The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ has welcomed a UK Government consultation which would see an alternative method of ageing sheep at slaughter for the purpose of removing specified risk material.
The consultation proposes to allow a cut-off date to be used when ageing sheep as an alternative to the current method of ageing by dentition. In sheep, ageing by dentition is deemed inaccurate as incisors can develop between 9 months and 15 months of age. Nevertheless, all sheep with two permanent incisors erupted are considered to be over 12 months of age and the carcase must be split causing significant losses. The use of a cut-off date allows any lambs born in the previous year and submitted to slaughter before this date to be deemed under 12 months of age.
Under this alternative system, sheep producers will have much greater certainty on the price received for lambs and this is important for a sector which already suffers from low margins. APHA has already confirmed that this change would not compromise existing food safety or result in any additional risks to either human or animal health.
According to data from the National Sheep Association (NSA), the average loss of revenue caused by the current ageing system is estimated to be around £22 million. A further study conducted by EBLEX and the NSA estimated that the cost of dentition to British auction markets is almost £650,000.
The FUW welcomes the changes proposed but remains concerned at the lack of any definitive timeline for their introduction. The alternative ageing method proposed had previously been agreed at both a UK and EU level in November 2018. Indeed the proposal was confirmed by the then Farming Minister, George Eustice, and was followed by confirmation from DEFRA that the change would be implemented in June 2019.
Given the financial and administrative costs to the sheep sector of further delay, the FUW believes that it that maintaining the status quo would be wholly unacceptable and that the alternative method of ageing sheep should be established promptly.
Environmental Secretary Theresa Villiers confirmed this month that the UK has secured ‘national listed status’ which allows for the export of animal products to continue if there is a no-deal Brexit. This move provides certainty to a market which, according to defra, is worth more than £5 billion per year.
Notwithstanding the fact that this is a step in the right direction, the FUW remains concerned that this is no ‘silver bullet’ as UK producers will still need to meet new requirements and face potentially disastrous tariff rates and Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
For example, under current no deal Brexit scenarios, UK cheddar exports would face a 57% tariff whereas the tariff for cheddar imported into the UK would be set at just 7%. The same applies to beef carcasses - UK exports to the EU would attract a 70% tariff compared with a 37% import tariff. For beef, this sits amidst a, TRQ of 124,000 tonnes which would not attract any tariff at all. These tariffs set by the UK Government risk opening the door to food produced to much lower animal health and environmental standards and could undermine the viability and sustainability of UK producers.
In an attempt to encourage longer term agreements and increased productivity, the Republic of Ireland has adopted an approach which increases income tax reliefs for farmland lettings of more than 5 years.
As a result, farmland area let in the Republic of Ireland increased from 2% in 2011 to 7% in 2017. Following the scheme, approximately 450,000 acres were let under new agreements between 2015 and 2017, and Ireland now has more letting agreements than Great Britain which are longer than 5 years duration.
Farm Business Tenancy agreements significantly contribute to Wales’ agricultural sector - Welsh Government figures show that 9% of holdings that applied for BPS in 2018 were wholly tenanted whilst 39% were mixed ownership. However, the Farm Business Survey (FBS) estimates that 35% of rental agreements in 2017-18 were for less than 12 months and the FUW believes that the positive impact of tax relief in Ireland could be seen as a lesson for the UK.
The FUW continues to lobby for greater support for tenant farmers. The Sustainable Farming and our Land consultation considers the importance of ensuring that tenants can access the new ‘public goods’ derived scheme, but there remains uncertainty as to how those with shorter tenancy agreements could receive payments for implementing long-term actions. The FUW will be responding to this consultation in due course and will ensure that, amongst the number of issues facing the sector, the particular issues facing tenant farmers are fully recognised.
Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has expressed major concerns over the potential demand for Export Health Certificates (EHCs) post Brexit. Any business that exports live animals or animal products, including any products that contain animal derived ingredients, from the UK into the EU will require an EHC signed by a certified Vet.
FUW agree that the potential spike in demand for EHCs across the UK could place significant pressure on governing bodies and those certified Vets who must sign each and every certificate. This new requirement alone could delay exporting products to the EU and particularly cross-border in Ireland.
ii) MEPs Accept New EU Farm Commissioner
Members of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee have accepted Poland’s Janusz Wojciechowski as the next EU Farm Chief. The committee Chairman Norbert Lins states that the committee is ready to push for actions towards a successful Common Agricultural Policy.
iii) German Farmers Protest Against ‘Excessive Regulation’
Farmers in Germany have caused significant disruption to traffic by staging a nationwide protest against new agri-environmental regulations.
Thousands of producers attended the protests across Germany opposing what is considered to be excessive regulation in the fields of environmental and animal protection.
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) is now offering emergency payments to those farmers that have been affected by the administration of Tomlinson's Dairies.
Grants of up to £3,000 are available to affected producers from the emergency fund, but applicants MUST call the R.A.B.I helpline - 0808 281 9490 to request an application form. The application form has been simplified due to the urgency of payments. Please contact your local FUW office if you require help or information.