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Dairy crisis update



Rebecca Evans

Rebecca Evans

THE DEPUTY MINISTER FOR FARMING AND FOOD, Rebecca Evans, visited Dyffryn farm in Powys to meet owner Jonathon Wilkinson and Russell George AM

discuss some of the issues facing the sector.

Discussion covered a range of topics, including the current situation facing the dairy industry in Wales, restrictions on cattle movement and changes to the Basic Payment Scheme.

The Deputy Minister said: “It was really useful for me to speak with Jonathon and his colleagues about the issues affecting them and their businesses. It is important I continue to meet and speak face-to-face with farmers to hear their concerns.”

A recent reduction in milk prices and the prices paid to farmers has put further pressure on dairy farmers and the Deputy Minister was keen to explore how the Welsh Government can continue to help improve resilience in the sector.

“This is of course a difficult time for dairy farmers across the UK. Confidence on dairy farms had been building over the last year, with a better milk price and lower cost of production, leaving a margin on production. But we have seen further turbulence recently and a return to volatility in milk prices. By working together with the dairy sector and dairy industry as a whole, I remain convinced that we can ensure our vision of a modern, professional and profitable industry in Wales can be achieved. I am keen to explore how resilience can be increased in the Welsh dairy supply chain and am expecting to receive a report back to me on the Dairy Review in the coming weeks. We are also considering how we may increase processing capacity in Wales, but also a range of other measures relating to product development and marketing, which will be of benefit to our dairy farmers.”

In October the Deputy Minister announced that Andy Richardson, who sits on the Dairy Task Force, was to lead the review of the dairy sector in Wales. The review is to provide a strategic direction for the dairy sector across the whole supply chain, offering recommendations that Government and the industry can put in place to deliver resilience, economic growth and the creation of additional jobs within the Welsh industry.

The day after visiting Powys, Rebecca Evans met Sir Jim Paice MP for First Milk talks.

First Milk, one of the largest dairy farmer co-operatives in the UK, announced recently that they were to delay payments to producers by two weeks.

First Milk also decided to reverse the 1.1 pence per litre of the planned February milk price reductions for the manufacturing and liquid pools, increase members’ capital investment and increase members’ capital investment target from 5 to 7 pence per litre.

Following their announcement on January 8, the Deputy Minister said she would be seeking urgent talks with First Milk.

Following the meeting at First Milk’s Haverfordwest Creamery, Rebecca Evans said: “I have spoken to farmers who tell me how concerned they are about what the deferred payments mean for the cash flow of their farming businesses. I sought an urgent meeting with First Milk to better understand how the co-operative had found itself in this position, and to satisfy myself that the suite of actions taken by First Milk will be enough to put them on a sound footing. First Milk say that the actions they have taken have helped to raise enough capital to stem their own cash flow problems and put the business on a sound financial footing once again. Sir Jim assured me he had spoken with the banks in light of their decision and had found them to be sympathetic to the farmers’ situation.”

First Milk is a farmer-owned GB milk co-operative with around 1,600 members. It deals with smaller and more geographically remote farms. There are 400 Welsh dairy producers in the co-operative and the vast majority of milk produced in Wales goes to Haverfordwest Creamery to produce cheese and other milk products.

In December, the Deputy Minister announced a review of the dairy sector in Wales, which is being led by Andy Richardson. The review aims to set out a long-term strategic direction for the dairy industry, taking views from all in the Welsh supply chain and is due to report in the coming weeks.

Around 200 farmers attended a meeting in Llandisillio where they were addressed by Sir Jim Paice.

Sir Jim told farmers the business was secure. However, farmers reported that the co-operative’s decision was yet another setback after months of falling wholesale prices.

The Cambridgeshire MP said that he hoped farmers felt reassured following the meeting, adding: “We’ve had to rebuild cash in the business so that our cash flow is fine. First Milk is a perfectly solvent business and we have a long-term future, but we needed to recapitalise the business and that is what we’ve done.”

The decision affects around 400 Welsh farmers.

First Milk operates a number of milk production facilities in England, Scotland and Wales, including the Haverfordwest Creamery plant.

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Appeal for dog walkers to keep pets under control during lambing season



THE LAMBING season is upon us and with many public paths crossing fields of sheep, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority is appealing to dog walkers to follow best practice when out in the countryside.

While walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail and other public footpaths and bridleways:

Always keep dogs on a short lead and under close control when sheep or any other livestock are present.
Clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it wherever you can or take it away –please do not leave poo bags in the countryside.

National Park Authority Public Rights of Way Officer, Meurig Nicholas said: “If your dog is out of your sight or left out of control, it may chase after, attack or worry sheep. Worried and stressed pregnant sheep can miscarry or abort their lambs.

“Young lambs are also very vulnerable at this time, and can get distressed and even die if they are separated from their mothers or abandoned after being chased by dogs.”

There have also been incidents where dogs have had to be rescued from cliffs because they were not kept under close control.

Mr Nicholas added: “These situations have resulted in emergency services such as the Coastguard and RNLI having to retrieve and rescue dogs. These incidents are avoidable and add unnecessary pressure to our busy emergency services.”

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Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues



THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.

Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.

Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.

Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.

“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.

Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.

PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said;  “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.

“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.

“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”

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NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG



NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.

In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.

“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.

“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.

“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”

Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.

“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence.  We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”

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