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Farming

Minister kicks access issue into long grass

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No clarity on access to land: Government rejects fresh legislation

THE SUSTAINABLE M​ANAGEMENT of Natural Resources Consultation process has finally concluded, but there’s no sign of progress, according to Rebecca Williams, Director of CLA Cymru.

Saying that the time has come to make decisions, Ms Williams said: “How we manage our natural resources, must form part of our vision for a vibrant, sustainable, competitive rural economy delivering against a range of public goods.

Responding to the Welsh Government Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn AM’s statement summarising the responses to the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) consultation, Rebecca Williams, Director CLA Cymru, said: “We have a unique opportunity to define the future of land management in Wales. Our government processes really must deliver better and faster results. We need to find answers to the vital questions in land management about how the Welsh Government’s Five Core Principles be delivered as a working plan.”

“Last year’s SMNR consultation addressed a very broad range of issues many of which were complex, others seemed disjointed from the main theme. This was an unwieldy and demanding exercise both for organisations and for individuals. The process was protracted, the outcome has been delayed. The substantial number of responses may be encouraging to the Government, but it does also bear witness to the level of concern about the potential vital impact the proposals may have on rural business and the countryside community. There is no doubt that greater subtlety and engagement is required in stakeholder-management.”

While there were over 19,000 responses to the consultation, over 16,000 of those were focussed on one issue – access to land. Of those 16,000 responses, only around 450 answered the questions posed by the consultation and there was a massive number of responses from individuals and campaign groups in favour of widening access to the countryside.

The Welsh Government has, however, shied away from specific legislation to provide greater rights for ramblers, canoeists, cyclists, and other groups in favour of achieving more access to Wales’ countryside.

In a written statement delivered to the Assembly on June 19, Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn said: “There were strong but differing views on how best to reform access legislation. We therefore believe that now is not the right time for substantive reform. But we are committed to exploring selected aspects of change where there was greater consensus, including on some of the administrative arrangements and multi-use paths. We will continue to facilitate further discussions through established groups such as the National Access Forum.”

Those remarks have been met with disappointment from Ramblers Cymru, the charitable organisation and campaign group that fights for walkers’ access to land.

Angela Charlton, Director of Ramblers Cymru told The Herald: “‘As Wales’ walking charity working to protect and expand the places people love to walk, Ramblers Cymru is disappointed that a year after this consultation was held, we are no clearer about Welsh Government’s ultimate vision for improving access to the Welsh outdoors.”

Ms Charlton drew attention to consultations not producing positive results in terms of policy or legislation, continuing: “We have had 2 major consultations on these issues in the last 3 years, and now face further consultation on as yet undefined changes.

“Through our campaign over 2,500 people took the time to support our call for increased and improved access and protection of our paths, and it is frustrating that we seem no closer to seeing the changes needed. We are however, pleased to continue engaging with Welsh Government to ensure Wales is a world class country for walking and will continue putting proposals forward to help achieve this.”

While the NFU noted the strength of the responses regarding access to land, NFU Cymru President, John Davies said: “The consultation contained a number of proposals that were extremely worrying to farmers including granting higher access rights which would have enabled cycling and horse riding on footpaths as well as extending and amending the list of restrictions on CRoW land. We, therefore, welcome the announcement from the Environment Minister that now is not the right time for substantive reform.”

John Davies continued: “We note, however, the Welsh Government is committed to exploring aspects of change where the consultation process showed greater consensus including some of the administrative arrangements and multi-use paths. We await information on what these specific areas will be and would highlight that, given 80% of the land area of Wales is agricultural land, farmers are key providers of the landscape and countryside upon which many access and recreational activities depend. Any reforms must consider the safety of access users and should not result in increased costs, burden and liabilities being placed on farmers in Wales.

“We are pleased that the consultation process revealed consensus in the area of keeping dogs on fixed length leads in the vicinity of livestock, which was a generally accepted proposal. The worrying of livestock by dogs is a key concern to our members and we would hope this is an area that can be progressed in the near future.”

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: ” The FUW welcome the news that the Welsh Government have decided now is not the right time for a substantive review to reform access legislation.

“Wales has approximately 16,200 miles of footpaths, 3,100 miles of bridle-paths, and 1,200 miles of byways, and since 1998 the area of land accessible by right to the public has increased threefold. The evidence makes it clear people are not using what is already there, so any changes should focus on increasing responsible use of existing access.”

Farming

A way of life under threat

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THE CAMBRIAN MOUNTAINS, known as the backbone of Wales, is one of the country’s most secluded areas.

Described by the nineteenth-century English writer JH Cliffe as part of the ‘green desert of Wales’, stretching east across Mid Wales to the A470 and Rhaedr, south towards Builth Wells, west to Pumpsaint, and northwards to Llangurig, including the reservoirs of Nant y Moch and Llyn Clywedog.

In Drych: Hel y Mynydd, on S4C on Sunday, January 12 at 9.00 pm, we get to know some of the farmers and shepherds in this extraordinary area as they continue to round-up sheep in the traditional way on foot and on horseback – a tradition which is rapidly dying out.

One of those who continues the tradition is Glyndwr, the head shepherd for the Cwm Elan estate, who farms Claerwen with his wife Wendy: “I help to round-up and exchange sheep with neighbours. There aren’t many of us left who can round-up the sheep in a traditional way. You have to have a dog here or you might as well stay at home. Life is hectic here in the middle of summer as we round-up every day. There isn’t a single fence between me and my neighbours – to me, that’s a great way to live.”

“When you’re rounding-up you are in complete solitude. There isn’t a lot of this rounding-up business going on any longer, but we continue to do it here and it works here – and if it works, there’s no need to change it!”

The area has become a target for a number of English organisations who want to ‘rewild’ a landscape which exists only through thousands of years of human interaction and transform it into their idea of what Wales should look like.

Those schemes have met stiff resistance and one, in particular, Summit to the Sea, has managed to alienate a large number of farmers who would be affected by a variety of crackpot schemes that would force them off the land.

It becomes obvious during the programme that farmers on the open mountain are dependent on each other and offer help by rounding-up each other’s sheep.
We also meet Erwyd, an experienced shepherd from Ponterwyd: “While walking the mountains, a person gets to see the wonders of nature, this is what I call paradise. I feel a part of the place – it is completely unique.”

A reservoir was built in the Elan Valley in 1970 to supply water to cities in the midlands of England. Because of the reservoir, the landscape without fences has survived on the Cwm Elan estate and the farms all belong to the Cwm Elan Trust.

Clive, who farms at Hirnant in the Elan Valley adds: “There are no rules here, no-one makes money or loses money, everybody just helps one another. This must be one of the few places where if the old boys came back, they would show us a thing or two.”

Another who helps the crew is Gwyndaf – neighbour and shearer:
“The country folk think that the mountain boys don’t do anything, but it’s amazing what hard work it is. I can’t see there being any sheep left on the mountain in a few years.”

Following a day of rounding up, comes a day of shearing.

“Shearing day has always been an important day in the mountains’ calendar with the mountain community coming together. It’s one of those jobs that have to be done, but I love shearing.

I would shear every day of the year if I could!”

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Farming

2020 – A Year of Preparation

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THE NATIONAL Chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), James Gray, says that the farming industry and the supply chains into which it feeds must be ‘match fit’ to both capitalise on the opportunities of life outside the European Union, as well as tackling the inevitable challenges that will arise.

“Whatever our thoughts about Brexit, the Prime Minister now has the Parliamentary arithmetic in his favour to confirm the UK’s exit from the European Union at the end of January. Through the eleven-month transition period to follow, we must focus not only on achieving a good trade deal with the EU but in ramping up our efforts to secure new export markets for our farming output further afield. As important as the domestic and EU markets are, we must work harder to sell ourselves more internationally. To this end, AHDB should concentrate its efforts in promoting market development,” said Mr Gray.

“We also need the Government to be working with us rather than against us. Allowing imports of food produced to standards which are illegal in the UK would be a catastrophe. The Government must not undermine our domestic market in attempting to gain market share for our financial services sector abroad. If our animal welfare and environmental standards are important to us, we must protect them at our borders. The Government must use a combination of regulatory standards and tariffs on imports to put our domestically produced, high-quality food in the strongest position in trade terms. As a mark of the Government’s support for our industry, it should require all public bodies involved in food procurement to prioritise food from domestic sources,” said Mr Gray.

“Retail and foodservice supply chains will also continue to need strong regulation to ensure fair treatment of primary producers. Indications from the outgoing Groceries Code Adjudicator that her role could continue on a part-time basis because of the successes she has achieved are at best premature and at worst naïve. By including supply chain measures in the previous Agriculture Bill the Government has recognised the need for a widening and deepening of the regulatory framework. We need a full-time adjudicator doing a full-time job across the whole of the retail and foodservice supply chains from farm to fork,” said Mr Gray.

“Within the tenanted sector of agriculture, we will also be looking to the Government to put in place much-needed reforms to the legislative and taxation frameworks within which agricultural tenancies operate. We need greater security of tenure to promote productivity and better environmental outcomes, opportunities for progression and new entrants, as well as routes to dignified retirement for those tenant farmers reaching the end of their farming careers. Directing all new policies and schemes to the needs of active farmers will be key,” said Mr Gray.

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Community

Welsh produce on GCSE menu

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AS A whirlwind of misinformation about how food is farmed and produced circulates on social, online and media platforms, it is more important than ever that children are aware of the facts and understand how ingredients reach their dinner-plate.

The education system in Wales is making an attempt to address this through the school curriculum.

All pupils studying for the GCSE in Food and Nutrition this year are expected to research traditional Welsh recipes and Welsh ingredients as part of the course and use that work as the inspiration for three dishes that showcase local produce.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) Market Development Manager, Rhys Llywelyn said: “We welcome the introduction of this task as part of the WJEC’s GCSE qualification in Food and Nutrition. It offers a good opportunity for students to learn more about red meat, how it’s produced, and how it can be prepared to create nutritious, tasty meals.

“It is also a chance to remind young people about Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.”

Rhys recently visited pupils at Ysgol Bro Idris in Dolgellau to talk about red meat production in Wales.

He said: “As part of the session, I was able to focus particularly on Welsh Lamb, which is, of course, a roduct which has been perfected over generations by farmers in rural areas.

“We had a good discussion on how Welsh Lamb is traceable from farm to fork through its PGI status, which is appreciated by consumers. Also, with many of the students coming from farming families, it was very useful to raise some of the factors within the international food industry which influence the price that farmers receive for their livestock.”

The students received packs of literature, including nutritional information and recipes, to help them with their studies. As a follow-up, many of them attended the Royal Welsh Winter Fair to learn more about food and farming.

Teacher Angharad Davies said: “The students enjoyed the visit to the Winter Fair and were fascinated by the Welsh Lamb butchery demonstration which was held on the HCC stand. The butcher expertly showed how a carcase is broken down into the different cuts of meat which can be cooked in various ways. Rhys Llywelyn’s informative presentation has led them to think about how red meat is produced and how it can be prepared along with other, local Welsh ingredients that are available on our doorstep.”

This work is part of HCC’s wider educational activity, which has involved preparing classroom resources for the new Food and Nutrition GCSE as well as materials aimed at younger pupils, and a programme of teacher training events.

This provision will be developed further over the next twelve months, adding to HCC’s online resources and recipe videos, which will help children obtain a greater understanding of food culture, nutrition, and farming.

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