Talks over Northern Ireland Protocol highlight need for careful scrutiny of Australia deal, says FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales says the emergency UK-EU talks being held to try and overcome problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol highlight the dangers of the UK entering a trade deal with Australia without careful scrutiny.

UK Brexit minister David Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are meeting in London today (9th June) to discuss the problems facing exports to Northern Ireland as a result of the rules agreed by the UK and EU in the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol has led to shortages of certain products in the province and caused an increase in sectarian tensions, leading the UK government to threaten to further ignore the rules. In response, the EU is threatening court action and the imposition of tariffs if the UK does not meet the obligations set out in the international treaty.

FUW Policy Communications Officer Gareth Parry said: “There are growing tensions politically between the EU and UK, and there are growing tensions on the street, all because of an international agreement the UK negotiated and signed while desperate to meet a self-imposed tight deadline for leaving the EU.

“The problems are exactly what we and others warned of, and now, within months of the protocol coming into force, the UK government has realised how bad the implications are and is having emergency meetings with the EU to try and solve the problem."

Ceredigion dairy farming family highlight benefits of knowing your farmer

Knowing your farmer, being able to ask questions about their produce and how they look after the land is of paramount importance to Ceredigion dairy farming family the Thomas’s. The third generation to farm at Pantfeillionen, Horeb, Llandysul, Ceredigion, are Lyn and Lowri Thomas. Lyn has been farming since he was 16 and celebrates just over 32 years in the industry this year. The family looks after 170 acres and rents a further 100 acres, with the land down to grass. 70 dairy cows, a few sucklers and calves which get sold on as store cattle, call these green hills home. 

Farming, the couple say, has changed a lot in the last few decades and the industry has moved with the times. The way forward for the family is to maintain the small-scale ethos of the family farm and connect on a personal level with their customers who buy raw milk directly from the farm. 

Describing their farming system, Lyn says: “We do all our own silage and everything is done in house. We don’t use a lot of fertilizer, some yes, but we can’t use too much because of the nature of the ground. We’re farming on rock so that means we need to be careful otherwise our grass would burn on the south facing slopes. 

Brecon and Radnorshire farmers raise OZ trade deal concerns with local MP

Farmers’ Union of Wales members from Brecon and Radnorshire have outlined their concerns and objections to the free trade agreement with Australia at a recent meeting with their local MP Fay Jones.

Speaking after the meeting FUW Brecon and Radnor county chairman Dwylan Davies said: “We made it very clear in our meeting with Fay Jones MP that trade deals lock the current and future governments into them, and as such need time and thorough scrutiny. 

Caernarfonshire & Denbighshire farmers raise OZ trade deal concerns with local MP

Farmers’ Union of Wales members from Caernarfonshire and Denbighshire have outlined their concerns and objections to the free trade agreement with Australia at a recent meeting with Aberconwy MP Robin Millar.

Speaking after the meeting, which was hosted by FUW President Glyn Roberts at his home farm Dylasau Uchaf, near Betws y Coed, FUW Caernarfonshire County Executive Committee Member Dafydd Gwyndaf said: “We made it very clear in our meeting with Robin Millar MP that trade deals lock the current and future governments into them, and as such need time and thorough scrutiny.

“Under no circumstances should they be rushed, but that is what is happening here, on top of which the UK Parliament will not be able to scrutinise and have a final say on a deal in the way other democratic nations do.”

Mr Gwyndaf said the FUW had therefore asked him to do all he can to oppose such a trade agreement and ensure detailed scrutiny takes place.

FUW Anglesey AGM puts spotlight on water resources regulations and other farming matters

The Anglesey branch of the Farmers’ Union of Wales is looking forward to its virtual annual general meeting, which will explore and discuss the most important issues facing the industry. Held on Thursday, 10 June at 7.30pm via Zoom, members can look forward to lively discussions around the water resources regulations, proposed trade deals and wider FUW matters.

Guest speakers on the night are FUW Ltd. Managing Director Guto Bebb and Keith Owen, Environment Consultant and Director at Kebek-Rural Environmental Services who will be discussing the implications of the new water pollution regulations and how they differ from the previous SSAFO regulations. 

Mr Owen will further discuss the dates that need to be adhered to and what facilities will fall into the new regulations. The presentation will also look at economic ways of meeting the regulations and what the implications are of an NRW/Cross Compliance inspection.

Looking after the environment and producing sustainable food - how one organic sheep farmer is doing both

Set in the Gwili valley, on the outskirts of Llanpumsaint, Carmarthenshire, is Clyttie Cochion. The 150 acre organic farm is home to Phil Jones and 350 sheep. A part time Lecturer in Gelli Aur, Phil cares deeply about educating the next generation - not just those he teaches at college but the consumers of the future who have many concerns about how food is produced.

Walking across his fields, Phil said: “Many misconceptions remain about the impact farming has on the environment and often people are confused about farming styles in other parts of the world and here at home. It’s not universally true that farmers are polluting and destroying the environment. Here on the farm we have an easy care approach to shepherding and an easy care approach to the care of the ground as well. We only take from the ground what the ground will give us and that’s not a bad thing.” 

Understanding the soil, weather patterns and topography are just as important in farming as livestock husbandry. Although this holding is classed as a lowland farm, at 350 feet, the environment is more akin to a hill landscape with desolated rush covered ground and a few sheep. This presents challenges for Phil as he wants to ensure his land and the animals flourish. To feed the sheep, which are kept outdoors all year round, good grass cover and healthy soil are essential. The rush cover makes things difficult. 

‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’ - FUW campaign highlights farmings positive impact on the environment

The increasingly negative narrative around livestock farming and its portrayed impact on the environment and climate change has led to farmers in Wales standing up to tell their stories and highlight the positive impact livestock farming has.

Through the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ campaign ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’, farmers are addressing misleading claims by various groups about the role livestock farming plays in relation to climate change and the environment.  

Launching the campaign, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “The FUW has consistently recognised the threat represented by climate change and the need to take action. This is clear from a cursory look at our manifestos and policy documents published over the past twenty years. 

Celebrate dairy for World Milk day 2021 FUW says

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is encouraging consumers across the world to raise a glass to milk and dairy products on World Milk Day - Tuesday 1 June 2021. World Milk Day was first launched in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to celebrate and increase public awareness about the nutritional and economic importance of milk and milk products around the globe.

Speaking from his Pembrokeshire dairy farm, FUW Vice President Dai Miles said: “We are calling on everybody to celebrate and drink milk on June 1st. There are so many benefits of including milk and dairy in our lives - nutritionally, economically and environmentally.

Survey highlights digital urban-rural divide

A survey on digital connectivity has highlighted a gaping hole between urban and rural areas when it comes to access and stability of broadband and mobile phone reception. 

The survey, run by the National Federation of Women's Institutes-Wales, CLA, Farmers’ Union of Wales, NFU Cymru and Wales YFC, showed that over 50% of respondents from a rural area felt that the internet they had access to was not fast and reliable.

FUW raises Australia deal concerns with trade minister

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has highlighted an array of grave concerns regarding the impacts of a disadvantageous trade deal with Australia in a meeting with UK Minister for Trade Policy Greg Hands.

Speaking after the meeting on Wednesday (19 May), FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Both the minister and I agreed wholeheartedly that it is important that we seek new trade opportunities for UK agriculture and other industries.  However, we made our concerns regarding the adverse impacts of a liberal deal with Australia very clear.”

Mr Roberts said that a host of issues were discussed during the meeting, including the potential benefits for Welsh agriculture of the UK’s membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the UK is currently seeking.

Concerns over Australia and other trade deals ‘well founded’ says FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) says concerns that a trade deal struck with Australia could be severely damaging to UK farming and food production are well founded and echo worries expressed repeatedly by the union over the past five years.

The comment came after the Financial Times reported on a “ferocious” internal battle within the UK Government between the Department of International Trade and Defra over the terms of a UK-Australia trade deal that could allow food produced in Australia to be imported to the UK tariff-free.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “It’s very clear that the British public is opposed to opening the flood-gates to produce from countries where farmers do not have to comply with the high standards we have here, and we fully support those within government who are fighting such proposals.  

Tenant farmers hit brick wall over Water Resources Regulations

A tenant farming family from Montgomeryshire has hit a brick wall over the Welsh Government’s recently introduced Water Resources Regulations, with their landlord standing in the way of their ability to comply with the new regulations. Bryan Jones, his wife Susan and son Andrew, farm at Coedyparc, Caersws, Powys, a 105 acre all grassland farm which is home to a 85 strong closed dairy herd. 

The family, who have been farming here since 1973 on a lifetime tenancy agreement, are worried that with their landlord unwilling to foot the bill for the costly capital works required to be compliant with the new regulations and the banks not lending money for works carried out on tenant farms, it will spell the end of their farming lives on the holding.

Bryan Jones said: “I’ve been milking cows my entire life, starting when I was just 12 years old and will mark my 66th year of dairy farming this year. It’s what we do as a family. It’s our life. We have never had a pollution incident here. NRW through their own assessment have confirmed that there is no pollution here, but we still need to comply with these new regulations and carry out works at eye watering costs which will be in the region of £70,000. Who is going to pay for that? 

Extension to BVD screening programme welcomed by FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the news that free BVD testing for cattle farmers in Wales has been extended until 31 December 2022. The testing, which is provided through Gwaredu BVD, supports both youngstock testing and the hunt for persistently infected animals in order to help herds eliminate the disease and achieve BVD free status.

Over 8,600 of Welsh herds (80%) have been screened for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) since its launch in 2017. From the 8,600 herds already screened, approximately 2,446 (26.1%) have tested positive. The programme now aims to continue working with farmers and their vets to identify the persistently infected (PI) animals. 

FUW highlights concerns with agricultural leads from main political parties ahead of the elections

Farmers’ Union of Wales President Glyn Roberts and Deputy President Ian Rickman have met with the agriculture leads of the main political parties in the run-up to the Welsh Senedd elections, highlighting industry concerns and the Union’s key manifesto asks.

Welcoming the opportunity to query various pledges made by the parties in their manifestos the President and Deputy President were able to emphasise the importance of the next Government committing to stability, family farms, supporting rural communities and Welsh jobs, sustainable agriculture and rewarding environmental outcomes.

The Union will hold the parties to account on their commitments to farming and work closely with the next Government to ensure future policies support thriving, sustainable family farms- for the benefit of the rural economy, the environment, food security and our unique rural culture and traditions.

“We’ll have to get rid of our cattle” say Glamorgan beef and sheep farming family in response to draconian NVZ regulations

Glamorgan beef and sheep farmers Richard Walker and his partner Rachel Edwards run Flaxland Farm - a 120 acre beef and sheep holding just outside of Barry, Glamorgan. The couple say they will have to give up keeping cattle if current Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations are not adjusted to incorporate recommendations made by industry stakeholder groups. 

Richard and Rachel keep 35 breeding cows and 130 breeding ewes and are at the end of their tether.

“We’ve had a session with Farming Connect to see what we need to be doing, and it didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know, apart from that we have enough ground to cope with how much slurry we produce. So we wouldn’t have to export. But we would have to cover one of the existing yards, which is an awkward shape, plus cover where we scrape slurry to, and also put in a slurry store. Which we don’t have at the moment,” said Rachel Edwards. 

‘Eradication of Bovine TB must be priority for next Welsh Government’, says FUW Animal Health and Welfare Committee chair

The need to urgently deal with bovine TB across Wales was hotly debated by the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ animal health and welfare committee at a recent virtual meeting ahead of the Welsh Senedd election in May.

Speaking at the meeting, Ian Lloyd, FUW Animal Health and Welfare Committee chairman said: “It is a sad reflection of the ongoing problems caused by Bovine TB that the disease still warrants such detailed discussions. While improvements have been made since 2009 in regard to new herd incidents, the latest statistics show that 9,762 animals were slaughtered in the year to December 2020 in Wales.” 

Welsh Government silence on payment capping is shameful says FUW Ceredigion sheep farmer

The failure of the Welsh Government's Agriculture white paper to refer to payment capping is shameful and raises major concerns that a regressive move away from the policy is being considered.

That is the view of Ceredigion farmer sheep Anwen Hughes, who says the FUW is right to highlight the issue amongst one of its ten key manifesto asks.

"FUW members have consistently supported the capping of farm payments in response to consultations over the past two decades, and we successfully lobbied for their introduction when it first became possible," said Mrs Hughes who farms around 138 acres, of which 99 acres are owned, 22.5 acres are on a lifetime farm tenancy and a further 17 acres are rented at Bryngido farm, just outside of Aberaeron in Ceredigion.

A limit on the amount of direct payments a farm business in Wales can receive was introduced in 2015 by the then minister Alun Davies.

Carmarthen farmers quiz Welsh Senedd hopefuls at hustings

Farmers from Carmarthenshire took the opportunity to quiz their prospective Senedd Members for the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency at a virtual hustings, which was hosted jointly on Zoom by the FUW, Wales YFC and NFU Cymru, on Tuesday 13 April. 

Speaking after the meeting, FUW Carmarthenshire County Executive Officer David Waters said: “Many members of the farming community took up this opportunity to pose questions to those that seek to represent them in Cardiff for the next Welsh Senedd term. 

“The big questions around NVZs, river pollution by water companies and future Welsh policies were high on the agenda and the FUW will continue to lobby on these.”

‘I feel like I’m part of a social experiment’ - says Carmarthen farmer

Farmers in Wales feel like they’re part of a social experiment given the current Welsh Government proposal to place an untried and untested approach developed in England at the heart of future Welsh farm policy. That was the message from Farmers’ Union of Wales Carmarthenshire County Chairman Phil Jones ahead of the Welsh Senedd Elections in May. 

Phil Jones, from Clyttie Cochion, Llanpumsaint, Carmarthenshire, has been farming almost his entire life and looks after 150 acres, grazing 350 sheep under organic management. He took the farm back in hand 2011 as it had been rented out following a family tragedy and is worried about the future of farming in Wales and the effects untested policies will have on the industry.

“Concerns in the farming community that the ‘public goods payment’ policy proposed at the core of the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme threaten the survival of the industry are at an all time high. I feel like I’m part of a social experiment; like every farmer in Wales is part of that experiment. 

FUW urges the incoming Welsh Government to develop bespoke, tailor-made policies that reflect global realities as well as Welsh economic, social and environmental needs

Five years ago, ahead of the 2016 Welsh Senedd elections, the Farmers’ Union of Wales warned of the unprecedented challenges facing the incoming Senedd Members and Government. Since then those challenges have not only materialised but been exacerbated and added to. 

Outlining the big issues facing agriculture in Wales at a press conference, which launched the FUW’s 2021 Welsh Senedd Election Manifesto, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The materialisation of a far harder form of Brexit than had been promised by those who lobbied for our departure from the EU has restricted access to our main export markets on the continent in ways which are only beginning to be felt. 

“At the same time, the on-going Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition and has highlighted the fragility of global food supply chains and the importance of a strong farming sector on which our domestic markets should be able to rely for commodity products.

“While such issues have been largely beyond the control of our devolved administrations, the reaction of the Welsh Government to the uncertainty and challenges faced by our agriculture sector has at times been bewildering and counterintuitive, not least in terms of its appetite for drastically increasing costs and restrictions while advocating untried and untested reforms of rural support policies.”

Meanwhile, UK Government cuts to Welsh rural funding - in direct contradiction to promises made repeatedly by those who advocated Brexit - have added to the pressures on Welsh agriculture, the rural economy and Welsh Government, said the Union President.

FUW hosts virtual hustings across Wales

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is hosting a series of hustings to ensure that farmers have the opportunity to quiz the prospective Welsh Senedd candidates across Wales ahead of the Welsh Senedd elections in May. The hustings, which will take place via Zoom, will give members the opportunity to hear from the candidates about their respective parties’ policies for agriculture. 

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The upcoming Welsh Senedd Elections in May are of vital importance to the agriculture sector in Wales and the incoming Welsh Government will be facing unprecedented challenges. 

“In the next few weeks we will have the chance to seek commitments from aspiring Senedd members in the numerous virtual hustings being held. There will be no need to travel and no need to be away from the farm. 

FUW rejects key Welsh agriculture white paper proposals and calls for genuine Welsh policy

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has rejected the key proposals for the future of agricultural support in Wales set out in the Welsh Government’s agriculture white paper, and called for a genuine Welsh policy to be developed to meet Welsh objectives.

The Agriculture (Wales) White Paper sets out Welsh Government policy proposals for a legislative framework governing Welsh agriculture, as well as forestry and woodlands, over the coming decades. 

Central to the proposals would be moves to ratchet up rules and restrictions, and base farm support payments purely on the delivery of ‘public goods’ - an academic term that in most cases means environmental benefits such as clean air, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

“We of course agree that public goods should be an important part of a future rural support scheme, but delivering employment, economic, social and cultural prosperity should also be fundamental principles that underpin the design of future support mechanisms,” said FUW president Glyn Roberts. 

“We have a proud history of designing agricultural policy for Wales and have previously deviated significantly from English policies - much to our benefit - and we should continue to do so.

FUW welcomes new ‘Extra Special’ Welsh lamb product in stores for Easter

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the addition of a new, luxury Welsh Lamb product, which will be available in a leading supermarket ready for consumers to celebrate Easter.

Asda supermarkets will be stocking a new half Welsh Lamb leg joint in time for Easter celebrations from March 27 – April 5 as part of their ‘Extra Special’ range. The Extra Special Welsh Half Lamb Leg will be available in selected stores across the UK.

The new product has been created with celebrations in mind and is described as being ‘Prepared with succulent Welsh Lamb, with a full-flavoured gravy infused with roast garlic and deep Ruby Port, all finished with fragrant rosemary for a delicious Easter roast.’ An oven-ready product, it allows families and couples a convenient and delicious way to serve an Easter celebration meal.

Lamb has proven to be a popular product over the last 12 months, with more people choosing the protein over the lockdown period. The most recent data shows that the volume of lamb sold in the UK between December and February has increased by 16.4% compared with 2020 figures.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: "This is a most welcome step in the right direction. Given the uncertainty our farmers face over future trade deals, supporting local suppliers is key to ensuring we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales. 

FUW welcomes creation of all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator

The announcement by Welsh Government Minister of Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, that a dedicated all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator role will be established, has been welcomed by the Farmers’ Union of Wales. 

In her announcement, the Minister agreed to provide funding for the 12 month pilot role and has written to the Chief Constables of the 4 Welsh police forces and the Police and Crime Commissioners seeking their cooperation and support to appoint an all-Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator.

Responding to the news, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “This is good news for our rural and farming communities who continue to suffer the effects of rural and wildlife crime. At a recent livestock worrying webinar, hosted by the FUW and Wales YFC, we heard first hand about the challenges our police forces face in order to deal with such crimes effectively and the devastating impact such crimes have on our farmers.”

Mr Rickman added that whilst police forces in Wales have made great progress over the years and the North Wales rural crime team have provided a blueprint for excellence, a Wales wide effort in tackling rural crime should not be delayed.

“Rural and wildlife crime costs the industry dearly every year - financially and emotionally. We must learn the lessons from those police forces who have already made great strides in tackling rural and wildlife crime and adopting an all Wales approach will go a long way in effectively tackling the issues police forces deal with on a force by force basis,” he said. 

FUW stresses need for clarity on funding for Wales at Roundtable meeting with Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Farmers’ Union of Wales President Glyn Roberts has stressed the need for clarity on funding for Welsh agriculture at a roundtable meeting with Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice MP.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Roberts said: “We currently have no clarity on what budget the Welsh Government will be able to assign to agricultural funding from 2023 onwards, which creates uncertainty about the continuity of BPS and the transition to a new Sustainable Farming Scheme. This is in addition to the £137 million cut that Wales has seen to it’s agricultural funding, which will begin to take effect next year.

“What we need are reassurances about this budget and if or when a multi-year settlement might be given as opposed to a one year budget.”

Responding to the question, George Eustice MP told delegates that the budget allocation was annual for now, given the disruption caused by Covid. However, he was hopeful that this autumn there would be a funding review which would provide a five year budget. He further stressed the UK Government will abide by their commitment to funding promises made and that funding will stay the same as when the UK left the EU, adding that it will be frozen at the level it was in December 2019.  

FUW hits out at extended ‘Soft-touch’ period for imports from EU

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has described the UK Government’s decision to allow imports from the EU to circumvent checks until the autumn as a blow for many UK producers, and an own goal in terms of the UK’s negotiating position over improvements that would help UK exporters.

While thorough checks have been in place for UK food exports to the EU since 1st January 2021, equivalent checks on food products imported from the EU were due to be introduced from 1st April following a transition period to allow importers to adjust to the UK’s departure from the EU Single Market. 

However, the UK Government announced yesterday (11th March) that pre-notification requirements for products of animal origin, certain animal by-products and high risk food not of animal origin would not be required until 1st October 2021. Export health certificate requirements for meat and dairy products and certain animal by-products will come into force on the same date, while a range of other requirements have been delayed until 2022.

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/