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Farming

NFU-Cymru President’s New Year Message

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Stephen James: NFU Cymru President

I AM pleased that we end 2017 on a positive note, with UK and EU leaders agreeing to move on to Phase 2 of the UK Exit negotiations.

This phase, in which the transition deal and our future trading relationship with the EU is negotiated, is absolutely critical to the future prosperity of the food and farming sector in Wales.

I cannot stress highly enough the importance of maintaining continued free and frictionless access to our largest and most proximate market. We hear both UK and EU negotiators repeatedly use the words ‘clarity’ and ‘certainty’, and as farming businesses that is exactly what we want to see early in 2018 – clarity and certainty over the type of trading environment that we will be operating under come the end of March 2019.

In our view this should mean the UK remaining in the Customs Union until such time as a comprehensive free trade agreement can be agreed between the UK and EU.

I remain optimistic at the opportunity Brexit provides to develop, design and implement new policies that support our vision for a productive, progressive and profitable industry in Wales. This will ensure Welsh farming can continue to contribute to, and enhance, the economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being of Wales.

The speed of change to implement a new agricultural policy should be determined by our future relationship with the EU. Throughout this evolution to a new domestic agricultural policy, and thereafter, governments in Cardiff and Westminster must maintain current levels of investment in farming to ensure that Welsh farmers remain competitive whilst continuing to produce food to the highest standards.

The Nitrates Review and proposals to increase the areas of Wales designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) has been very high on our lobbying agenda for over two years now. I am pleased that Lesley Griffiths AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, has recently announced her intention to work with stakeholders to explore further options to safeguarding water quality in Wales. This means that no new NVZ designations will be introduced at this point in time – a huge relief to many farmers across Wales who have been highly concerned about the costs and burden of NVZ regulations.

I am very clear, however, that regulatory pressure still remains and the group charged with taking this task forward (the NRW Wales Land Management Forum Agri-Pollution Sub Group) will, over the coming months, consider the right balance of regulatory measures, voluntary initiatives and investment. As farmers, we recognise the role we have to play in contributing to further and sustained improvements in water quality in the years ahead and NFU Cymru remains fully committed to working with Welsh Government, the Regulator and other partners to deliver workable (non-regulatory) solutions.

The scale of this challenge must not be underestimated and I want to ensure that NFU Cymru has a robust structure in place to drive this forward. It is, therefore, my intention to establish an NFU Cymru Water Quality Task & Finish Group. The group will consist of members from across Wales, across all sectors and the wider supply chain, with the aim of shaping the NFU Cymru contribution to the work of the NRW Agri-Pollution Sub-Group and also working to secure the ‘buy-in’ and commitment of the wider farming community to a non-regulatory approach.

Last June the Cabinet Secretary announced a new TB programme for Wales, a programme that we see as a step forward given the recognition by Welsh Government of the transmission link between cattle and wildlife.

Bovine TB continues to be the subject that causes most frustration amongst our membership. The latest statistics show a year on year increase in herd incidence and herd prevalence in Wales and over 9,700 cattle slaughtered because of TB, so it is clear why cattle keepers believe this to be the biggest immediate threat to their farming businesses.

I am pleased that on these two vitally important issues to the agricultural sector in Wales in 2017 the Cabinet Secretary has made policy decisions based on scientific evidence. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Cabinet Secretary and the newly appointed Minister for the Environment, Hannah Blythyn AM.

Our work in 2017 has sought to highlight the unrivalled contribution of farmers and farming to Welsh society. Our campaigns have highlighted how we are ‘Proud to Produce’ across so many areas; food, environment, landscape, heritage, culture, language and to the economy of Wales and our NFU Cymru Community Champion, Wales Woman Farmer, Dairy and Livestock awards have showcased the individuals and farming families behind this good work.

I am immensely proud of our contribution to the well-being of Wales and it is something that we must never lose sight of at what is a pivotal time for Welsh farming.

Farming

Cattle and sheep prices rise

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Prices up: But warnings given

HISTORICALLY high market prices for cattle and sheep are helping to push Wales’ agricultural sector into the black, according to market analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

Welsh Government projections, released as part of its ‘Aggregate agricultural output and income’ and ‘Forecast of farm incomes in Wales’ statistical reports, show that agriculture is now worth almost £1.6 billion to the Welsh economy.

Beef and sheep farming – along with the dairy sector – are by far the largest contributors to this value, with the PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef brands helping to secure millions in sales in the UK and export markets.

According to HCC, strong cattle and sheep prices at market are continuing to help sustain profitability, although the weather has had an impact.

“Market prices for June have continued the trend we’ve seen since the beginning of the year,” said HCC’s Data Analyst Glesni Phillips. “Poor weather in early spring is restricting the number of new season lambs coming on to the market, which has contributed to prices remaining around 10p per kilo higher than last year. Beef cattle prices are also strong, helped by a barbecue boom in the warm month of May.”

However, Glesni noted that average farm incomes were still modest, and that uncertainty over access to vital European markets after Brexit meant that forecasting future price movements was unusually difficult.

“According to Welsh Government figures, average incomes on a beef and sheep enterprise in the Less Favoured Area (LFA – which makes up over 80% of Wales’s agricultural land) are only just over £25,000,” she said. “Given that market prices are unlikely to remain at this level, and that considerable political uncertainty exists over possible levels of exports and imports of red meat, this highlights the need for agricultural businesses to prioritise on-farm efficiency as part of their Brexit preparations.”

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Farming

TFA calls for Inheritance Tax changes

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Radical change: TFA wants major tax reform

THE TENANT F​ARMERS ASSOCIATION (TFA) has called for a radical change in the operation of Agricultural Property Relief (APR) in its response to the call for evidence issued by the Office for Tax Simplification for its Inheritance Tax review.

TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said “For many rural landlords the taxation framework within which they operate has a major influence over the decisions they make about how they manage their land. The TFA believes that the Government should be using this sensitivity as leverage to achieve wider objectives for the resilience and sustainability of the tenanted sector of agriculture”.

The introduction of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 represented a major deregulation of the agricultural let sector. Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) were ushered in with the intention of improved efficiency of land use, whilst increasing opportunities for both progressing farmers and new entrants within the agricultural sector.

“Over two decades on and the TFA believes that neither of these objectives have been attained. Whilst we saw an increase in the amount of let land through the early years of the new legislation this has, by and large, tailed off. However, the biggest failing has been the perpetuation of short lengths of term leading to inefficiency. Short term tenancies are holding back progression, investment and sustainable land use. FBTs have been too short for too long and now is the time for that to change,” said Mr Dunn.

A big advantage to the taxpaying landlord is the ability to have 100% APR from Inheritance Tax for the agricultural value of their holdings let after the 01 September 1995. However, the TFA questions whether this relief should be so widely available. In circumstances where landlords choose to let for short lengths of term, there is little in the national interest to be gained from providing landlords with such a generous tax advantage.

“There needs to be a radical reform of the Inheritance Tax framework for agricultural land as it applies to landlords. Allowing for exemptions for specialist cropping lets on a rotational basis, APR should be abolished except in relation to land let for 10 years or more without a landlord’s break clause,” said Mr Dunn.

“Using changes in APR to improve the average length of term on FBTs will impact positively on the productivity, resilience and sustainability of the tenanted sector of agriculture, which is now responsible for farming around a third of the agricultural area of the country,” said Mr Dunn

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Farming

Royal Welsh to be blooming great

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The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off: New at this year's Show

THE ROYAL W​ELSH AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY has announced it will be holding ‘The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off’ competition during the main show on July 23-26.

Have you got a wedding coming up? This would be the perfect opportunity to learn how to arrange wedding flowers and win a wedding bouquet designed and arranged by renowned, award winning florist, Jonathan Lloyd-Davies.

Designed and sponsored by Johnathan of Johnathan’s Flowers, the competition, taking place in the Horticulture Marquee on the Tuesday (Jul 24) of the show, is open to anyone who has not previously competed in the floral art section of the Royal Welsh Show or Winter Fair, and who is interested in learning how to arrange flowers for an upcoming wedding.

Competitors do not need any previous experience (No NAFAS members), there will be no entry fee and all materials will be provided. But hurry, entries must be made in advance as spaces are limited.

The competition will follow the lines of the popular ‘Great British Bake Off’ programme, with contestants, in this instance, first taught to delicately arrange wedding style button holes, with the successful competitors proceeding to the next round to create a beautiful bridal bouquet under Johnathan’s watchful eye.

Jonathan established his business, Jonathan’s Flowers (www.jonathansflowers.co.uk), back in 1993 and has since gone on to provide an inspirational and personal florist service to South Wales and beyond. Specialising in floral designs to weddings and corporate clients, Johnathan has an impressive list of happy clients, including Catherine Zeta Jones, Bonnie Tyler, leading hotels in both Cardiff and Swansea, Glorious Goodwood, Royal Ascot and Wentworth Golf Club, to name just a few.

This exciting competition is just one of the many floral extravaganzas you will find in the Horticulture Marquee at the Royal Welsh Show. Packed full of fruits, vegetables, floral art displays, cut flowers, pot plants, window boxes and planters, a children’s decorated wheelbarrow competition, demonstrations, gardening question time, and the Welsh National Honey Show, amongst other delights… it really is worth a visit!

For more details and entry forms for ‘The Great Royal Welsh Bloom Off’, please contact: 01982 554409 / amanda@rwas.co.uk

The pinnacle event in the British agricultural calendar, the Royal Welsh Show, will be held on ​July ​23 – 26​ ​at the showground in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells.

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