Support for Covid-19 ravaged dairy sector a welcome step - but more must be done

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has cautiously welcomed measures introduced to aid the dairy industry, which has been impacted severely by the closure of the food services sector and the realignment of the supply chain and market prices.

The temporary easing of competition laws, which apply across the whole of the UK, is hoped to enable greater collaboration so the dairy sector, including dairy farmers and processors, can work closer to solve the issues it is facing.

The temporary suspension of competition laws for the dairy sector was one of the options the FUW discussed with the Rural Affairs Minister as part of the Agricultural Resilience Group.

Responding to the announcement, FUW Milk and Dairy Committee chairman Dai Miles said: “This is a welcome step in the right direction. It will allow for a more accurate picture of the volumes of milk out there, which processors wanted. It will allow them to collaborate. 

“However its effect on farmers could be negative and other support measures must be put in place urgently. Of course, we need a more accurate knowledge of surplus milk but with that comes the danger of it having a negative effect on the spot prices - which a lot of dairy farmers are dependent on. 

“So as welcome as this announcement is, when accompanied by good will on the part of companies, there is a risk it will play into the hands of those companies least affected . Unless this knowledge is used to implement a compensated volume reduction scheme, it could cause more harm than good.”

‘Be your own guest for afternoon tea’ FUW dairy committee encourages public amongst ongoing Covid-19 crisis

At half past three, let everything stop for tea. The old tradition of ‘afternoon tea’ or ‘high tea’ has seen a revival over recent years, making it a popular treat for many.

With restaurants, hotels and cafes remaining closed due to the on-going Covid-19 crisis, the Farmers’ Union of Wales Milk and Dairy Produce committee is encouraging the public to bring the experience into their own homes.

“We all enjoy afternoon tea as a special treat. Either in a country house, posh hotel or in cafes across the country. But of course, all our usual options of enjoying the cakes, sandwiches, and other treats seem out of reach for the time being.

“So why not host your own afternoon tea party at home? Bring out the scones and clotted cream, fresh cream cakes, old teapots and fine china. You could even get the children involved in making the cakes and sandwiches. 

“Not only does it keep them busy for a while, provide an opportunity to come together as a family and enjoy a special occasion at home, it also helps our dairy farmers,” said FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee chairman Dai Miles. 

Those working from home are also encouraged to take regular breaks away from their desks and put the kettle on.

“These are difficult times for everyone and some might find working from home stressful. The usual routine of getting a coffee before work or at lunch time from your favourite cafe is not an option right now, but why not put the kettle on and make your favourite coffee or tea at home. 

“The benefits of including milk and dairy in our diets are well documented and what better way to take a break from paperwork than with a steaming hot cup of tea or a milky coffee,” added Mr Miles.

‘Be adventurous, be brave - try a new cut of PGI Welsh Lamb or Beef and bring the restaurant experience home’, FUW encourages shoppers

‘Be adventurous, be brave and try a new cut of PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef’ - that was the message from Farmers’ Union of Wales President Glyn Roberts as the on-going Covid-19 crisis plays havoc with the industry.

With increasing changes to consumer buying behaviour and the Welsh beef and lamb sector suffering from the closure of restaurants and cafes because of the Coronavirus situation, shoppers are encouraged to bring the eating-out experience home. 

“These are very strange times and it is difficult for everyone. Our dairy industry is already feeling the brunt of coffee shops and cafes being closed and our beef and lamb sector is not far behind. 

“Whilst we have seen an increase in people buying red meat in either supermarkets or from their local butcher shops, the type of meat that has been selling was mainly mince and diced cuts. It’s becoming a problem for carcass balance as the cuts of meat we normally eat in restaurants are not being used.

“I therefore ask our shoppers to be adventurous and brave - bring that eating out experience to your homes. Have a steak night in with some fantastic PGI Welsh beef or try making your own curry with PGI Welsh lamb. There are some great recipes out there, which are easy to follow and even provide a chance to get the whole family involved in making dinner.

“If you have some spare time on your hands whilst you’re in lockdown, why not use that time to cook up a storm, using our fine, sustainably produced Welsh ingredients.”  

Please keep children safe on farm FUW urges

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is urging farmers to keep their children safe on farms during these unprecedented times, whilst many are at home during the Coronavirus lockdown.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Having raised my children on a farm, I know that farms are wonderful places for children to grow up - our farms are wonderful places to learn about independence, responsibility and of course how our food is produced. 

“But farms and farmyards are not playgrounds. They are places of work and they are dangerous. During these extraordinary times, with schools closed and parents having to juggle more than ever, we must make every effort to keep our children safe.

“Children are curious, they will find ways of getting into things that you might not think were possible or up things that you might not even consider worth climbing up on. Or they will just appear behind your tractor, run out in front of your quad bike or pay a visit to that friendly cow that has just calved.

“Farms can be dangerous places for everyone, not just children, but children are put at great risk of injury when playing, visiting or helping out around the farm. I therefore urge you to make every effort to keep them safe - the stress, pain and worry if they get injured would be devastating.”

Extra time must be used to find alternative to draconian WG water quality proposals

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) says the extra time generated by the Welsh Government’s decision to postpone a decision on water quality regulations must be used to find an alternative to the draconian measures published in draft regulations.

Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths announced on Wednesday 8 April that she was minded to introduce the regulations ‘once the crisis comes to an end’, despite the fact such a decision would go against the advice of official Welsh Government advisors Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and will cost Welsh farmers tens of millions a year.

Speaking following the announcement, FUW president Glyn Roberts said: "The proposed regulation if introduced would mark a betrayal of the principles of evidence-based decision making and proportionality, a betrayal of Welsh farming and - given the experiences in other NVZ areas - a betrayal of Wales' environment."

Urgent support measures needed to save dairy sector FUW stresses

The Covid-19 situation has led to a crisis in the dairy sector and urgent support measures are needed to save the industry, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has stressed. 

Following the closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants across the UK at the end of March, some dairy processors supplying the service sector found that their market had disappeared and orders have been cancelled overnight.

The Government enforced closures have led to rapid drops in the spot market price for milk and some farmers have been forced to dispose of their milk down the drain due to processors not being able to make a collection.

FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee Chairman Dai Miles said: “The situation is critical. Many farmers who have contracts with those dairy processors had their price cut, in some cases they are facing delayed payments and others had no choice but to dispose of their milk.  

“Those farmers will also not be compensated by their insurance companies as ‘Market Failure’ is not covered by policies. Therefore all the cost and loss is borne by the producer.

“This is not just about a few dairy farmers but the ramifications it will have on the whole dairy sector are immense.There is an urgent need for support packages to be made available immediately. ”

Around 25% of dairy farmers in Wales supply processors who have been affected by the loss of the service sector.

In teleconferences with the UK and Welsh Government, the Union has stressed that there are many who are unprotected and their businesses will fail if no help is offered. 

Respect Government guidelines and countryside code FUW urges

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is urging the public to follow Government guidelines and respect the countryside code in light of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

Having received numerous calls from farmers about the public extensively walking across farm land, leaving gates open and letting their dogs run free, Union President Glyn Roberts is urging the public to follow the rules.

Speaking from his farm in North Wales, Mr Roberts said: “ There can be no confusion - public paths and land in many popular areas across Wales have been closed to avoid crowds gathering for very good reason.

“However, despite clear guidance we are still receiving calls from members that the public are ignoring the lockdown rules, leaving gates open and letting their dogs run free on land with livestock on.

“What the public must remember is that when they use public paths crossing farmland, they are walking through someone’s home and workplace. Many of our farmers fall into the vulnerable category and will be self-isolating while also tending to their livestock.

“If they fall ill, there will be nobody to care for their animals and produce the food we all need.”

FUW welcomes Welsh Government emergency measures

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed a range of emergency measures announced by the Welsh Government in relation to the Basic Payment and Glastir Schemes.

In line with the FUW’s calls, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths announced today (April 1) that the deadline by which Single Application Forms must be submitted had been extended by a month, to the 15th of June.

In response to concerns raised about Crop Diversification requirements following the recent flooding and the added pressure and uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic she also confirmed the requirements had been withdrawn completely for the 2020 Basic Payment scheme year.

An additional £5.5m in loan support has also been allocated to support farmers who have yet to receive their 2019 BPS and/or Glastir payments. 

Long term viability of family farms must be protected during pandemic, FUW tells supermarkets

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to UK supermarkets and the British Retail Consortium asking them to ensure the long term viability of family farms are protected during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The call comes after dramatic falls in farmgate prices hit livestock and dairy producers over the past ten days as a result of changes to consumer buying patterns and the closure of food service sector outlets such as cafes and restaurants.

Average lamb prices fell by a quarter during the weekend of 21st and 22nd March, while many UK milk processors have announced significant cuts to what they pay milk producers and delayed payments for milk deliveries.

“High levels of ‘panic buying’ have led to immediate shortages of certain foodstuffs and empty shelves,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

Industry helps to match-make UK shearers and contractors

The UK sheep industry is facing a difficult shearing season, as the Covid-19 crisis makes it highly unlikely that the usual influx of highly skilled overseas shearers will be able to travel to the UK.

It is vitally important, to safeguard the health and welfare of the British sheep flock, that we carry out shearing at certain times of the year to minimise the risk of heat stress and fly strike. It is estimated overseas shearers usually shear about 20% of the UK flock, leaving a huge hole in resource this season. However, industry organisations are working together to try and ensure that shearing can go ahead using only UK shearers.

The NAAC is hosting a matchmaking register on-line to bring together shearing contractors, who are potentially missing whole teams of overseas shearers, with skilled, proficient UK shearers to try and get the season completed. Shearers are encouraged to come forward and register whether they can give a month of time or a day!

The organisations, in partnership, are encouraging farmers to get in touch with their usual contractor to organise their shearing.

Commenting, Jill Hewitt, NAAC Chief Executive said, ‘Shearing contractors have a dual role in this Covid-19 crisis to keep shearers and customers safe, whilst supporting and providing a vital operation for sheep farmers. It is likely to be a more difficult, possibly extended season, and with Covid-19 restrictions in place, we will need more pre-planning on farms but we can do this if we all work together.’

Gareth Jones, Head of Producer Marketing at British Wool added, ‘We need the support of UK shearers and it is important that proficient individuals step forward to help in this national effort to ensure that sheep are shorn to a high standard, within necessary timescales, to avoid potential animal welfare problems.’

The website can be viewed here.

COVID-19: Being prepared

Given the scale of the global Covid-19 outbreak, it is important that all farm businesses are prepared for the possibility of family members or farm workers contracting the virus. If the worst should happen, having appropriate measures in place should help lessen the impact on your farm business. There are several schemes available which may be able to help source volunteers to undertake farm work if some members of the farm are out of action and these are listed at the end of the document.

Agreeing a plan of action before someone becomes ill will help alleviate stress and help the farm business function more efficiently until things return to normal. The plan should include who will take over the farm business and the farm work that must be prioritised.

The FUW has provided a Covid-19 preparation checklist and template farm preparation plan to help minimise business disruption should volunteers or those less familiar with current farm practise be needed to work on the farm.


FUW Covid-19 Checklist


1. Prioritise

Before Covid-19 has an impact on the farm, prioritise the work that needs doing. List the essentials that must be done in priority order and, where appropriate, update the list monthly to accommodate seasonal changes in farm practise. Leave non-essential work until the farm business is back to normal. You may need to think about how many days you would require a volunteer or helper to work on the farm and this will include undertaking repetitive tasks such as feeding animals.


2. Talk it Through

Discuss your plan with others in the farm business. Make a list of key contacts that will need to be informed if Covid-19 strikes. These should include the farm vet, contractors, suppliers, gas / electric / oil companies, the farm accountant, shearers, friends and family. Your FUW county office can also provide much needed help and assistance during this time.


3. Help the Helpers

It is important that handwashing facilities and disinfection kits are available for volunteers working on your farm. Think about the work that will need to be done and highlight the locations of important tools for the job such as handwashing facilities, keys, taps, medicines, disinfectants, chemicals and any other items that might be needed by the farm helper. Make sure that all important documents and information about the farm are easily available. This should include the priority work list, your farm contacts, the farm medicine book, the herd or flock health plan, a list of land parcels with livestock and so on.

 


FUW Covid-19 Farm Preparation Plan

The FUW has prepared a Covid-19 preparation document which can be placed in an easily accessible place in the farm for use by those helping run the farm if someone in the business is diagnosed with Covid-19. Download a copy of this Preparation Plan here.

 

 

Need Help? Find a Volunteer

 

Please note that before a volunteer can visit your farm, you must have current and valid Employers Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance. Click here to contact your local FUW Insurance Services office and ensure that you have the right cover.

 

Lantra Skills Matching Service

The Lantra Skills Matching Service puts businesses and potential employees in touch with each other. Click here to see the skills matching service for businesses. 

Click here to see the FAQ about the service.


Menter Mon and Conwy Cynhaliol

The Menter Mon programme in Anglesey and Gwynedd has a dedicated helpline for those needing on-farm practical support during Covid-19. Members wishing to access this service should ring 07739 948883 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The programme will contact a volunteer that has registered on their database. The volunteer will contact you for further information and guidance on what is required. As part of the programme ONLY ask that the most basic and important work be done.

This service is also available in Conwy through ‘Conwy Cynhaliol’. Those wishing to access this service should call Rhys Evans on 01492 576671 / 07733 013328 or via email on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

 

Important information for our members and customers

All staff are currently working remotely, meaning our team are 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. 

Click here to see the contact details for your local office. 

 

Important links relating to Covid-19:

 

Importance of protecting food supplies and rural communities highlighted in letter to governments

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has written to the UK and Welsh governments calling for action to protect food producers and rural communities in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

In letters to UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice and Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, FUW President Glyn Roberts highlighted a range of concerns, including the need to protect UK food security and primary producers, as well as concerns over access to the countryside.

The pandemic has had a varied impact on food supply chains, with panic buying and other factors lead to shortages of certain foodstuffs, while sales of produce through cafes and other outlets have plummeted - factors that have increased market volatility and already led to price cuts for many milk producers.

“With such impacts likely to continue for many months at a time when the importance of maintaining UK food security has rapidly been brought into sharp focus, we believe it is essential that those businesses producing what is, next to water, our most essential commodity should be supported,” wrote Mr Roberts.

Former deputy President elected Life Member of the Union

Former Farmers’ Union of Wales Deputy President, Brian Thomas, has been elected as a life member of the Union at a recent Grand Council meeting in Aberystwyth in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Union and Welsh agriculture over many years.  A Pembrokeshire beef and sheep farmer, Brian Thomas has previously received the Union’s annual internal award for his services to the agricultural industry.

The recommendation that he be made a life member was accepted unanimously by the Union’s Grand Council.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Brian has been a rock solid friend and working partner for over 20 years. He is always willing to help, support and give advice. Over the years Brian has gone above and beyond in serving not just this Union but the industry as a whole. It is fair to say that the industry in Wales has benefited greatly from Brian’s active lobbying and efforts to make our sector a better place for everyone involved.”

Brian is a past county chairman of the FUW in Pembrokeshire, and has previously sat on the FUW’s central tenant’s committee. He was elected South Wales member of the central finance and organisation committee in 2011, Vice President of the FUW in 2013 and Deputy President in 2015.

During the 1996 BSE outbreak, Mr Thomas led the campaign in South West Wales opposing the importation of inferior beef into Wales.  In 1997 he led a group of farmers to Tesco’s stand at the Royal Welsh Show to address them about the unfair way in which they were treating the industry and he has been a leading figure in the fight against bovine TB.

Farmers once again appalled with BBC’s Countryfile

Farmers in Wales have voiced their anger and frustration following a BBC Countryfile programme broadcast on Sunday 15 March entitled ‘Looe Harbour’.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We have once again received many complaints from our members about the latest BBC Countryfile programme, which adopted an unbalanced approach in reporting on the current Red Tractor Assurance Scheme. This has led to both anger and disappointment amongst the farming community.”

The criticism is just the latest in a long line of complaints about unbalanced BBC reporting, including by the Countryfile programme, and many farmers have reported that they have long since stopped watching the programme due to its ‘inherent bias against farming’.

Anglesey farmers raise industry concerns with MP

Farmers from Anglesey have raised concerns about the future of farming with local MP Virginia Crosbie in light of the ongoing uncertainty on trade deals, food imports and the lack of frameworks in the UK.

In a meeting with the MP, who also sits on the Agriculture Bill Committee, Farmers’ Union of Wales officials highlighted that the Agriculture Bill does nothing to ensure food imported to the UK meets UK standards - despite previous ministerial assurances that imported food would meet our standards.

FUW Anglesey county chairman Richard Williams said: “We are very concerned about the direction of travel for agriculture. Hearing Farming Minister Victoria Prentis referring to the risk of 'creating considerable uncertainty' by legally protecting food production standards in trade deals, is a worry to say the least.

“In reality it is the UK Government which would be proactively creating such uncertainty by taking a position on trade which deliberately abandons our EU export markets and severs the established supply chains which extend across Europe. It's within their gift to avoid such uncertainty, and we urged Mrs Crosbie to do all she could to help protect our farmers and consumers from a flood of poor quality food products.”

FUW Anglesey County Vice Chairman William Spencer Hughes added: “We work very hard and to very strict rules and regulations. Some of the food that could land on our supermarket shelves from abroad will have been produced to standards that are illegal here. It may make these food items cheaper in some cases, but it’s a false economy given that would undermine our own food security, increase environmental damage and food miles and fail to protect our consumers. As food producers, we are committed to keeping up standards. Our way of producing food in a safe and sustainable way must be protected.” 

Business ‘hanging in the balance’ following attacks on pedigree Jacob sheep

It was going to be a day like any other for Esther Howie and her flock of sheep from Anglesey. Until lunch time at least, when she went for her routine check-up on the family Jacob's flock. Something wasn’t as it was supposed to be - the sheep had been badly injured.

The Howie family moved to a holding near Rhosmeirch 7 years ago and have put a lot of time, effort and money into improving and maintaining the land. Both Esther and her husband Neil also work extra jobs to support their life-long dream of having a smallholding. 

Esther already had a flock of pedigree Jacob sheep when they moved to the island and has since added a few Shetland sheep into the mix. Having been busy building up her Jacob flock for over 12 years now, she breeds primarily for wool to support her start-up business Tyddynys. As such, she only lambs a few selected ewes each year, carefully choosing which ewes to put to which ram for improving fleece for the craft industry. 

So it came as a huge shock when she found out that her flock had been attacked by a dog, leaving her devastated and the business hanging in the balance.

Speaking from her holding, she says: “My main holding is on Anglesey, but a while back I was offered a piece of land to graze near Bangor - great piece for my hill sheep, who are really not that impressed with the terrain at home. 

“It’s a good sized piece of land with a nice big shelter. The landlady lives on one side and a friend on the other to keep an eye on the ewes for me when I can’t be there. I moved my Jacob ewes up there for the winter and they were thriving.  

“Until January this year. I went up for my usual visit during my lunch hour at work and noticed that a mule ewe - my landlady’s adopted pet lamb that now lives with us - had fresh blood coming through her fleece.” 

Not sure what had happened but suspecting the sheep had been attacked Esther checked the field. She said: “It looked like one of the lambs had been attacked, but we’ve never had any experience of this to date. 

“The gate into the field is locked and it is the only entrance. The field runs parallel to the A55 so there would be no reason for anyone to be in there. I thought maybe the ewe had been caught in the hedge or fence somewhere and injured herself. I walked the full perimeter of the field checking for fleece in the hedges - knowing that this was going to be unlikely as we had only recently had them cut.” 

About two thirds of her way around she found a large area of grass in the centre of the field that was strewn with clumps of fleece. There was really no mistaking what had happened. 

“I contacted the police and was quite shaken that this could have happened in a seemingly safe and protected area. I had 11 ewes in that field - 4 of them had injuries - significant injuries that I couldn’t treat with a bit of spray alone. 

‘Follow up-to-date official advice’, FUW urges members in light of Coronavirus crisis

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is reminding members to follow the latest advice from Public Health Wales and Wales NHS on coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to minimise disease spread and reduce the risk of infection.  

Up-to-date information can be found here:  

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ 

https://phw.nhs.wales/news/public-health-wales-statement-on-novel-coronavirus-outbreak/

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “There is a huge amount of misinformation being published online, so it is important that advice from legitimate sources is followed.”  

Mr Roberts’ comments came after Twitter revealed it had recently had to take down a series of posts that were from a fake hospital giving out false advice. 

Some disease experts have suggested we are still to reach the peak season for coronavirus but hope to delay and flatten the peak, which will reduce the pressure on NHS Wales and minimise the impact of the virus.

“Should a member contact coronavirus, or be affected in some other way and there is a subsequent impact on the ability to undertake daily farm business then the FUW can look at this on a case-by-case basis and will provide support where possible,” said Glyn Roberts.

FUW Head of Policy Dr Nick Fenwick added: “We are liaising with the Welsh Government on what changes can be made in order to help the industry to complete and submit their SAF forms this year, during what can only be described as extraordinary circumstances. 

Top performers recognised with FUW Insurance Services awards

FUW Insurance Services Ltd. has recognised its top performers with a selection of awards.

Scooping the 2019 ‘FUWIS Business Development’ award was Dafydd Evans, based in Ceredigion, who has had an exceptional year for growth and retention of clients and policies. 

FUW Insurance Services Ltd. Business Development Manager Jackie Burrows said: “Dafydd has had a fantastic year. He delivered excellent customer service to new and existing clients across the agricultural and commercial insurance markets and is therefore rightly recognised with this special award.”

Also recognised for his achievements was Glamorgan based Account Executive Ashley Yeo, who was presented with the 2019 ‘FUWIS Best Managed Portfolio’ award.

“Ashley has delivered excellent organic growth, retention and customer service through new and existing clients and policies gained across various business sectors. He is highly regarded and fully deserves this award,” said Jackie Burrows.

Recognised for going above and beyond was Aberystwyth based account handler Claire Short, who was presented with the 2019 ‘FUWIS Account Handler’ award.

South Wales farming family stress importance of protecting home food market

A farming family from South Wales has shared concerns about the future of farming with local MP Alun Cairns in light of the ongoing uncertainty on trade deals, food imports and the lack of frameworks in the UK.

Gaynor and Rhodri Davies moved from West Wales in 1995 to Rosedew Farm, Llantwit Major, and have set up a number of businesses to diversify and compliment the farm. With their three children, they run a number of businesses on the farm.

There is a 295 strong herd consisting of many breeds including Aberdeen Angus, Hereford Cross, Saler and British Blues. The home bred beef is slaughtered at the local slaughterhouse Maddock and brought back to the farm to supply another business The Farmers Pantry Butchers with shops in Llantwit Major and Pugh’s Garden Village in Radyr. Farmers Pantry also cater for another family run business - Rosedew Farm Wedding Venue.

With his son Dafi-Sion, Rhodri grows a variety of crops on the farm including sugar beet, wheat, barley, maize, potatoes as well as hay/silage. Rhodri and Gaynor also own and manage Acorn Campsite and hire many local people to work here. 

Talking to the MP about the Agriculture Bill and food imports, Rhodri said: “We are very concerned that the Bill does nothing to ensure food imported to the UK meets UK standards - despite ministerial assurances that imported food would meet our standards.  

“We work very hard and to very strict rules and regulations. Some of the food that could land on our supermarket shelves will have been produced to standards that are illegal here. 

“It makes these food items far cheaper but it doesn’t protect our consumers and it also doesn’t protect us as food producers, who are committed to keeping up standards. 

“Our way of producing food in a safe and sustainable way must be protected.” 

Adding to their concerns of cheap food imports, is the lack of frameworks which would ensure a level playing field across the UK.

Gaynor says: “We need frameworks to keep the UK's 'home market' working properly and fairly. We will already have to compete with farmers in Europe so it is essential that this Government prevents unfair competition between producers in different parts of the UK.”

FUW Glamorgan County Chairman Richard Walkers added: “The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Order illustrates our fears: It removes the EU Pillar 1 financial ceilings mainly to allow Scotland to pay more money to farmers following Lord Bew’s review of payments. 

FUW welcomes opportunities for Welsh Livestock at Vet School launch

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the ambitions of the Veterinary School which was launched in Aberystwyth today (28 February). 

The Aberystwyth School of Veterinary Science forms part of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences and will offer a new Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) degree offered jointly by Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). 

Students on the course will have use of a new Veterinary Education Centre on Penglais Campus which represents and investment of £1 million and partly funded by alumni donations. The school will welcome its first students in 2021.  

Speaking after the launch, FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr Hazel Wright said: “We welcome this significant step forward in protecting and improving animal health in Welsh livestock. 

“The launch of this new vet school represents significant research and development into animal health issues of importance to the Welsh farming sector. It is hoped that the centre will provide an integrated approach to disease diagnosis and elimination. 

“This an exciting opportunity for the farming sector and we remain keen to work with members of the school to help safeguard livestock health, identify industry priorities, reduce losses and improve livestock performance through better health.”  

The FUW has repeatedly expressed concern about the shortage of large animal veterinary practitioners in Wales and the Union is therefore pleased to see the launch of this centre of veterinary expertise in mid-Wales. 

“Alongside providing research into livestock health, we hope that the programme will increase the veterinary skills base available to our members and will ultimately raise the number of veterinary professionals in Wales,” added Dr Wright. 

Former MP takes on leading role with FUW Insurance Services Ltd

FUW Insurance Services Ltd (FUWIS) has appointed Guto Bebb as its new Managing Director.

Mr Bebb who hails from Caernarfon, Gwynedd is the ex-MP for Aberconwy and was previously an Under Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister for Defence Procurement. 

Before starting his political career Mr. Bebb was a business consultant and company director. His commercial experience stood him in good stead as a member of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster and in managing the multi-million procurement budget of the Ministry of Defence.

In welcoming his appointment, Tom Jones, Chair of FUWIS, said: “It’s a great pleasure to have Guto on board. FUWIS is a growing company which provides key services to the agriculture sector in Wales. 

“With Guto at its head I’m confident that we will see that growth continuing. We pride ourselves on providing a high-quality service that is also close to our customers in their varied communities across Wales. We have found a new head who understands this basic relationship and will know how to build on that existing firm foundation.”

Glyn Roberts, President of the FUW (Farmers’ Union of Wales) added: “FUWIS’s services are a key component of the services that we as a Union offer to not only our members but to the rural community in its entirety. I know that Guto understands the agriculture sector in Wales and will know how to shape future services to meet their needs. I look forward greatly to working with him.”

Guto Bebb commented: “It’s good to be back amidst the business hubbub of Wales. This is a new exciting challenge which I look forward to embracing enthusiastically.”

Mr. Bebb will take on his new role at FUWIS on 6 April.

R.A.B.I TO FAST-TRACK HELP TO FARMERS IN WAKE OF STORMS CIARA AND DENNIS

Farming charity R.A.B.I is once again releasing money from its Crisis Fund to provide emergency grants to farming families via its Helpline – 0808 281 9490.

Following the last two weekends of heavy storms and with more rainfall forecast, R.A.B.I has released an initial £50k to provide emergency payments to those affected by the impacts of the extreme weather across England and Wales.    

Alicia Chivers, R.A.B.I CEO, said: “Having already provided around £75k of emergency grant support to those affected by extreme wet weather this autumn / winter, we know how devastating the impacts are for farmers in both the immediate and longer-term.  Simplifying our criteria and application process means we can fast-track immediate assistance to affected farmers.

“These funds, whilst a relatively small element of the help we expect to provide over the
longer-term to those affected, can make a real difference dealing with urgent priorities – and help to alleviate pressing financial worries, allowing farmers to concentrate on dealing with the immediate impacts of the extreme weather.

“R.A.B.I understands that the effects of severe weather are both financial and emotional. We will be here to provide support for as long as it is needed by our community.  We will also continue to work closely with partner charities and other farming organisations to make sure help is available, both now and on an enduring basis.”

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) is the agricultural sector’s oldest and largest charity, offering support, practical care and guidance to farming people of all ages.

To apply for assistance, call R.A.B.I’s confidential Freephone Helpline 0808 281 9490

Beware of hedge cutting restrictions to avoid penalties

Farmers are being urged to remember the hedge cutting regulations which are in place as part of cross compliance to avoid a penalty on their BPS payment.

FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Most farmers will remember that they are not allowed to cut trees or hedges between 1 March to 31 August. If they don’t comply with the rules, they could face a hefty cross compliance penalty on their BPS payment which is avoidable.

“There are exceptions to the standard rule, but only if the conditions are met can you start cutting early or late. You can also carry out hedge laying and coppicing during March providing nesting birds are not disturbed. We however urge our members to make sure they don’t fall foul by accident.”

Other exemptions include the cutting of hedgerows or trees that overhang a highway, road, track or footpath to which the public have access, where the work is necessary because the overhanging vegetation either obstructs the passage of vehicles or pedestrians; obstructs the view of drivers, or the light from a public lamp; or there is a danger to horse-riders.

Farmers are also allowed to cut or trim hedgerows and trees if they are dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted, and are therefore likely to cause a danger by falling onto a highway, road or footpath.

“I would also urge our members to remember that for safety reasons electricity and telephone companies are responsible for the maintenance of any overhanging trees and/or hedges which affect their equipment,” said Ian Rickman.

Meirionnydd farming family highlight urgent need for frameworks

A farming family from the the Cwm Nantcol valley in Meirionnydd has spoken out about their concerns for the future of agriculture, when they met with Meirion Dwyfor MP Liz Saville Roberts.

Welcoming the local MP to their hill farm, Graig Isa, Cwm Nantcol, near Llanbedr, Alun and Moria Jones stressed that family farms like theirs could be a thing of the past if frameworks are not put in place to protect the industry.

The Jones family keep a flock of 700 Welsh Mountain Ewes on their farm which extends to approximately 700 hectares, with the vast majority of the land being rugged, mountain land.

Walking around the farm, Alun Jones said: “We are concerned about the future direction of the agricultural industry. Without support and loss of markets for our lambs, family farms such as ours will not be able to keep going. The UK Government must make sure that our home market is working properly and fairly and it is absolutely essential that unfair competition between producers in different parts of the UK is prevented.”

Over the years the farm has benefited from agri-environment schemes. It joined Tir Cymen when Meironnydd was chosen to pilot the scheme in the early 1990’s, and thereafter was part of the Tir Gofal scheme. It is now in the Glastir scheme and also Glastir Organic.

The family also has a Hydro scheme, which was established approximately 2 years ago, in a bid to diversify and guarantee a separate source of income.

“Diversification is a necessity on many farms and generating alternative energy is something we can do - it helps in producing clean energy and provides a bit of extra income for the farm. Given that things are as uncertain as they are - we all have to think outside the box and as farmers we are more than happy to do our bit for the environment. But it is important that we have adequate infrastructure to facilitate similar diversification enterprises in future and that the work we do is properly recognised,” said Alun.

FUW Meirionnydd county chairman Sion Ifans added: “Our industry is facing unprecedented time, there are plenty of opportunities but there are also some challenges ahead. “That’s why we must ensure the UK Government sets global tariff rates for key agricultural commodities such as beef and dairy products at the same level as those applied by the EU. It is so important that they work with the other UK administrations to place the protection of farming families and rural communities at the centre of a common framework which minimises unfair competition and market distortion, while respecting devolution.”

Caernarfonshire County Executive Committee enjoy visit to wool laboratory

Farmers from Caernarfonshire got an insight into how wool is tested and analysed for quality, when they visited the Wool Testing Authority Europe Ltd. laboratory in Caernarfon. The company operates from the Cibyn Industrial Estate in Caernarfon, and tests wool from producers across Europe.

The tour was arranged by Courtney Pye, the Managing Director of the company, and members enjoyed learning about how the laboratory tests wool from a number of European countries.

FUW Caernarfon County Chairman Dafydd Williams said: “We all really enjoyed this visit and were certainly surprised to learn that it is the only laboratory of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere.”

The laboratory is fully equipped to carry out tests for the accurate and reliable measurement of an extensive range of wool characteristics and the prediction of processing performance. Wool is such an amazing product with different types of wool being suitable for different uses. To make sure that our wool is used for the right product, it needs to be tested. 

“Through the testing they can also detect disease and establish how stressed the animals have been - it really was fascinating and I thank Courtney Pye and Gavin Jones for arranging this visit,” added Dafydd Williams.

Caernarfon farmers discuss importance of farm safety

Farmers in Caernarfonshire have been urged not to join the long list of fatality statistics, and make their safety on farm a priority.

Speaking after a recent County Executive meeting, FUW Caernarfonshire County Chairman Dafydd Williams said: “Thinking of other people’s welfare and safety is often easier than thinking of ourselves. You understand the responsibility you have looking after an employee. But we must take care of ourselves too and that includes looking after our own safety on the farm.

“Over the last twenty years, other industries such as construction have made huge improvements to their safety records, and farming has not. It is frightening to think that you are now six times more likely to be killed on a farm than you would on a building site!

“That of course is not right and we have to address the issue - each and every one of us, on our own farms. Agriculture is known to be one of the most dangerous professions with farmers often working alone, in challenging weather conditions and in stressful situations.

“The risks on farms are all well-known and it shouldn’t be so difficult to manage them. But all too often we put ourselves in situations where one slip can have life changing or even fatal consequences.”

The figures published in the Health and Safety Executive’s report 'Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2018/19' show 39 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities during the year, that’s 6 more people than the 5-year average of 33 per year. 

Nearly half of the agricultural workers killed were over 60 with overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles causing most deaths. 

Mr Williams urged farmers to think about what they’re doing before getting started. “6 people died in Wales last year because of an accident on the farm. That’s 6 families who went through life-changing trauma and many more will have been affected by the tragedies. It is not acceptable,” he added.  

During the County meeting, the Chairman also drew attention to working from heights and the need for general maintenance on farms in order to avoid accidents, including encouraging the members to have their outdoor electricity circuits tested. 

“All too often we see problems arising from cables being in poor condition after squirrels and rats chewing them. Having them regularly tested can help avoid so much inconvenience as well as avoid fatal accidents. Follow all the advice including wearing that helmet and make the promise to your family and yourself that you will come home at the end of the day,”he said.

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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/