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Farming

EU Exit scenario report published

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Report makes stark reading: Lesley Griffiths

HE CABINET Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs has welcomed the publication of an EU Exit scenario report for the food, fisheries, farming, forestry and the environment sectors.

The EU Exit scenario report has been published by the Cabinet Secretary’s Brexit Roundtable Stakeholder Group. The group was set up following the referendum result to provide a forum for engagement and collaboration between the Welsh Government and its key stakeholders across the portfolio in planning for Brexit.

Over a number of months, a sub-group examined a number of different Brexit scenarios to identify the possible impacts on the sectors. In its report, five scenarios were developed, including defaulting to WTO terms, an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and complete access to the single market with new FTAs with third countries.

The report summarises the key findings of the work, which was developed with stakeholders across all of the sectors.

Key findings across the scenarios include:

Opportunities arise for some sectors in some scenarios, but not in all.

Food prices increase to some degree across all scenarios, particularly influenced by import tariffs, non-tariff barriers and higher labour costs.

The potential impacts for Welsh fishing vary from collapse under WTO tariffs to no change if the trading arrangements with the EU remain unchanged.

The importance of investing in ‘added value’ is a theme across all scenarios and with all sectors.

The sheep sector faces severe challenges as it relies on export to balance seasonal production and to achieve carcass balance. The pressures from geographical constraints and workforce availability in abattoirs and processing mean lamb markets are likely to struggle in all scenarios.

The dairy and poultry sectors are most robust because of their focus on UK internal markets and lower reliance on export. Beef remains viable with a buoyant dairy industry to supply calves, with a better carcass balance and a lower dependency on export.

The Welsh environment sector remains a potential growth area in term of eco-tourism through landscapes and seascape. It is rich in natural capital but investment is needed to develop new markets and to develop the skills the sector needs.

Government funding significantly impacts the rate of change but not the eventual outcome. For many of the most severely impacted sectors funding is unlikely to be able to prevent the impacts but it could help to facilitate change.

Without Government transitional support, in scenarios of big change, specific sectors may collapse quickly which will have wider consequences on community health and well-being.

Both farming and fishing businesses in Wales need to improve productivity and efficiency, and consider other income streams to stay viable. This will require improved business skills and investment in infrastructure.

The challenges and opportunities of Brexit will be different for each agricultural, fishing, forestry or food business. Mechanisms to support businesses to make the right decisions need to be put in place.

Lesley Griffiths said: “I welcome the publication of this EU Exit scenario report and would like to thank the stakeholders for all their hard work. My Brexit Roundtable Group is a key forum where we engage and work closely with key stakeholders across my portfolio to support a collective approach to Brexit in Wales.

“Leaving the EU brings a high degree of uncertainty, and poses both risks and opportunities across sectors including food, fisheries, farming, forestry and the environment. However, accurately predicting the impacts of Brexit is incredibly difficult.

“The Group has therefore considered a number of scenarios to explore the impact directly on key sectors and between the sectors to enable us to also consider potential wider impacts on our communities and our environment.

“Whilst today’s report makes for stark reading it will be an important resource for us as a government, as well as the sectors themselves, to inform our collective preparations for a successful future outside the EU.”

Farming

Big Farmland Bird Count returns

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JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.

The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.

Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.

“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.

“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.

“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.

“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”

Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.

President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.

She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.

“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.

“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.

“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”

A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

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Farming

OSR yields hit

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KLEFFMANN GROUP, a leading global market research organisation who conducts farmer surveys and panels throughout the world, has identified from its GB Winter Oilseed rape panel this year, that there has been a significant loss of this year’s planted area, with large regional differences being observed.

The group panel consists of 403 UK rape growers and calculates an original planted area in autumn 2018 of 581,030 hectares of winter rape. (The AHDB early bird survey is consistent with this figure at 582,000 hectares) However, 68 farmers have reported failed crops amounting to 6.28% of the total original planted area. This is 36,000 hectares lost. In the 2017/18 season, the percentage loss was just 1.62% so autumn 2018 has been much more hostile to rape survival by a factor of nearly 4 times.

The farmer survey has identified different proportions of hybrid and conventional variety adoption over a number of years. For the first time in many recent years, it appears that there is nearly a 50:50 proportion between hybrids and conventional rape varieties being sown on farm (285, 000 hectares of conventional varieties and 294,000 of hybrid varieties).

The survey shows a clear difference in failed crops by breeding method. In conventional varieties the area lost was 7.52% (21,400ha) of the area planted and of the restored hybrid varieties 5.16% of the crop planted (15,170ha) were lost.

Significant regional differences were also noted; Scotland, for example, had the lowest area of oilseed rape lost at just 0.91% of the original planted area, closely followed by the North East Region at 1.36%. The South East Region had the highest area of failed crop at 12.60%, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber Region at 9.75%. Between these extremes are the remaining regions; East Midlands suffered 3.5% loss, South West 4.34%, West Midlands (5.34%) and Eastern (7.29%).

Losses in cropping area have risen in comparison to the year 2018, where the crop failure amounted to just 1.62% of the original planted crop. Reasons for the crop losses are varied and include cabbage stem flea beetle damage (Neonicotinoids seed treatments are no longer permitted now and pyrethroid resistance in CSFB adults developing), poor establishment and in some regions, a lack of moisture has hindered germination.

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Farming

New Flock and Herd Health Officers

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HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has appointed two new Flock and Herd Health Officers to its ambitious five-year Red Meat Development Programme, designed to equip Wales’s lamb and beef industry for a changing future.

The posts are key to delivering the programme’s commitment to helping farmers achieve on-farm efficiency and drive best practice in proactive animal health planning.

The programme is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Lowri Reed hails from a farming background near Llanon in central Ceredigion, whereas Lowri Williams is from Llanfihangel y Creuddyn near Aberystwyth, and is a graduate in Animal Management and Welfare from Harper Adams University.

Dr Rebekah Stuart, the coordinator of the Flock and Herd Health Project at HCC, said: “We’re delighted to have recruited two officers with experience and knowledge of agriculture and flock management to this important strand of work.

“There are few things that can have as great an impact on the efficiency and bottom line of a livestock enterprise as a proactive and coordinated approach to animal health and eradicating disease.

“The project will help farmers to work with vets to put health plans in place and monitor their effectiveness. Since opening an initial expression of interest window late last year at the Winter Fair, we’re encouraged by how many farmers are keen to be involved. We look forward to working with them to put this exciting project into action.”

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