me, it's an ideal, roomy, safe, multi-purpose family vehicle.

"With potentially colder winters predicted for the next 20 to 30 years unjustifiably demonised 4x4 owners may yet have the last laugh on global warming alarmists and anti-car campaigners."

Mr Vaughan added: "Mr Biggs' experience proves that 4x4s are not for show and in the countryside they are absolutely essential. Owners should not be penalised for using their common sense and opting for such vehicles which have really proven their worth in the current cold snap."

FUW SAYS SUPERMARKET OMBUDSMAN LEGISLATION SUPPORT IS A STEP FORWARD

The Farmers' Union of Wales today described its 10-year campaign for legislation to ensure supermarkets provide a fair deal for all their suppliers, including farmers, as a step nearer after the UK Government accepted the need to set up a Supermarket Ombudsman.

"Of course we welcome the Consumer Minister's announcement today that he has accepted the Competition Commission's recommendation for a body to enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP)," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

The code will come into force on 4 February and will be quickly followed by a consultation on how best to enforce it, including who that body might be and the powers it could have.

"Meanwhile, we are also supporting Anglesey MP Albert Owen's Private Member's Bill, introduced in Parliament last month, which will provide the perfect opportunity to appoint a Supermarket Ombudsman," said Mr Vaughan.

"Mr Owen's Grocery Market Ombudsman 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.

"The Bill 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.

"The FUW has repeatedly expressed major concerns regarding the dominance of major retailers over supply chains and believes there is significant evidence to suggest that such dominance has in many cases been abused to the detriment of suppliers and local economies.

"We have, therefore, campaigned for an enforceable and robust supermarket Code of Conduct and the introduction of a supply chain ombudsman for the past decade and have, on numerous occasions, provided evidence supporting these calls to the Competition Commission and Office of Fair Trading.

"We welcomed last year's recommendations by the Competition Commission and believe that Mr Owen's Bill provides an ideal opportunity to take these forward. Therefore, we hope the cross-party support which already exists for the Bill will increase and ultimately result in an Act which addresses many of the concerns we have about unfair practices by supermarkets.

"Over the past three decades the proportion of food sold by supermarkets, rather than private outlets, has risen to around 75%, with the largest four supermarket chains controlling over 70% of sales. Competition Commission figures show that 65% of milk, 85% of beef, and 90% of lamb is sold through the multiple food retailers, with buying power being concentrated among a few companies.

"The power currently wielded by the major retailers represents a major challenge, not only for primary producers, but for the food sector in general.

"For this reason, the FUW has long argued that Government should take action to redress what is currently an imbalance between the powers held by primary producers, processors, and retailers, and that the first step towards doing this should be the appointment of a Supermarket Ombudsman responsible for enforcing a strict Code of Conduct."

MEIRIONNYDD FARMERS TO DISCUSS FUTURE OF FARMING

An opportunity for Meirionnydd farmers to consider the future of their industry will be provided during the Farmers' Union of Wales' Meirionnydd county branch annual general meeting at the Ship Hotel, Dolgellau, on Friday 29 January at 7.30pm.

"We are fortunate this year to have the following speakers - Isabel Owen, head of the Caernarfon Divisional Office, Welsh Assembly Government; Sion Aron Jones, Hybu Cig Cymru industry development manager; and Emyr Williams, director of land management, Snowdonia National Park," said FUW's county executive officer Huw Jones.

"The theme for the meeting is 'Food, the environment and farm support - what is the future?'. This will be an opportunity, therefore, for us to consider the future direction of the industry.

"I will also be presenting a short report of the union's activities during 2009 at the start of the meeting. I am expecting a strong representation of members from all parts of the county."

FUW WELCOMES FINAL SEAL OF APPROVAL FOR BADGER CULL

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones's confirmation today that the Welsh Assembly Government intends to proceed with a badger cull to combat bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in Wales.

The decision to cull badgers in a limited Intensive Action Pilot Area (IAPA) in west Wales, which has already received overwhelming cross-party support from members of the National Assembly for Wales during plenary votes, marks the final Ministerial decision regarding the matter - notwithstanding the outcome of a legal challenge by the Badger Trust.

Welcoming the decision, FUW bTB spokesman Brian Walters, a Carmarthenshire organic dairy producer, said: "This final Ministerial decision marks an important step towards reducing bTB incidences in an area that has one of the highest rates of the disease in Europe.

"The work undertaken and commissioned by the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer shows that this decision is the right one, and the only one likely to result in significant falls in bTB incidences in an areas where badgers have been shown to have high levels of infection.

"It is supported by the science, and has therefore received the support of the Welsh Assembly Government and the overwhelming majority of Assembly Members from all political parties. However, it should not be forgotten that it is just one part of a host of measures being undertaken to combat bTB in Wales."

Mr Walters also expressed his concern that a legal challenge by the Badger Trust should not derail the Welsh bTB Eradication Programme. "It has taken a great deal of work to get to this position, but as time marches on the epidemic continues to grow.

"While the Badger Trust's legal challenge is disappointing, it comes as no surprise. However, it should not be allowed to derail the progress made to date, as a lengthy and drawn out court case would see the epidemic continue to escalate."

Mr Walters also hit out at misleading and inflammatory claims by animal rights organisation aimed at misleading public opinion. He said: "There seems to be no end to the unfounded and misleading statements being issued, by many of those who oppose the cull, which fly in the face of conclusive scientific evidence gathered over almost four decades.

"In areas where the disease is endemic in the badger population experience has shown that no amount of cattle controls will help without parallel moves to significantly reduce transmission from badgers.

"The Royal Society, the world's oldest and most respected science academy, has published work indicating that cattle movements are likely to be responsible for just 16 per cent of bTB herd outbreaks, and that 'High-risk spread is probably the result of cattle-badger-BTB interaction', and the English badger culling trials have succeeded in slashing bTB incidences by more than a half.

"There is no doubt that badgers are the major obstacle to controlling the spread of bTB to cattle and that badger culling works. Any talk about farming practices being a significant factor are unfounded and have been shown to be such following numerous initiatives aimed at cattle alone.

"The bottom line is that badgers and cattle share the same fields, yet we have been culling tens of thousands of cattle while ignoring the wildlife reservoir.

"It is also completely wrong to talk about the eradication of badgers - the aim is one that should be supported by all parties, namely to have healthy badgers and healthy cattle living alongside each other."

FUW DISAPPOINTED BY MEAT PLANT JOB LOSSES

Today's announcement that an Anglesey meat plant plans to axe nearly half its workforce was described as a highly disappointing development by a Welsh farmers' leader who also expressed relief that the lamb slaughtering facility at the plant would remain operational.

"The loss of more than 200 jobs at Vion UK's Welsh Country Foods plant would be a serious blow for the island's economy and beyond, especially for the livelihoods of the workers and their families involved, but we are heartened that they will keep the slaughtering facility open," said Aeron Prysor Jones, chairman of the Farmers' Union of Wales livestock committee.

"We understand the Dutch-owned company plans to close the meat cutting operation at Gaerwen and transfer the retail packaging and distribution work to their plant at Winsford in Cheshire. We hope the economic climate will improve sufficiently for the Anglesey plant to return to a higher level of operation in the not too distant future."

LIB-DEM LEADER URGES GOVERNMENT TO BACK WELSH FARMERS

WELSH Liberal Democrats leader Kirsty Williams called for increased government support for Welsh farmers when she addressed the Farmers' Union of Wales' Carmarthenshire county executive committee recently.

"In order to ensure a healthy economy, population and environment we must better promote and support our Welsh farming industry," the Brecon and Radnorshire AM told union members.

"With six out of every seven British hill farmers having no identified successor we must turn farming into a profitable and thriving industry, and make sure that this way of life does not die out with this generation.

"To secure the future of rural Wales we must ensure that our farmers and consumers get an honest and fair deal," said Ms Williams. "The promotion of food quality, more local procurement, furthering biodiversity and fair prices are the best kind of medicine for a healthier Wales.

"In difficult times such as this economic recovery starts at home, so consumers should be proud to 'Buy Welsh' and 'Buy Local'. Welsh farmers have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and supermarkets should pay fair prices for the high quality product they produce.

"Farmers don't want to be given subsidies, what they want is to receive a fair payment for their hard work. Supermarket greed is forcing farmers out of business.

"Whilst world food demand is set to double over the next 40 years we stand by helpless as we lose the capacity to produce it.

"Alongside international fair trade products we need to see Fair Trade for our Welsh farmers," Ms Williams said. "We need a legally binding supermarket code, enforced by an independent Food Market Regulator to enforce fair trade for farmers and to help this industry prosper as it should.

"This is especially crucial for the dairy sector that is under so much pressure at the present time. We need the Government to take action now to secure production in the Welsh milk field."

Ms Williams added that, like the FUW, she had grave concerns over the proposed implementation timescale of the new Welsh Assembly Government's Glastir scheme. "To date the details and consequences of this new scheme have not be fully worked out or tested.

"The Agriculture Minister must be prepared to listen to the concerns of the industry and delay implementation until there is clarity around the scheme that allows for individual farm business to plan for their future.

"In recent months we have seen much comment about the damaging effects of the methane from livestock on climate change. However, new pioneering work demonstrates that proper grassland management can be crucial in capturing carbon and thus Welsh farmers are well placed to play a key role in the Government's plans to address climate change."

FUW SAYS TORIES SUPERMARKET OMBUDSMAN PLAN IS LONG OVERDUE

The Farmers' Union of Wales today welcomed the Tories plan - revealed at the Oxford Farming Conference - to appoint a supermarket ombudsman but described the move as long overdue.

"As far back as the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak even Prime Minister Tony Blair was saying supermarkets had farmers in an 'arm-lock' and wielded too much power," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

"At the time the FUW welcomed his comments, too, but made the point that despite his rhetoric he had failed to take practical action to assist farmers and other suppliers."

Since then the FUW has repeatedly called for a supermarket ombudsman and, in April 2008, described the Competition Commission's bid to create an independent Ombudsman to enforce a strengthened Groceries Supply Code of Practice as a major step forward in efforts to curb the dominance of the large supermarket chains.

"But, regrettably, there is still no such ombudsman in place even though we had been pressing for a fresh investigation into the practices employed by the large supermarket companies long before the Office of Fair Trading asked the Competition Commission to investigate the issue in 2006," added Mr Vaughan.

"The Commission fully endorsed our campaign which followed bitter complaints from farmers and other suppliers over many years that their prices were being forced down to satisfy the demands of these companies to make even bigger profits for their shareholders.

"We were heartened when Wales' Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones expressed her support in December 2007 for an Ombudsman to regulate supermarkets and called for the existing voluntary Code of Conduct to be updated and strengthened.

"The FUW still maintains an independent Ombudsman, coupled with compliance officers employed by supermarkets to oversee the implementation of the new code, will be a major step forward in ensuring supermarkets provide a fair deal for all suppliers, including farmers."

During the Oxford Farming Conference shadow environment spokesman Nick Herbert said the voluntary code of practice governing the relationship between supermarkets and food suppliers is not "worth the paper it is written on" unless properly enforced.

"It is not enough to talk loosely about a fair market or the need for better labelling. We need action, with a supermarket ombudsman and legislation to enforce honest labelling if the retailers won't act."

WELSH HILL FARMERS GROW BLACKCURRANT CUTTINGS FOR RIBENA DRINK

The versatility of Welsh hill farmers is splendidly portrayed on a Powys farm where thousands of soft fruit plants are grown for the commercial and amateur markets in addition to traditional sheep and cattle rearing.

About 30 acres of FUW members Nigel and Sian Fromant's 140-acre farm - over 1,000ft up in the Radnorshire hills at Bryngwyn, near Painscastle - are used for the propagation of soft fruit plants under the name of Welsh Fruit Stocks.

"The farm is totally isolated from other fruit growing areas and the very healthy conditions allow us to grow many of our stocks, especially strawberries, organically," said Nigel.

"Blackcurrant stock bushes are conventionally grown and we can supply up to half a million cuttings annually to many of the Ribena growers across the UK.

"In the past this has been a traditional livestock rearing farm and so is in excellent heart. We still have sheep and cattle and this allows us to naturally maintain fertility, to use long rotations and to utilise our permanent pastures and hill grazing."

There is a closed flock of 200 mainly Radnor-cross Welsh ewes, crossing with Texel tups, to produce organic fat lambs sold through nearby organic livestock marketing group Graig Farm Producers and ewe lamb replacements are also bred.

Eight Welsh Black cows are crossed with a Hereford bull, the calves of which are kept on, selling beef direct to neighbours, friends and family.

"The livestock utilises the steeper, poorer fields and provide farmyard manure for the organic system and help create the rotations needed for the fruit propagation," said Sian.

"The organic fruit plants are sold to gardeners by mail order across the UK, selling mainly from our web site. Smaller pick your own businesses, organic growers, nurseries and a few larger scale raspberry growers are also supplied.

"High altitude and isolation helps to maintain the high health status of the plants, which are grown under the Plant Health Propagation Scheme. Minimal pesticides are used on the conventional stocks and natural products are used to maintain the health of the organic plants.

"Weed control is predominantly by hand and a committed, mainly local workforce of up to 10 is employed throughout the summer and for lifting the plants during the winter months. Some neighbouring farmers who work for us regard it as a form of diversification."

During a visit to the farm, FUW president Gareth Vaughan said it had been a great pleasure to hear about such a truly unique business, not only in terms of the farm itself, but also because of the geography of the land on which the enterprise is carried out.

"This type of diversification is a lesson to us all. While growing fruit, alongside running beef and sheep enterprises, is certainly unusual, perhaps it is an indication of the type of branching out we should all be looking at to some extent.

"Wales's unique landscape means livestock and forage farming will be always be central to Welsh agriculture. In fact, in a world of growing concern over climate change and rising populations, it would be irresponsible not to raise livestock on places that cannot be used in other ways to produce food, whatever ridiculous remarks are made by think tanks and policy advisers about eating less meat.

"However, we should certainly not rule out other types of farming where viable and, given the increasing and much needed focus on local food procurement, we are likely to see this type of diversification being carried out far more in future.

"We are, therefore, indebted to the Fromant family for showing us what is possible if we use our imaginations and 'think outside the box' so to speak. We are also very proud to have the Fromants as FUW members."

The business was started originally by Sian's late father Stephen Joyce in the 1960s when he grew blackcurrant cuttings for Herefordshire growers. He expanded into producing strawberry plants when he purchased Grug Farm in the late 1970s and then successfully began propagating raspberry canes.

"His adage would have been: it's not how much land you have, it's what you do with it that's important," said Sian.

She and Nigel, who met while studying at the Welsh Agricultural College in Aberystwyth, took over the business in 1991 and slowly expanded the sales to gardeners, concentrating in supplying high quality plants at reasonable prices. Last year, the farm grew some 15,000 blackcurrant, white currant, redcurrant, gooseberry and jostaberry (a gooseberry/blackcurrant hybrid) bushes, 40,000 raspberry canes and 130,000 strawberry plants.

They began organic conversion in 2000, set up a website to advertise their plants and added a shop to the site in 2003. Their 23-year-old daughter Jess, who has studied computer science and psychology at Swansea University, now deals with customer care and runs the website which has seen web sales steadily increase to well over 75% of total gardener sales.

Sian said: "The business has been growing nursery fruit bushes for 45 years now and when we found that the other types of fruit grew so well up here at Bryngwyn, we increased the range to include all the major types. We buy in the parent stocks at the highest health status available, to ensure that our plants are the healthiest possible.

"Our customers tell us that the plants respond rapidly to softer environments and establish quickly. They have also been impressed by the vigour of the plants and the quality of their root systems.

"We believe that by reducing any stresses on the plants - and animals - a lot of the common problems can be reduced. Being on the edge of several different habitats - heather moorland, ancient woodland, traditional grassland and small areas of wetland - the biodiversity is unique.

"It is good to be able to encourage the wildlife on the farm. We have recorded over 60 species of birds seen here, from redstarts to red kites.

"We take great care of our plants throughout the seasons. We multiply our own parent stock wherever possible to give us control from the earliest stage.

"The raspberries, strawberries and parent bushes are entered into the Plant Health Propagation Scheme and are health inspected at intervals throughout the growing season.

"Being members of several fruit breeding programmes we have access to many of the new improved varieties, but we also continue to grow some of the old favourites that rightly maintain their popularity. We hold one of the largest ranges of blackcurrant varieties including many of the new, more disease resistant 'Ben' varieties.

"We are fortunate to have a mainly local, skilled staff, including other family members, who work with the plants all year round. It is their dedication, in all weathers, together with careful day-to-day management that ensures the high quality of our plants.

"Throughout the growing season we rely on hand hoeing, weeding and cultivation to keep the crops clean and to reduce the stress on the plants. Through the autumn, winter and spring, the plants are lifted, hand selected and carefully packed ready for dispatch.

"We use a 24-hour delivery service or Royal Mail first class post to ensure the plants reach our customers in prime condition."

FUW PRESIDENT LAUNCHES DAMNING ATTACK ON EU AUDITORS

Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today hit out at European Union auditors, claiming that their actions are “inhuman and immoral" and undermine faith in Europe.

Mr Vaughan said: “Each year the FUW deals with scores of cases where penalties have been applied to members’ businesses by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).

"These are often a result of individuals making innocent and inconsequential errors, sometimes as a result of exceptional circumstances, such as severe illness or family tragedy. These penalties result in financial losses that compound what are often tragic family circumstances.”

Mr Vaughan added that he had no objection to penalising businesses for genuine reasons where individuals had acted irresponsibly or fraudulently, but blamed EU auditors for WAG’s harsh interpretation of EU rules.

“WAG officials live in a climate of fear, generated by the threat that EU auditors will find fault with a decision, irrespective of any moral justification, resulting in Wales having to pay millions in fines to Europe, known as ‘disallowance’,” said Mr Vaughan.

“In many of these cases all parties acknowledge that the circumstances are exceptional, and that the penalty is effectively immoral. Yet officials claim that EU regulations make no allowance for extreme conditions, and that penalties must therefore be applied in order to avoid the auditors imposing massive fines.”

Mr Vaughan also hit out at a recent hike in Cross Compliance penalties imposed following auditors’ recommendations.

“Rather than recognising the very shaky moral ground that they occupy, the auditors have added to injury by insisting that fines must be increased.

“This completely inhuman attitude to genuine errors and situations arising as a result of human tragedies is morally indefensible, and completely undermines any faith in the European Union being a proportionate and fair institution.”

Mr Vaughan has already discussed the union’s concerns with EC officials and has written to rural affairs minister Elin Jones requesting a meeting to discuss the matter.

FUW DEMANDS EU DAIRY EMERGENCY FUND SHOULD NOT BE PRODUCTION LINKED

The Farmers' Union of Wales today urged the Welsh Assembly Government to distribute EU emergency aid monies directly to dairy farmers in Wales following a meeting of the union’s finance and organisation committee.

EU member states recently agreed the UK will receive _29.26m of the proposed _300m aid package for dairy farmers struggling to cope with low milk producer prices.

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel first announced the aid package back in October following months of protests and lobbying from dairy farmers. The exceptional measure was designed to ease the financial struggles of the worst affected EU farmers.

The finance and organisation committee objected wholeheartedly to payments being proportional to milk production or quota held, on the grounds that, on average, farms with higher production/quota get more money per litre for milk, due to production related bonuses, and also benefit from economies of scale such as cheaper feed.

Members felt that, ideally, they would like to see a system that benefits those with the greatest needs. However, they recognised that this is unlikely to be practical as it would involve individual assessments of every dairy farm.

FUW milk committee chairman Eifion Huws said: “We, therefore, support a system where all dairy farmers receive the same amount, on the grounds that this is practical, easily administered and is more equitable than a system that would, in many cases, see the most profitable businesses receiving more than those in greater need of the money."

FUW DELEGATION SLAMS DEFRA’S POSITION ON CAP REFORM

A Farmers’ Union of Wales delegation to Brussels highlighted the dangers to Wales and the EU of Defra’s approach to CAP reform at a time when all parties should be pushing for a properly funded scheme recognising the key role agriculture must play in maintaining food security and mitigating climate change.

Mr Vaughan said although a favourable euro -sterling exchange rate has significantly helped the industry over the past year, Aberystwyth University’s Farm Business Survey results highlighted the industry’s continuing reliance on CAP payments to remain financially viable.

"So, in the absence of a system that ensures fair returns for our produce, the outcome of the forthcoming discussions on the post -2013 CAP is crucial to our future prospects.

"To get some idea of what the worst possible post -2013 CAP might look like, we need look no further than our own Westminster government policy, as laid out in the Defra -Treasury 2005 CAP policy document.

"Since 2005 the FUW has warned that that policy - which advocates less direct aid, more imports into the EU, and lower food prices - would devastate our industry and the rural areas in which we live."

Research commissioned by Defra and the Welsh Assembly also confirmed what the FUW had been saying for the past four years - that Defra’s policy would lead to a 26% fall in cattle prices, cattle numbers would plummet by between 26 and 29% and sheep prices would fall by around 12%.

Sheep numbers would fall by around 17% and similar trends are predicted for the milk, pig and poultry sectors.

"While it may have been drafted in 2005, this is not Defra’s 2005 policy: This is Defra’s policy now,” said Mr Vaughan.

"Despite their own reports warning that their policy will 'hasten the decline in agricultural employment' and 'employment within the wider rural economy' while undermining 'the viability of the rural population', Defra has made no u -turn and, for all the warm words recently spoken by Hillary Benn in favour of agriculture, its policy is to destroy our rural communities and businesses.

"So in terms of the forthcoming negotiations on the future of the CAP, which will be critical to farming in Wales, this is the policy that Defra will be trying to push, and even as I speak, Defra officials are no doubt holding meetings and discussions about how best to get as many of these catastrophic policies into the post -2013 CAP.

“We believe that people should not be pushing for Defra to be at the European Parliament’s negotiating table because it would be advocating a policy that evidence shows will devastate farming and our rural communities.”

MCCARTNEY FLIES TO BRUSSELS TO BOOST ANTI MEAT BID AS FUW TEAM ARRIVES BY TRAIN

A Farmers' Union of Wales delegation travelled by train to Brussels to discuss agriculture's key role in mitigating climate change as Sir Paul McCartney flew in from London to demand meat?free Mondays, the union's leader claimed today.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, McCartney admitted his flights from London to Brussels to make his case  - and on to Berlin for a concert later in the week - had contributed to global warming.

President Gareth Vaughan told the FUW's grand council he was accompanied by his deputy Emyr Jones and senior policy officers when they met EC officials and Welsh MEPs to express concern over Defra's proposals for the industry after the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is replaced in 2013.

"And while we were in the EU parliament, arguing in favour of a common sense approach to land use and climate change, both in terms of the CAP and the Copenhagen summit, Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, was in the same building, doing exactly the opposite.“The FUW travelled there and back by train! The word hypocrisy springs to mind, and I am confident that the carbon footprint of our farm fades into insignificance alongside the hundreds of transatlantic journeys undertaken by Sir Paul over the years.

"While McCartney’s campaign might incense us here in Wales, the anger must be far worse in Kintyre, Scotland, where he made his home in an area where, like Wales, crop production is in many areas unviable, and livestock farming an integral part of the economy and environment."

FUW BACKS ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE REPORT INTO DAIRY INDUSTRY

The Farmers’ Union of Wales today welcomed the Assembly rural development sub-committee’s call for a “champion” to boost the dairy industry in Wales.

But the union also expressed bitter disappointment that the conclusions of the sub-committee’s inquiry did not deal with the controversial issue of the abolition of milk quotas in 2015.

“We support the wide-ranging recommendations made in this report,” said FUW milk committee chairman Eifion Huws, when it was launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.

“Their conclusions tie in with policies advocated by the FUW for many years, particularly in terms of the equitable distribution of profits along the supply chain and the appointment of an ombudsman.

“However, we are disappointed that, in the current climate where hundreds of thousands of dairy farmers across Europe are protesting against the abolition of milk quotas, this issue has been blanked.

“In evidence to the committee the FUW highlighted the findings of numerous reports that show the abandonment of the quota regime will reduce farm-gate prices and milk production in Wales.

“This is a critical issue for the Welsh dairy industry, and there is a real need for a proper debate on the matter.

“That debate is raging on the continent but it is being largely ignored in Wales and the UK despite its critical importance to the sector.”

FUW ADOPTS AIR AMBULANCE AS ITS CHOSEN CHARITY

The Farmers' Union of Wales has selected Wales Air Ambulance as its chosen charity for 2010, it was announced at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair (November 30-December 1).

The union's president Gareth Vaughan said the air ambulance service was a most appropriate and fully deserving cause for a national organisation representing rural areas such as the FUW. "It a registered charity, wholly dependent on public donations.

"The annual cost of sustaining their three air bases, which cover the whole of Wales from Caernarfon, Welshpool and Swansea airports, is £5m and only through continued public support are they able to meet these targets. Due to Wales’ widely scattered population and diverse landscape, there is a proven need for their helicopters to be fully operational throughout the year.

"I am well aware the Air Ambulance has been a lifesaver time and time again in all parts of rural Wales and as a representative of the farming industry I and my fellow FUW officials are proud to be associated with such a vital service and we will do all we can to raise as much money as possible throughout 2010."

Wales Air Ambulance chief executive Angela Hughes said: “We are delighted that the Farmers' Union of Wales has chosen Wales Air Ambulance as their nominated charity.
"Our ability to reach rural locations when time really matters has meant that we have had a long standing association with the farming community in Wales, and this is a fantastic opportunity to further strengthen the relationship between the charity and the rural communities that we serve.

"Active support from the public plays an important role in ensuring that we meet the huge cost of keeping our helicopters flying, and we are proud to be linked with such a prominent investor in the community.

"This exciting partnership will not only help increase awareness of the work of the ambulance crews, but also ensure that we continue to provide a lifesaving service across Wales, and we are looking forward to working with the union and its members over the coming year.”

Wales Air Ambulance is a registered charity providing emergency air cover 365 days a year for those who face life-threatening illness or injuries. Since its launch on St David’s Day in 2001, its three red helicopters, stationed in Mid, North and South Wales, respond to around 1,500 emergencies a year, saving countless lives across Wales.

Owing to the diversity of the landscape in Wales, the "helimed" service is vital for reaching both the remote countryside and busy towns and cities when time really matters. From mountain tops to back gardens, the helicopters can be anywhere in Wales within just 20 minutes.

In heavily congested urban areas, the ability to land within close proximity of the patient has proved critical in response to road traffic accidents. Equally, a helicopter can make a vital difference in rural locations, saving valuable time in areas where a land ambulance simply can not reach.

There are two advanced life support paramedics on each aircraft trained in the latest techniques in pre-hospital emergency care ensure the patient receives the most effective treatment for his or her condition. It is widely believed that a patient’’s chances of survival and early recovery are significantly increased if they receive the right care within the first hour, otherwise known as the "Golden Hour".

The fast response times of the Air Ambulance crews and their ability to reach such difficult locations increases the chances of a patient receiving definitive care within the this crucial hour.

The charitable service does not receive direct funding from central government. Additionally, due to its role as an emergency service, it also fails to qualify for National Lottery Funding. The money is therefore raised through charitable donations, fundraising events, and membership of their lifesaving lottery.

Wales Air Ambulance operates all over Wales and so any money donated to the charity will be used to assist people in their local community in their time of dire need.

FUW LAUNCHES EAR TAGS DISCOUNT SCHEME

The Farmers' Union of Wales has teamed up with Dalton ID Systems to offer its members a discount scheme for cattle and sheep tags that is being launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair (November 30-December 1).

The deal provides a 10% discount on Dalton cattle tags, free replacements when ordered from January 1, a 24-hour replacement service, and a free applicator with the first order.

And due to the potential combined buying power of thousands of farmers the union has also managed to negotiate a discount of up to 35% on the costs of electronic tags for sheep if ordered before March 31.

"We in Dalton ID Systems are fully aware that farmers are unhappy with the introduction of electronic tagging of sheep," said the company's UK national sales and business development manager Tudur Wynne.

"However, I'm looking forward to working closely with the union. This deal has meant that we could negotiate with our suppliers to reduce the cost of the materials and therefore reduce the cost of implementing EID on farms across Wales.

"It proves the proverb 'mewn undeb mae nerth' (in union there's strength)," Mr Wynne added.

Dalton was established in 1947 and, despite becoming a worldwide recognised brand, has remained a family-owned business for over 60 years. It was the first company to patent and produce two-piece plastic ear tags.

FUW business development director Emyr James, who helped negotiate the scheme, said: "During the Winter Fair we will have examples of the tags and supporting literature on display on our stand in the Livestock Complex Hall. Details of the ordering procedures for tags are also available at all FUW county offices."

FUW BURSARY WINNER DEMANDS ACTION TO ATTRACT YOUNGER PEOPLE INTO FARMING

The farming industry and government must act without delay to attract younger people into agriculture in Wales where the average age of farmers is 58, the 19-year-old winner of the Farmers' Union of Wales student bursary has demanded.

Iestyn Russell, who is studying rural enterprise and land management at Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, chose to write a 1,000-word essay on the topic "What should the Welsh farming industry and government do to attract more young people into agriculture?" as his submission for the £700 bursary.

"This question has been the subject of debate for several years. We need to deal with the problem now or our industry will face major problems in the future," the Lampeter farmer’s son wrote.

He added: "Rural Wales’ young people are quite prepared to bridge the gap and take responsibility, but we must ask why they are not offered a chance to move forward within agriculture in Wales.

"Older farmers must take a step back and give young people a chance to experiment with their own ideas. But what encourages this to happen? Not a lot at the moment, but there are plenty of possibilities.

"Firstly, the profile of agriculture has to be raised in the public’s eyes. Farmers in this country do not get the respect, praise or the price they deserve, so this would be a good place to start. An advertising campaign on the television and in the daily newspapers would be worth considering.

"Perhaps the public would be willing to pay more for local produce and support Welsh farmers instead of buying imported food. They should be aware of the high level of care farmers in this country give their stock and they, therefore, deserve a better price for better produce."

Iestyn, an enthusiastic member of Cwmann YFC and this year's Wales YFC best junior stockman, also worked on the family's dairy and sheep farm at Cwmann, near Lampeter, and on a neighbouring beef and sheep farm before deciding to go to university to study for a degree "but my dream of farming is still as real as ever".

Speaking for the bursary scheme's judging panel, FUW agricultural education and training committee chairman Alun Edwards said they were very impressed with the way Iestyn expressed himself during his interview and in his written submission.

"We were confident that his broad knowledge of the industry will serve him well in the future. The submissions of the other award winners were also of a high standard."

Iestyn suggested other ways to attract more young people into farming could include schemes to assist the transfer of farms from the older generation to the younger generation. "Would some sort of pension scheme for the more experienced farmers work?

"Farmers could be offered a pension scheme to enable them to retire earlier, at 55 years old for example. Or keep the age as it is at present but offer them more money.

"Some sort of a succession scheme which would make the process of changing the people who run or own a farm easier would be a good idea. It would motivate both parties and avoid a long, drawn out process which is slow and expensive.

"This would mean looking closely at the rules of inheritance tax. One idea would be to reduce the rate if one member of the family was going to carry on farming the farm."

He acknowledged that the Welsh Assembly Government recently announced a scheme to support people under 40 years of age to make a living out of agriculture by offering a one-off payment of £15,000 to cover the costs new farmers face when they establish themselves as head of a holding for the first time.

"They also offer support to encourage share farming or joint ventures between young people. And another part of the scheme is that young farmers are mentored by an older, more experienced farmer.

“I believe that this is an excellent idea as it combines the new ideas and enthusiasm of young people with the older farmers’ experience and knowledge."

Iestyn stressed that depopulation, especially of young people, in rural areas had been a problem for years. Young people can find better, cleaner jobs elsewhere with more spare time and, more importantly, more money.

"Farming is one of the hardest jobs and, therefore, people who do this job deserve a fair wage. Unfortunately, the prices farmers receive are not enough and a fairer price is needed.

"The Government could set a threshold below which prices could not drop. This would not be favourable to the public or to private processing companies, but it would benefit the milk industry and this could offer a solution and prevent farmers from ceasing milk production.

"A ban on cheap imported foods would mean that farmers in this country could be better supported in order to increase production levels to satisfy the demand for food. It’s likely that this would create more jobs on farms and would reward farmers for their hard work.

"The Government could reduce some of the paper work which cripples and takes up farmers’ time. This would make the industry more attractive for young people to enter and more time would be spent on the land instead of in an office.

"There are numerous ways to tackle this old problem, but something needs to be done at once to give young people a fair chance. The responsibility not only lies with the Government and the industry, but also with the current and future farmers."

Runner-up to Iestyn is 19-year-old David Evans, of Groeswen Farm House, Groeswen, Cardiff, who has just started a four-year agriculture BSc degree course at Aberystwyth University. He receives £200.

Third is 22-year-old Manod Williams, of Tregerddan, Bow Street, near Aberystwyth, who has also just embarked on a BSc course in agriculture with animal science at Aberystwyth. He receives £100.

FUW DAIRY FARMERS' LEADER DEMANDS BETTER DEAL

Welsh dairy farmers are demanding better prices for their milk following a big improvement in world and EU markets for butter, milk powder, cheese and cream over the past few months.

"We understand that there is, inevitably, a delay between increasing world prices and those in the UK but this should be reflected in our milk cheques much sooner than it is," said the chairman of the Farmers' Union of Wales milk and dairy produce committee, Anglesey farmer Eifion Huws.

World butter and milk powder markets started rising in July, with the EU following about a month later, and even in the past month butter has increased by $600/t (20 per cent).

The rise is far greater for whole milk powder with New Zealand co-op Fonterra's monthly on-line auction price soaring by 88 per cent in just four months to $3,400/t. Meanwhile, cream prices have more than doubled since February to a record £1700/t, representing an income of 9.6p per litre (ppl).

"But the processors are crying wolf and making all kinds of excuses for not passing these increases down the chain to the producers," said Mr Huws.

"According to the latest Defra figures, the UK farm gate milk price this year ranged from 20.60ppl in May to 25.56ppl in January. Since then the world and EU prices have shot up but the UK farmgate price in September of 24.05ppl was still 2.50ppl lower than for September last year.

"The milk buyers are hiding behind all sorts of reasons for not passing on their profits to farmers yet they pay regular lip service in support of a long-term sustainable future for the sector.

"But faced with ever-increasing costs dairy farmers are increasingly leaving the industry - the number of dairy farms in Wales dropped by 670 between 2005 and 2008 and there are now barely 2,000 left. If processors don't play their part they may soon discover most of their loyal suppliers will have disappeared altogether."

FUW WELCOMES ASSEMBLY RATIFICATION OF TB ERADICATION POLICY

The Farmers' Union of Wales today described a 43-9 vote by Assembly Members in support of The Tuberculosis Eradication Order 2009 as a victory for common sense and democracy.

The Order gives the Assembly Government the powers to use culling and vaccination of badgers as part of its bTB eradication programme.

Speaking after sitting through the debate, FUW's TB spokesman Brian Walters said: “Assembly Members have already supported the principle of badger culling more than once, and this vote ratifies the cross-party support for that policy.

“During a recent consultation on this issue, 85% of Welsh respondents were in agreement that culling should be considered as part of a bTB control strategy, and I am glad that AMs have recognised the need to act in order to prevent the spread of this devastating disease.”

However, Mr Walters, a Carmarthen organic dairy farmer, was concerned that some AMs had allowed themselves to be persuaded to vote against the Welsh Assembly Government.

“Some of those who spoke in support of annulling the Order had clearly failed to understand the scientific evidence on this issue and some AMs even suggested that there was no established link between bTB in cattle and badgers, which goes against the opinion of every single expert on the matter.

“The chairman of the Rural Affairs Sub Committee, Alun Davies, made a crucial point that, when you analyse the evidence properly, as his committee has done, it points to infected badgers being largely responsible for the epidemic we are now facing.”

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones told AMs that the order had been laid following a 14-week public consultation and was fully supported by scientific evidence.

Last year, over 12,000 cattle were culled in Wales because of bTB and nearly £25 million was spent in compensation. Wales has already slaughtered over 8,000 cattle this year. This time last year it was just over 7,000.

By 2014, the cost to the taxpayer could be £80 million if action to eradicate TB in cattle is not taken.

SHOW STALWART'S AWARD FOR SERVICES TO AGRICULTURE IN CARMARTHENSHIRE

THIS year's winner of the Farmers' Union of Wales-United Counties Agriculture and Hunters Society annual award to the person making the most outstanding contribution to agriculture in Carmarthenshire is David Lloyd who has been a member of the society for over 40 years.

Mr Lloyd of Dolgwili, Glangwili, near Carmarthen, is a past chairman and president of St Peters YFC and club leader for over 20 years. He has also been a member of the Welsh Dairy Show committee for over 20 years and assistant chief steward for the last eight years.

He works with his wife Hefina for J J Morris Auctioneers in Cardigan.
He received his award during the Welsh Dairy Show's 20th anniversary dinner from FUW's Carmarthenshire county executive officer Meinir Bartlett.

During the dinner, a second award was made to Ronnie Thomas of Uwch Gwili, Peniel Road, Carmarthen, for his continued long voluntary service of over 40 years to the society. Mr Thomas received a framed photograph from the society's president Roger Evans.

FUW WARNS CUTTING CAP BUDGET WILL THREATEN KEY EU GOALS

THE Farmers' Union of Wales today reacted angrily to a draft EU report suggesting CAP spending after 2013 will be significantly reduced.

According to AgraEurope magazine, the report reveals spending would be cut in order to free up spending for new EU priorities.

FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: “The draft report outlines main priorities in the post-2013 financial period that include climate and energy security, and strengthening prosperity and security.

“Agriculture is a central to these key issues, and yet the draft proposals suggest a significant cut in the CAP budget.

“Any threat to the CAP budget will undermine the central role that farming must play in addressing these major challenges so to talk about such cuts while simultaneously outlining the importance of addressing these issues is simply ludicrous.

“The risks we now face in terms of food security and climate change, coupled with the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, means that any threat to the CAP budget represents a threat to every EU citizen.”

The report also suggests a further splitting of the budget by introducing a "third CAP Pillar" in order to address climate change issues.

“Between 1988 and 2013 the overall share of direct agricultural support in the EU budget will have fallen by almost a half, while we have seen a massive increase in the number of EU Member States,” said Mr Vaughan.

“If a third pillar is to be introduced, then the CAP budget must be increased in a way that reflects that. The EU cannot just keep carving up an already diminished budget into smaller and smaller pieces and expect to address major problems such as climate change."

There is another suggestion that Member States might be given further freedom to "nationalise" agricultural spending.

“The UK already suffers disproportionately because of our historically low allocation in terms of Rural Development funding, and the national support mechanisms that exist in other member states," Mr Vaughan stressed.

“A further movement towards re-nationalisation of agricultural spending would undermine the whole principles that underpin the EU, and are likely to severely disadvantage Wales’s rural communities.”

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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/