Autumn budget does nothing to relieve pressures on farming families

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has given a lukewarm response to the Autumn Budget, delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today (Wednesday 22 November 2023).

Despite the recent drop in inflation rates we are yet to see this feed through to lower interest rates and the warning from the Bank of England indicates that we should not expect many changes in the near future. This is a real concern for all businesses including farm businesses.  

FUW Group Chief Executive Guto Bebb said: “Whilst we fully understand the need to get inflation under control this should not be at the expense of farmers being able to recoup the cost of production. There is a lot of recent evidence that the fall in the price of dairy products is having a very real and detrimental impact upon farm gate prices. 

“This is a rather disappointing fiscal statement from the UK Government which does little to resolve the cost of living crisis and not much to instil confidence in the business community.  

“Farmers in Wales have had their confidence impacted by trade deals that damage their interests, funding cuts for Welsh agriculture justified on the back of accounting tricks, and a Welsh Government that seems incapable of delivering a coherent habitat scheme for farmers as we move beyond the previous farm support system.

“There was an opportunity for the UK Government to provide a much needed confidence boost for the sector but it appears that we will need to wait once again to see the issues facing the farming community being seriously addressed by the Government in Westminster.”

FUW calls for TB impact review following announcement of additional testing requirements

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to undertake a review of the costs and administrative burdens placed upon livestock keepers resulting from the current TB testing regime in Wales. The call follows an announcement by the Minister for Rural Affairs today (November 14) which outlined additional testing requirements for the Low and Intermediate risk areas of Wales.

The changes come as part of the 5 year Delivery Plan published earlier this year.

From the 1st of February 2024, pre-movement testing will be reintroduced into the Low TB Area of Wales, whilst cattle moving into the Intermediate TB Area from the High TB area of Wales, the High Risk Area of England and from Northern Ireland will need a post-movement test. 

Farmers can still move cattle that have tested clear at a government funded routine surveillance test, such as the annual herd test. 

Dr Hazel Wright, FUW Deputy Head of Policy, stated: “The announcement of further testing requirements for cattle will be of little surprise to many FUW members given the proposals contained in the last Welsh Government TB consultation. In our lengthy response to this consultation we outlined that the expected impact on cattle welfare and human health and safety due to the increased gathering and handling required to comply with additional testing proposals should be determined prior to any additional testing requirements. However we are yet to receive this information despite today’s announcement.”

As part of its consultation response on the reintroduction of pre-movement testing in the LTBA, the FUW stated that the priority for such herds should be protection against disease but only in a manner which is proportionate to the risks conferred by a given activity and the benefits gained by a given policy.

“Whilst the FUW recognises the need to protect the Low Risk Area from further disease spread, the cost-benefit of increased testing must be fully considered.  According to data provided by the Welsh Government, between 2017 and 2022 there were over 860,000 pre-movement tests. Of these, just 0576 reactors and 610 inconclusive reactors were disclosed. In the LTBA, there were just 2 reactors over this time period - one in 2020 and one in 2021 - but more than 43,000 pre-movement tests conducted. Over the same time period in the Intermediate Mid Risk Area, no reactors were disclosed from post movement testing.

“The increased costs of these new policies come at a time when the industry is facing potential reductions to the compensation paid to cattle keepers following the compulsory slaughter of cattle infected with bovine TB.

“The financial and emotional costs of bovine TB are tremendous. Analysis conducted by the FUW showed that, in 2022, the estimated total cost of TB pre-movement testing borne by cattle keepers in Wales was more than 2.3 million pounds. This is a 129% increase in industry testing costs since 2006.

“Sadly, testing costs are just a fraction of the costs borne by the industry in relation to this disease. No compensation is offered for the additional costs incurred such as lost revenue, loss of milk production, loss of breeding lines, delays to re-stocking and movement restrictions. These consequential losses suffered by a producer whose animals are compulsorily purchased can be significant and can run into tens of thousands of pounds.  

“We are therefore calling on the Welsh Government to properly analyse the cost-benefit of such proposals and to take a more rounded view of the overall impact on farm businesses prior to implementation.”

Anglesey tenant farmer outlines concerns for future schemes to Plaid Cymru leader

A tenant farmer from Anglesey has raised concerns around the Control of Agriculture  Pollution Regulations and the Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals with Leader of Plaid Cymru Rhun ap Iorwerth. 

Dilwyn Owen, who farms Porthamel Farm, Llanedwen, is a young tenant farmer on a County Council Holding. Here he keeps a herd of beef, which are sent directly to slaughter. He also grows some arable crops, in addition to having his own contracting business. 

He is concerned about the Control of Agriculture Pollution Regulations, as complying with them means making huge investments to create a new slurry store, with the landlord unable to offer any support at present.

Pembrokeshire farmers at a crossroads due to environment scheme chaos

A tenant farming family from Pembrokeshire is at a crossroads, as they try to make sense of the on-going chaos caused by the Habitat Wales scheme and uncertainty around future funding.

Haydn and Julia Mathias farm at Moor Farm, Cresselly, Kilgetty, where they keep a herd of suckler cows in an organic system on 177 acres. The farm has always been in some form of agri environment scheme starting with the Preseli ESA which led to Tir Gofal and in more recent years Glastir Entry leading to Glastir Advanced. They have also participated in Welsh Government organic schemes since they started in organic conversion in 2001. 

“The EOI for the Habitat Wales Scheme, if accepted, will generate approximately £2,404 for the farm. In 2022 our Glastir Advanced contract generated £5,190.93 and our Glastir Organic contract generated £4,457.20.  With both these contracts ending on 31 December 2023, we are now looking at a drop of 75% in our income in 2024 if we are offered a contract for the Habitat Wales Scheme,” said Mr Mathias. 

Gelli Aur stalwart scoops up services to agriculture in Carmarthenshire award

John Owen, who has been instrumental in developing good farming practices for all farmers within Wales through his extensive work at Gelli Aur and beyond, has been recognised for his work with the Farmers’ Union of Wales – United Counties Agriculture and Hunters Society Award for services to agriculture in Carmarthenshire.  

Being based at Gelli Aur has enabled him to impart and develop his knowledge and understanding of farming practices and needs within Carmarthenshire which have benefited the farmers within the industry.

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