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Dairy Crisis Update



IN THE FACE of the current dairy crisis, the Farmers’ Union of Wales is once again calling on major UK supermarkets to commit to the procurement of Welshdairycrisis dairy produce, and to ensure that the prices paid for dairy products are such that confidence in the long term future of the sector is revived.

Speaking after a recent FUW milk and dairy produce committee meeting, chairman Dai Davies said: “The FUW has written to the leading supermarkets in the UK to highlight that last year saw many months of consecutive downward milk pricing, which has caused major problems for the sector.

“Whilst some forecasts predict a decline in global milk supplies in the latter half of 2015, the Russian trade embargo, coupled with reduced demand in China and a weak economic environment, will likely delay price rises beyond any potential downturn in production.”

According to figures supplied by Defra, the average November UK farm-gate milk price was more than 16 percent lower than the same month in 2013 and is the lowest farm-gate price since September 2012.

“The falling dairy prices experienced by producers in Wales raises significant concerns within the dairy industry, and a lengthy delay in milk price recovery now seems certain due to a continuing supply and demand imbalance within the global marketplace.

“Factors such as low milk prices, poor profitability and long-term uncertainty in the sector have severely undermined confidence in the long term sustainability of this industry; the very nature of which requires a long term commitment and investment from producers,” added Mr Davies.

Whilst the Union recognises that dairy farmers supplying supermarkets on a dedicated supply contract have received more favourable milk prices, such farmers represent only a small fraction of the Welsh dairy sector – around 4 percent of production – and are therefore unrepresentative of the industry as a whole.

“Failure to secure commitment by providing sustainable prices for dairy should be a major concern for all those within the supply chain. Between January and September 2014, UK dairy imports of cheddar cheese, speciality cheese and butter were around 77,000, 271,000 and 42,000 tonnes respectively and the union is therefore urging the supermarkets to ensure that a concerted effort is made to source dairy products from within our own shores,” added Mr Davies.

However, Sir Jim Paice MP, head of dairy co-operative First Milk said that supermarkets were not wholly to blame for the crisis.

“It is tempting to blame the supermarkets for the current downturn in milk price we’re experiencing but I have to say, as Chairman of First Milk, the crisis that we’re seeing today in the milk industry is not really the supermarkets’ fault,” said Sir Jim Paice, when speaking to NFU Cymru members in Pembrokeshire recently.

Sir Jim continued, “I believe the fundamental problem with the dairy industry at the moment is that there is too much milk on the market. We have seen an approximate increase of 10% of milk produced in the UK alone this year. That has been exacerbated by two things, China dramatically reduced its purchase of milk powder and then Russia introduced its trade ban, which included dairy products. With a third of EU cheese exports going to Russia – that was the final straw and that’s why our milk prices are where they are.

“It has resulted in a very serious situation throughout the country at the moment, particularly here in south west Wales where milk is obviously a hugely important industry.” Sir Jim Paice informed Pembrokeshire NFU Cymru dairy farmer members who attended the meeting.

He used the meeting to assure those farmers that supply First Milk that the co-operative was here to stay and everybody is getting paid for the milk they have produced. He insisted that First Milk was in a very very strong position now, the strongest it has been for many years, and it should be strong enough to withstand the volatile next few months ahead.

John Davies, NFU Cymru Deputy President and Euryn Jones, Agriculture Manager for HSBC Bank, the conference’s sponsor, both agreed with Sir Jim that we were witnessing extremely volatile times at the moment in dairy, as well as other sectors of farming, and both agreed NFU Cymru and the bank were there to help assist members and customers any way they can to get them through the volatility. John Davies said, “What we all want is a fair price from the market place for what we produce.”

Sir Jim is currently the Conservative’s Member of Parliament for Cambridgeshire but he is due to stand down at the forthcoming General Election this spring. A Suffolk farmer, farm manager and training manager, Jim Paice was in the position of Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2010 when negotiations first started on the current CAP reforms.

Reflecting on his time as Minister he said that we’ve ended up with a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which is pretty similar to what was originally proposed. He explained, “I’m not saying that means the first proposals were right, what I’m saying is that it was very difficult for 28 very different countries to agree. Discussions were impossible when each Minister from each Member State was given just three minutes to give their views on the proposals. It ended up with each Minister giving set speeches – not a discussion!”

Simon Richards, NFU Cymru’s newly elected Chairman for Pembrokeshire, and a dairy farmer from Haverfordwest, thanked all the speakers at the County Conference, particularly Sir Jim Paice MP, for his insight into the current situation at First Milk and his time as Defra Minister. Mr Richards also thanked HSBC Bank for its generous sponsorship of the event.

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Union wants answers after Panorama programme



NFU CYMRU has written to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to express its concerns after a Panorama investigation uncovered alleged illegal dumping of untreated sewage in Welsh rivers.

The Panorama ‘River Pollution Scandal’ aired on Monday, April 12.

The broadcast appeared to show untreated sewage being illegally discharged into protected rivers in England and Wales, including the River Usk.

NFU Cymru says the broadcast has caused ‘great concern’ among Welsh farmers, who just two weeks ago were severely burdened with ‘indiscriminate and punitive’ measures as part of the Welsh Government’s new all-Wales NVZ regulations aimed at improving water quality in Wales.

The union is asking that Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) carry out a full investigation into the findings of the Panorama documentary, to assure farmers that ‘agriculture has not been held accountable for the pollution caused from other sources, particularly sewage treatment works’.

NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “NFU Cymru has long highlighted that there is a range of factors influencing water quality in Wales. 

“The evidence is clear that a sole focus on agriculture through the introduction of regulatory measures to tackle agricultural pollution will not deliver Water Framework Directive objectives, yet we have observed a false and flawed narrative developing in recent years that frames agriculture as ‘the problem’ with respect to water quality issues in Wales. 

“In light of the evidence uncovered by the Panorama programme, NFU Cymru is seeking confirmation on what actions are being taken by the government and the regulator to stop these illegal practices. 

“We also ask what investigations are being undertaken to understand if and where else within Wales similar illegal practices are or have taken place.”

As part of its letter, the union has also urged that any potential contribution that discharges are making to phosphate levels in the River Usk is accurately accounted for.

Mr Davies continued: “The River Usk was identified as having the highest level of phosphate failures of all Welsh Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) rivers.  

“We note that NRW analysis for the River Usk references agriculture but is silent on any potential contribution of the water companies to phosphate levels.  

“It is important that the contribution of the water industry where through its permitted (or otherwise) activity is now properly reflected in work NRW has committed to do with respect to further investigations. 

“Overall, NFU Cymru seeks assurances, on behalf of our members, from Welsh Government and NRW that the issues raised within the Panorama programme will be fully investigated and addressed so that farm businesses across Wales can be reassured that agriculture has not been held accountable for the pollution caused from other sources, particularly by sewage treatment works. “We would also like assurances that, where necessary, the NRW will revise local and national reports and evidence.”

NFU Cymru is presently in the process of launching a legal challenge against the Welsh Government’s new rules to control agricultural pollution, having previously raised concerns about the lawfulness of the decision.

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Staycation boom offers farms new revenue stream



THE NUMBER of working farms looking to cash in on the boom in staycations has sky-rocketed, according to figures from

Of the 2,000 campsites listed on – Europe’s largest outdoor accommodation provider – more than 700 are working farms and 300 of those operate temporary sites, set up to take advantage of the peak holiday season.
Many such sites have joined the business in the first quarter of 2021, eager to secure a post-COVID financial recovery.

The hike comes after a change in planning policy increased the length of time farms and other land-based businesses can legally operate a campsite without planning permission from 28 days to 56 days.

Other factors, discovered, include concerns over falling support payments and Government plans to curtail farming through environmental policies which will disadvantage active farmers.

Dan Yates, founder of, said farmers were turning to temporary campsites in droves because they are the quickest and easiest form of diversification to get off the ground.

He said: “Establishing a campsite is very easy. At their most basic, all you need is a patch of land and running water, which most farms have already, and some toilets, which are easy to hire. Crucially, you don’t need planning permission to operate one for up to 56 days per year.

“With staycations booming and that trend set to stay, people are crying out for beautiful areas of the countryside where they can enjoy a relaxing break away from the pressures of work and lockdown.

“Farmers are perfectly placed to provide that. The farm-based campsites we work with can decide how many guests they want to host and with demand as it is, we are extremely confident we can fill those pitches.”

Mr Yates added that as well as being quick, convenient, and unobtrusive on day-to-day farming operations, pop-up and permanent campsites can be very lucrative.

“Although most campsites don’t generate quite this level of income, even small pop-up sites – which are the easiest by far to accommodate – return on average £13,000 in extra revenue per year, and many take tens of thousands of pounds more than this.

“It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that they’re becoming so popular among farms and land-owning businesses. We expect to see many more farmers try this kind of diversification as we come out of lockdown and the summer gets closer.”

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FUW calls for Welsh policies for Welsh agriculture



THE FUW has urged 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 that are only beginning to be felt. 

“At the same time, the ongoing 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 upon 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 a 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.

Through its manifesto and ongoing lobbying work, the FUW continues to be clear that Wales’ family farms lie at the centre of our rural economy, culture, and landscape, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of businesses involved in the Welsh food supply industry, and making innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Welsh and UK residents – benefits central to which is the production of food, our most precious commodity alongside water.

“Moving forward we need policies which reflect the need to mitigate climate change and protect our environment, but such aspirations must be tempered by the knowledge that sweeping changes that undermine our family farms and food production will merely shift production to countries with lower animal welfare standards and higher global and environmental footprints” said Glyn Roberts.

Highlighting the disappointment of members over the years with the current Welsh Government, Mr Roberts added that rather than feeling that industry concerns have been taken on board and seeing proportionate measures put in place to safeguard the agricultural  industry, many consider the current direction of travel as a betrayal of devolution which directly threatens the agriculture industry and the culture, language and way of life which are intrinsically linked to Welsh food production.

Speaking from his farm in North Wales, he added: “With this in mind, I make no apology for highlighting our members’ frustration about the lack of bespoke Welsh policies regarding future farmingscheme proposals and tackling water quality issues put forward by the current Welsh Government, and the distinct feeling that those who govern us from Cardiff Bay are now more remote from and indifferent to our rural communities than ever.

“Welsh farmers are proud to produce world-leading food to environmental, animal health and welfare and food safety standards that are second to none, but these need to be regulated in a proportionate manner which does not stifle innovation, create unjustified restrictions and place Welsh farmers at a severe competitive disadvantage against other countries’ agricultural produce.” 

Such concerns are particularly pertinent in an era when the UK Government is proactively seeking to sign trade deals with countries with production standards which fall well short of those already required of Welsh food producers, and while the aspiration that further raising standards will provide our producers with a competitive advantage in high-end markets is understandable, it is also naive given what the data tells us about widespread consumer indifference to such standards both here and around the globe.

“Alongside other critical issues and priorities outlined in this manifesto, the FUW urges the incoming Welsh Government and Senedd to develop bespoke, tailor-made policies that reflect such global realities as well as Welsh economic, social and environmental needs and the seven Welsh Well-being Goals; policies that maintain our already high standards while ensuring Welsh producers are not undermined in ways that lead to greater imports of food from those with far lower standards than our own,” said the Union President.

For the period of the next Welsh Senedd and beyond, the FUW is committed to lobbying all those in Cardiff to ensure that agriculture and family farms receive the attention and respect that they warrant – for the sake of all our futures.

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