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Farming

Warning on trade deal dangers

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President Trump: Reimposed retaliatory tariffs on beef imports

THE SOIL ASSOCIATION has released a report on the potential food safety risks posed by potential free trade deals with the US following Brexit.

The preliminary steps towards a UK/US trade deal are currently being taken. Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox MP has recently opened preliminary discussions with US officials to consider potential opportunities and risks for the negotiations. Much press emphasis has been placed on chlorine-washed chicken, but there are a host of other regulatory divergences that could undermine UK food standards.

The report warns that a range of products produced under lower safety and welfare standards than those in force either in Britain or the EU could pose a risk to both animal AND human health, as well as damaging British agriculture’s integrity and viability.

Some of the key differences between UK and US production – hormone-treated beef, GM crops and chlorinated chicken – are becoming increasingly understood by British consumers.

The report highlights a number of other areas where products imported from the US could be produced under significantly different standards to our own: this includes the inclusion of food colourants that have been withdrawn from the UK, the use of the herbicide Atrazine that has previously been linked with human health risks, and the sale of chicken litter as animal feed which was banned by the EU in 2001.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a number of steroid hormone drugs for use in beef production. Cattle producers use hormones because they allow animals to grow larger more quickly on less feed, thus reducing production costs. Hormone treated beef has been banned in the EU since 1989. The 2003 EU scientific review concluded that the hormone estradiol-17β was carcinogenic. The US imposed retaliatory tariffs, which were removed when the EU agreed to allow non-hormone treated beef from the US access to EU markets. President Trump re-imposed the tariffs last year.

In the US, chicken litter (a rendered down mix of chicken manure, dead chickens, feathers and spilled feed) is marketed as a cheap feed product, particularly for cattle. The cost of chicken litter is lower than corn and soy due to the high levels of industrial broiler chicken production in the US. In the US, the use of poultry litter in cattle feed is unrestricted. The use of chicken litter has been banned in the EU since 2001 following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and BSE. These diseases were attributed to the inclusion of animal protein in industrial animal feed.

Atrazine is estimated to be the second most heavily used herbicide in the US with 73.7 million pounds used in 2013.

It was applied on more than half of all corn crops, and up to 90 percent of sugar cane. Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents. The chemical has also been found to possibly induce breast and prostate cancer. Despite these findings, the EPA still allows its use in US agriculture.

The EU banned atrazine due to its public health risks and its polluting impact on waterways.

In the United States, products that include Yellow 5 and 6, Red 3 and 40, Blue 1 and 2, Green 3 and Orange B are available for purchase and do not require labelling. In 2008, these artificial colourings were taken off the UK market due to health concerns. The UK banned these food dyes following a 2007 double-blind study, which found that eating artificially coloured food appeared to increase children’s hyperactivity. While banned in the UK, the EU requires mandatory warning on foods that include these colourants.

Honor Eldridge, Policy Officer at the Soil Association, said: “British farming has a reputation for high food safety and high animal welfare. It is imperative that any future trade deal does not result in a dilution of these standards for consumers. Nor should any deal competitively disadvantage UK farmers.

“We welcome Michael Gove’s assertion that the UK should not race to the bottom in competing with cheap imports, as well as his commitment to supporting environmentally-friendly farming practice. If the UK Government is to achieve its goal of improving and strengthening our food standards, future trade agreements must reflect these commitments. To this end, any future trade negotiations must be conducted transparently and with input from public stakeholders.”

Quite how far that meshes with Liam Fox’s urge to deregulate and open up global markets for the UK by sacrificing public and industry protections remains to be seen.

Farming

Producers talk post-Brexit food brand protection

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Sponsoring MP Hywel Williams: Met with producer representatives

REPRESENTATIVES of some of the UK’s most iconic foods met with MPs and Peers at Westminster on Tuesday​ (May 15) with the future of Protected Food Names top of the agenda.

Politicians crowded into Westminster’s Jubilee Room for a showcase of foods from among 86 products which currently enjoy designation under the European Protected Food Names scheme. The event, organised by the UK Protected Food Name Association (UKPFN) was an opportunity to discuss how the brands bring £4.8 billion in export income to the UK each year, and how the scheme could be maintained after Brexit.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) had a major presence at the event, with samples of PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) Welsh Lamb and Beef proving popular among the politicians.

“PGI designation has been the cornerstone of efforts to grow new markets for Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef, at home and abroad,” said HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells. “It is recognised as a mark of high quality and traceability among the food industry globally.

“We naturally take a close interest in how these brands, currently protected under EU law, will be maintained after Brexit,” he added. “As part of the UKPFN Association, we have been engaging actively with the Westminster and Welsh Governments.”

Gwyn Howells explained​:​ “It is possible for products outside the EU – such as Colombian Coffee – to have this designation. However the issue is part of the Brexit negotiations, and nothing is yet guaranteed.

“It’s vital that a solution is found to enable lamb and beef from Wales to maintain their current status alongside iconic products such as Champagne and Parma Ham,” he argued.

“PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef is a billion pound industry employing thousands on farms and in the supply chain. Anything less than a seamless transition to an equivalent scheme which is recognised worldwide could risk the export success that Welsh red meat has enjoyed over the past decade.”

The event was sponsored by Arfon MP Hywel Williams, and featured over thirty products from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and a large delegation from Wales including Anglesey Sea Salt and Welsh Wine.

Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Energy Planning and Rural Affairs said “Protected food names are internationally-recognised badges of authenticity and originality. Wales produces world-leading food and drink of the best quality. Our Protected Food Name basket is growing, which gives recognition to the dedication of our producers to quality and ensures that their products are protected under EU law.

“The EU scheme has registered products from as far as China, Cambodia and Turkey, which demonstrates that when UK leaves the EU there is a strong precedent set towards negotiating our continued part in this scheme, the Welsh Government will work hard to ensure this. Wales has deep experience in food and agriculture, and the substantial number of protected and designated products is a result of our ability to combine traditional farming methods with innovation and technology​.”​

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Farming

HCC launches vision for the future

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Kevin Roberts: Chair, Hybu Cig Cymru

A ​BOLD​ and confident prospectus for the future of Welsh livestock farming has been set out by Kevin Roberts, chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

Launching HCC’s Vision 2025 document at a keynote presentation at the Royal Welsh Grassland event at Carnbwll near Welshpool on 16 May, Kevin Roberts outlined how the red meat sector could respond to global challenges and continue to lead the growth of the Welsh food industry.

Vision 2025, compiled by the HCC Board of Directors, identifies routes to help a unified industry embrace new strategic opportunities and address challenges and risks for trade, production, and processing of red meat from Wales within a new post-Brexit framework.

In launching the document, Kevin Roberts argued for the retention of a critical mass of production capable of supporting a supply chain which will continue to work to the highest quality standards and employ thousands across Wales. The strong, iconic Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef brands, worth millions in exports, can continue to drive and support Welsh Government’s fundamental food and drink strategy while helping it to open markets for other Welsh foods.

“This is a positive and ambitious vision for a profitable and sustainable industry,” said HCC Chairman Kevin Roberts. “It is the product of an intensive period of work by HCC’s Board of Directors, reflecting industry input, research on the position of our brands, trends within the industry and global consumption patterns.”

“There are some factors that are currently difficult to gauge, like the uncertainty over market access posed by Brexit. Clearly, this is a factor that cannot be overcome by HCC alone, but we are playing a positive and leading part by analysing post-Brexit scenarios and developing a range of contingency plans should international trade be disrupted,” said Mr. Roberts.

He said HCC decried any suggestions of ‘managed decline’ in production and instead laid out the realistic foundations of a positive, practical and profitable future.

Vision 2025 further argues that a sophisticated, targeted export drive can build a sustainable demand in future years, largely by capitalising on markets with growing red meat consumption in both the developed world and emerging economies and then exploiting identified niche opportunities that exist globally for one of the world’s leading premium brands.

“HCC’s leadership and work is needed now more than ever and we stand ready to lead an industry united in its goal of a profitable, sustainable red meat sector which is at the heart of Wales’s food industry strategy, its post-Brexit economy and its thriving communities,” said Mr. Roberts.

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Farming

Welcome for Young People into Agriculture Scheme

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Geraint Davies, FUW: Scheme is an exciting oppprtunity

A SIX MILLION pounds scheme to develop the next generation of farmers is open for applications, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths announced on May 10.

The Young People into Agriculture scheme will offer start-up aid to high achieving individuals looking to establish a new business or develop an existing business. Successful applicants will need to demonstrate they have the attributes to lead dynamic businesses and drive change in the wider industry.

The scheme, agreed as part of the Budget agreement with Plaid Cymru, will support 150 farmers and will develop participants’ leadership skills.

Eligible applicants must be aged under 40 on 1 April 2018. Expressions of interest must be submitted by 12 June and there will be only one application window.

Cabinet Secretary said: “Supporting the next generation of farmers is a key priority for me and this is even more important as we prepare to leave the European Union.

“This scheme will provide young people with the support they need to enter the industry and gain the skills needed to develop resilient and sustainable businesses. I urge young people to take the opportunity to put themselves forward and apply for the scheme.

“To complement this important scheme, I established a Young People in Agriculture Forum and met with the members last week to hear their views and talk to them about the development opportunities the Forum would provide for them. The Forum will help us further develop a long term relationship with young people who aspire to be the future senior leaders of the agriculture industry in Wales.

“Now is the time to prepare for the challenges Brexit brings. As a Government, we are working hard to support the industry to prepare and build resilience. This scheme and Young Persons Forum will help the next generation of farmers put their businesses and the wider industry in the strongest position to thrive in a post-Brexit world.”

Welcoming the scheme, NFU Cymru President, John Davies said: “We very much support this investment by Welsh Government as part of the budget agreement with Plaid Cymru last year. The NFU Cymru Next Generation Group were pleased to meet with the Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths and Simon Thomas AM last autumn when this new scheme was being developed, therefore we’re very pleased to see a scheme launched by the Welsh Government.

“It is vitally important that we support the next generation in every way possible and this scheme will provide vital investment to allow young farmers to further progress or kick-start their business.

“The future of agriculture is dependent on good young farmers, driving forward innovation and improving competitiveness in each sector, that is why we have a dedicated Next Generation Policy Group, which has been in place since 2015.

“Our 2018-2020 intake of 21 strong members met on Friday, May 11, to discuss the group’s priorities for the future.

“As I travel around Wales I am always encouraged by the number of young enthusiastic individuals wanting to make a career in agriculture, I would encourage anyone with an interest in applying to do so. Whilst there are many uncertainties post-Brexit, there are also great opportunities as we look to meet the challenge of producing great food to the highest health, welfare and environmental standards for a growing global population.”

FUW Younger Voice for Farming Committee chairman Geraint Davies welcomed the news: “The announcement brings exciting opportunities for younger farmers to set up as a head of holding for the first time, to develop their innovation and business resilience or indeed to establish a new business.

“To qualify for the money – which can be used as working capital and will be paid in three instalments up until 31 March 2020 – you will need to meet agreed key performance indicators.

“Applications will initially be scored and ranked according to how they meet the selection criteria and includes the type and structure of the business. Different points will be awarded according to the type of business, business structure, academic qualifications, level of continuing professional development and the strength of the business plan.

“Even though there are some hoops to jump through, it is worth applying if you think you fit the criteria.”

Expressions of interest will be made through RPW Online only and all supporting information must be uploaded when you submit your expression of interest. Failure to do so will mean that your application will not be considered.

Eligible applicants must be under the age of 40 on 1 April 2018 and expressions of interest must be submitted by 12 June.

There will only be one application window.

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