Agricultural Policy

UK Farmers May Face a 25% Fall in Lamb Prices

The Farmers’ Union of Wales are reiterating warnings of the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit on the Welsh sheep sector which are being felt once again since the newly accounted Prime Minister’s promise of leaving the EU on 31st October.

According to the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), EU retailers are refusing to sign long-term contracts for UK lamb exports due to the likelihood of them having to pay tariffs of 40-65% on lamb under a contract agreement after 31st October.  Instead, retailers are offering ‘spot prices’ for lamb for immediate delivery which would make UK produce uncompetitive once tariffs are introduced.  

The run-up to 31st March saw plans to either cull or offer compensation for unsaleable lambs, an approach that could be vital for securing our Welsh Lamb industry after 31st October.

The beef industry was faced with a similar situation in the run-up to 31st March in addition to the stockpiling of Irish beef imports which have since been flooding the market and reducing prices for UK producers.  It is imperative that the same doesn’t occur for our lamb industry which could see the abolishment of premium high-priced markets.

The BMPA highlights that the National Sheep Association and AHDB are forecasting a 25% drop in farmgate lamb prices when we leave the EU, and Hybu Cig Cymru suggests that 92.5% of our lamb export trade could disappear under a no-deal scenario.

FUW Concerned at Lack of Landowner Representation in Countryside Access Talks

Earlier this year, the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Ms Hannah Blythyn AM, released a statement outlining the next steps on countryside access following the proposals contained in the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources consultation.
Delivery of the initial proposals accepted in the consultation will be delivered by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and other stakeholders.
Other reforms within the consultation require more work to consider the details and potential consequences of introduction.  This work will be delivered by a new group called the Access Reform Advisory Group (ARAG) and the group will be tasked with looking at the legal and financial consequences of making the access changes proposed. The ARAG comprises a Steering Group and a number of Expert Working Groups.  The Steering Group's composition will be made up of access specialists from NRW, the Welsh Government, National Parks Authority and a Welsh Government Local Government Association rights of way specialist.
Around 80 percent of the land in Wales is privately owned and the Farmers’ Union of Wales is extremely concerned that private landowners have not been represented on the ARAG Steering Group.  Private landowners have a wealth of experience relevant to discussions on the future of access and many have directly experienced many of the key issues such as fly tipping, fly grazing and livestock worrying across Wales’ public rights of way network.  Inclusion of such representation is essential in ensuring that future policies recognise the complexity of access issues and do not detrimentally impact upon the ability of farm businesses to operate.

Farmers to Lose Out with Latest 5G Network Plans

A fundamental change in the way that network operators seek out land for mobile phone masts and other apparatus has led the Farmers’ Union of Wales to express further concern that the push for 5G coverage will have hidden costs for the agricultural sector.

The FUW previously raised concerns over the revised ‘Electronic Communications Code’ in 2017 which has allowed telecom operators to cut the rents paid to farmers who have masts on their land. The rollout of 5G means that this problem is likely to accelerate. 

Under the code, payments are reduced from ‘high-tech’ telecom rates to ordinary agricultural rent.  Indeed, the Code states that the market value of land used for telecoms equipment should not relate to the use of the equipment and reduces the payment to that in the region of ordinary agricultural rent; with some contribution for fees if applicable. The FUW is aware that this can reduce rent from thousands of pounds per year to tens of pounds over an entire 10 year period.  This is a significant loss in income for such farmers.

If a farmer refuses to accept the reduced rent, the associated company can seek to impose rights through the Upper Tribunal under the new Code.

The introduction of the Code has severely impacted the relationship between landowners and telecommunications companies and this will undoubtedly affect the rollout of 5G networks in the near future.  The FUW is reminding those who receive income from telecom masts, or are approached for the inclusion of new 5G masts, to be aware of these possible reductions in rent. 

FUW Welcomes Step Forward in Bovine TB Control

The FUW has welcomed the announcement that researchers have developed 2 candidate skin tests for bovine TB which are able to differentiate between cattle infected with the disease and those which have been vaccinated against the disease.

The ‘DIVA’ test was created by researchers from  teams within the UK, Ethiopia, India, the Netherlands and the USA and includes work undertaken by Ser Cymru Chair, Professor Glyn Hweinson, based at the Department of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

The development of a DIVA test is a crucial step in bovine TB control.  Vaccination of cattle against bovine TB is currently illegal under EU and International law as it is impossible to determine if a positive result emanates from bovine TB infection or vaccination.  The DIVA skin test mitigates this issue as the test will provide a positive result in infected animals, whilst vaccinated animals will be negative.  

The DIVA test must now be evaluated in field trials to ensure that it satisfies World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards. It is likely that this test will therefore not be available for use within the next 5 years.  

Whilst the FUW welcomes this positive step forward, it must be recognised that the availability of a cattle vaccination against bovine TB is not the whole answer and does not represent a ‘silver bullet’ to TB eradication.  Vaccination is not 100 percent effective and a DIVA test, which leads to vaccination, is just one ‘tool in the tool box’ for future eradication and control policies.

BPS Support Scheme Announced to Support Farmers

The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths has announced a BPS Support Scheme for farmers who won’t receive their payment on day one of the BPS payment window; which will run from 2 December 2019 to 30 June 2020.

The loan available will be worth up to 90% of the BPS claim value and hopes to provide certainty and assurance for farmers as we approach 31 October.  The Support Scheme would be available to all but farm businesses must opt-in in order to receive payment under the circumstance that their BPS claim is not ready on 2 December.

The application form is NOW available through your RPW online account and must be completed by 29 November with payments hoping to be processed during the week starting 9 December 2019.  The FUW encourages all 2019 BPS claimants to apply.  Please follow click here for more information.