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Farming

WG unveils new farm support plans

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Brexit and Our Land: Welsh Government launches vital consultation

NEW proposals to support Welsh farmers after Brexit have been unveiled.

On Tuesday​ (Jul 10) the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths launched a consultation on a new Land Management Programme to support Welsh farmers post-Brexit, replacing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The latest Welsh Government Brexit paper, Brexit and our Land, proposes two new large and flexible schemes to replace Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Glastir and other parts of the Rural Development Programme.

The programme will consist of the following two schemes:

The Economic Resilience Scheme will provide targeted investment to land managers and their supply chains. It will provide investment to increase competitiveness and make improvements in resilience and productivity for high-quality food production.

The Public Goods Scheme will provide a new income stream to land managers delivering public goods from the land. It will enable them to help address challenges such as climate change mitigation, habitat loss, poor air and water quality.

All land managers will have the opportunity to benefit from the new schemes, not just those currently receiving CAP. However, people will need to do things differently in return for this support.

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths said: “Welsh land matters. Over 90% of Welsh land is in the hands of our farmers, foresters or other stewards of the landscape. How land is managed matters to us all and our land managers have the potential to produce outcomes of huge importance to Wales.

“Once we leave the EU, our access to markets and how we compete will change so maintaining the status quo is not an option. Exiting the EU means we have to do things differently and now is the time to prepare. We need to change how we support our farmers and agriculture sector to make them sustainable and able to thrive in a new trading environment. We have the chance to design a ‘Made in Wales’ system that works for Welsh farmers and our communities.

“The Programme marks a significant change. That is why we want to see a phased transition that balances time needed for change with the need to provide timely support.

“Our new programme aims to keep farmers farming on their land and will enable the sector to thrive in a post-Brexit world.”

No changes will be made to the existing BPS scheme in 2018 and 2019 and all current Glastir contracts will continue to be honoured. From 2020, work will begin to move to the new schemes, including a phased reduction in BPS as new schemes come on-stream. The ambition is to have the new schemes fully in place by 2025 using existing high-performing Rural Payments Wales systems.

The proposals will be subject to extensive consultation until October, working closely with key partners. A white paper setting out detailed proposals will be published next spring and we will publish a Bill before the end of this Assembly session to make provision for the reform. Funding from old schemes will not be withdrawn until new schemes are ready.

Currently, the Common Agricultural Policy provides around £300m a year of support for Welsh land managers. The Brexit and our Land paper reiterates the importance that Wales should not lose a penny from leaving the EU and calls on the UK Government to urgently confirm that Wales will maintain its current share of funding.

NFU Cymru is urging farmers across Wales to make their voices heard following the launch oft he consultation.

The Union said the consultation will be ‘the most significant and important Welsh Government consultation for a generation’.

NFU Cymru will be undertaking a comprehensive member engagement programme over the coming months, which includes a dedicated consultation seminar at the Royal Welsh Show and similar briefings at the summer county shows, as well as five regional roadshow events across Wales in September, all designed to ensure farmers are able to respond effectively to the proposals.

Speaking following the launch of the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “NFU Cymru’s vision for a future Welsh agricultural policy is built firmly on three cornerstones: productivity, volatility and the environment. Although this consultation considers in detail productivity measures (economic resilience) and environment measures (public goods), it appears to suggest that volatility (stability) measures are not required. While we accept that Welsh Government is proposing a multi-year phased removal of the BPS, it is the firm belief of the Union that given the unprecedented weather events of the last year and the impact that has had on the industry, coupled with continued global political instability and the ongoing uncertainty over future trading relationships, the case for maintaining stability measures as a strong element of any future agricultural policy has, in fact, never been more compelling if we are to ensure the continued supply of safe, quality, affordable food.

“The case for farm support is a strong one. Just last year the NFU commissioned research which showed that for every £1 invested by government in agriculture the industry delivers a return of around £7.40 – that’s a £1.5 billion return on the £200m a year currently spent on direct payments in Wales. Add to this the wider environmental, cultural and social contribution of farming and there can be little doubt that the industry represents extremely good value for money. Removing direct payments would have a massive impact on the Welsh agricultural industry and because farming is so intrinsically linked to the well-being of Wales, it would consequently have a similarly detrimental effect on the people and communities of Wales. The Welsh Government’s continued stance that Wales should not lose a penny as a result of Brexit is, of course, to be commended.

“NFU Cymru welcomes the opportunity for the Welsh agricultural industry to take a closer look at Welsh Government’s thinking around the future of agricultural policy here in Wales. As a democratic organisation we will now begin an unprecedented level of engagement with our members and feed their views into our formal consultation response.

“Of course, this is not the first consultation on Brexit that NFU Cymru has undertaken; following the referendum vote just over two years ago NFU Cymru launched the biggest consultation in its history. Since that point NFU Cymru has formulated a set of key principles that we believe should form the foundations of a new domestic agricultural policy for a productive, profitable and progressive agricultural industry in Wales. As we begin to analyse and fully digest the consultation we will judge it against these key principles, which include:

  • A policy that underpins and secures the continued supply of safe, quality, traceable, affordable food for our nation, in the context of future global challenges, must be at the heart of any future agricultural policy.
  • All farmers must be fairly rewarded for the environmental/public goods they already deliver and will continue to deliver in future for society.
  • Policies must be simple to administer, easy to understand and target support at those active farmers who take the financial risks associated with food production.
  • Investment measures are required to ensure that farming businesses are well equipped to face the challenges and maximise the opportunities of a post-Brexit marketplace.
  • The regulatory regime must be proportionate and evidence-based and policies must be adequately funded to ensure that Welsh farming remains competitive with farmers in the UK, EU and globally.

“This is the most significant and important Welsh Government consultation for a generation and it is of paramount importance that farmers across Wales contribute their own views as part of the process – we need to ensure the industry’s voice is heard loud and clear.”

Commenting on the document, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “What is proposed would constitute the most radical change to our farm policies since 2005, and is a world away from the kind of policies previously in place from 1947 onwards.

“Given this, it is essential that farmers take the time to consider them over the coming weeks and months and respond to the consultation appropriately.”

The Welsh Government intends to organise a number of events across Wales later in the year during which farmers and others will be able to learn more about the proposals and ask questions, before the deadline at the end of October.

Mr Roberts said that as the FUW is a member of the Cabinet Secretary’s Roundtable group and sub groups, the proposals did not come as a surprise.

“We have numerous concerns about what is being proposed, and we have been vociferous in raising these.

“Amongst these are the fact that the EU have recently announced their commitment to providing the farmers against which we will compete with ongoing direct support at levels similar to those currently in place,” said Mr Roberts.

“We also need to be aware of policy proposals in other parts of the UK and make sure Welsh policies do not place our farmers at a disadvantage.”

The Scottish Government has recently reiterated its commitment to recognising topographical and other handicaps faced by Scottish farmers and providing support payments which recognise these.

“Given we have a similar proportion of disadvantaged land to Scotland, it would be unacceptable if our own government placed us at a disadvantage to our Scottish counterparts,” he said.

Mr Roberts welcomed the fact that the paper acknowledged the need for an appropriate transition period, and raised the question of what a transition might look like.

“The FUW has made it clear since the June 2016 EU Referendum that we need an appropriate and lengthy transition period to any new policy, and that the dangers of implementing a policy over just a few years would be significant.

“We have also highlighted the need to take policy developments in terms of the next EU agricultural policy and the progress of Brexit negotiations into account, rather than rushing forward with detailed proposals which might turn out to be completely inappropriate under the final Brexit agreement.”

Mr Roberts said that the position agreed by the UK Government’s Cabinet on Friday on how agricultural commodities might be traded with the EU made it clear why the FUW was right to do this.

“Above all else, the interests and future of our family farms should be the priority in terms of any future policy for Wales.”

“The FUW will be consulting with each of its twelve county branches over the coming months, and their views will be fully reflected in our response to the Welsh Government.”

Farming

FUW explores innovation at Royal Welsh

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Bernard Griffiths, FUW: Excited about possibilities to innovate

AMERICAN entrepreneur Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple, once said that ​’i​nnovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower​’​. Recognising the importance of innovation in the agricultural industry, the Farmers’ Union of Wales is hosting a special seminar at the Royal Welsh Show.

The innovation seminar, which is held on Tuesday, July 23, at 2pm at the FUW Pavilion, will focus on how farmers can embrace innovation in many different ways, and stay ahead of their competitors as Brexit looms.

Those attending the seminar can look forward to hearing from Geraint Hughes, of Madryn Foods, who leads on Business and Innovation in the Farming Connect’s Agri-Academy scheme, whose forum include Welsh farmers looking at technologies such as Genomics, Smart farming, Virtual reality, Social Media and Vertical farming.

He also operates as a broker for the European Innovation Partnership programme that aims to bridge academia and industry by conducting field trials of cutting edge technologies in a commercial environment.

Previously, Mr Hughes conducted agriculture research at Bangor University and was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to study “Crops for functional foods” in 2006.

“I look forward to sharing knowledge I have gained from travels seeing innovation at work, which has now become reality, such as retail vending, the “farmacy” concept in supermarkets such as Planet Organics where shoppers buy with their health being the main consideration, pasture fed meat, robotics, genomics and more,” said Geraint Hughes.

Also joining the panel of speakers is Karina Marsden who is a post-doctoral researcher in the Ecosystems and Environment group at the Environment Centre Wales, Bangor University.

She has researched soil nitrogen cycling in livestock production systems, with a particular focus on emissions of the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, from agricultural soils. Karina works alongside Professor Dave Chadwick who specialises in sustainable land use systems and Professor Davey Jones who specialises in soil and environmental science.

Bangor University researchers have been investigating novel methods of utilising nitrification inhibitors to reduce diffuse nitrogen pollution from agriculture, including nitrate leaching and emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Novel strategies include targeting the use of these inhibitors to critical pollution source areas and quantifying how effective they are in terms of cost of application and alleviation of nitrogen pollution. Compounds of biological, rather than chemical origin are also being investigated. There is potential to adopt these technologies, possibly under the support of agri-environment schemes, but research is key to determine how effective they are and how their use can be optimised before wider adoption can take place.

Another novel technology being studied is the use of real-time in-situ sensors which can detect soil nitrate. The major aim is to better improve nitrogen use efficiency, to match the supply of nitrogen fertilisers to the demand of the crops.

The research will assess how these sensors perform in comparison to existing technologies,such as crop canopy sensors measuring greenness. The technology has been advancing with improvements to sensor robustness and design.

Research is continuing into how this technology could be adopted on farms e.g. how many sensors would be required across a given area and how to link the soil nitrate concentration data to crop growth and nitrogen demand.

FUW Policy officer Bernard Griffith​s​ said: “The FUW has collaborated with other industry Welsh stakeholders for the past 18 months to tackle diffuse and point source pollution from agriculture sources and innovation was identified as one of the 5 key prongs to bring about improvement.

“We therefore welcome innovative research that will develop alternative strategies to keep Welsh farmers working on the land and we look forward hearing more about this from Karina at the seminar.“

Updating attendees on the latest developments on a range of sensors to help farmers remotely monitor livestock in extensive systems, is Shiv Kodam of Hoofprints Technologies – who have carried out a year-long trial in collaboration with Scottish Rural Colleges at their remote hill farm in Crianlarich, Scotland.

The company has also developed gate sensors to monitor the opening and closing of gates on farms. The gate sensors could play an important role in notifying the farmer if a farm gate has been opened by someone other than the farmer.

“Currently, Hoofprints Technologies are working on several farms across the UK on a range of different systems for different uses. For example, cows and sheep are collared which log and transmit the location of the animal every few minutes. This can then be displayed on a dashboard in real time.

“Other technology developed will accurately and automatically “mother-up” ewes and lambs within 48 hours with up to 99% accuracy of the ewe and lamb relationship. This also works with ewes with multiple lambs. The technique can be used on suckler cows to identify cross suckling traits.

“The technology allows the accurate identification of the behaviours of remote livestock so that farmers could be notified if their animals behave differently from the norm, or if the animal displays signs of illness, characterised by lack of movement or motion. I’m looking forward to provide further updates on this at the FUW’s seminar and look forward to seeing many of you there,” said Shiv Kodam.

FUW Policy Officer Bernard Griffiths said: “We are very excited about this seminar, which will explore a variety of innovations made, that can help the sector progress in future. The seminar is free to attend and open to all – I hope many of you can join us in exploring further aspects of innovation in agric sector.”

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Farming

FUW focuses on mental health

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Talking mental health: FUW aims to increase understanding

THE FARMERS’ U​NION OF WALES made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show last year to continue raising awareness of mental health problems in rural communities and in line with that commitment is continuing the conversation about the wider issues surrounding mental health in rural areas at this year’s Royal Welsh Show.

Hosting a dedicated seminar on Thursday, July 26​,​ at 11am at the FUW pavilion, the Union looks forward to hearing from Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, The Farming Community Network and DPJ Foundation.

Speaking ahead of the event, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Mental health – good or bad – has affected us all at some point in our lives. Standing by the commitment we made at the Show last year, I’m pleased to see the excellent line-up of speakers we have with us once again.

“They will be discussing a variety of issues and look at solutions that are available to those who have suffered, are suffering or are supporting someone close to them who is affected by mental health issues, may that be depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s or any other form of poor mental health. I therefore hope that many of you will be able to join us on the day.”

The discussions are chaired by Lilwen Joynson, Agrisgop leader, who said: “I appreciate that for many farmers, rural businesses and families having a chat about being stressed out and what to do and where to go for help, sits below the to do list of a busy rural enterprise.

“The thing is, if we don’t talk we don’t support and we end up with problems and an industry that isn’t facing up to the reality of how mental health affects us all.

“I want you to think right now of one person who is affected with stress, anxiety or depression it could even be you. Where do they go for support? Very often nowhere and that’s why we have been known to be an industry that shuts up and puts up. We have an industry that thinks that a person is soft if we are feeling depressed; we all know that well-oiled phrase “pull yourself together”.

“That’s why as a working practitioner I am keen to push forward and pull together and talk about mental health – let’s take the stigma out of mental health in farming. And I hope to see many of you at the seminar.”

David Williams, Wales Regional Director for The Farming Community Network, who manages a group of 40 Welsh volunteers and is the FCN’s lead contact with the Welsh Government on farming-related issues said:

“It is very easy to underestimate just how important the mind is when it comes to farming. Along with the body, it is, without doubt, the best bit of kit a farmer can have.

“However, if your mind and body are not well-maintained, the consequences can be disastrous. There is a significant amount of stress and anxiety in farming at present. Concerns about the unpredictable weather, animal disease, support payments and the impact of Brexit are weighing on the minds of many farmers throughout Wales.

“Coupled with the loneliness and isolation that comes with farming means that farmers and agricultural workers are highly susceptible to poor mental wellbeing. Failing to deal with poor mental wellbeing could lead to all sorts of issues. It could lead to the farm running inefficiently, a serious injury, relationship breakdowns, poor physical health and, even worse, it could lead to suicide.

“Thankfully, the stigma surrounding mental wellbeing in farming is slowly reducing, thanks to the incredible support services that are now available to the farming community. One of the aims of the FUW’s “Let’s Talk” seminar, is to help farmers better understand mental health, identify poor mental wellbeing in both themselves and their loved ones and signpost them to the most appropriate support services for their situation.

“I would encourage anyone who has a passion for rural life and wants to support the farming community to attend this seminar at the FUW pavilion.”

Emma Picton-Jones, who set up the DPJ Foundation after her husband took his own life July 2016, will provide an update on the work of the foundation, which aims to support people in agriculture and in the agricultural community by reducing the stigma that surrounds mental health and supporting them by signposting them to support systems that are available.

She said: “We have set up a talking therapies service specifically for people in the rural communities, men in particular who struggle with their mental health and we are currently running a pilot year in West Wales and have taken on on average 1 client per week for each week we have been running. That just shows how important mental health support is in our communities and I hope many of you can join us for this seminar at the Royal Welsh Show to explore what help is available.”

Sue Phelps, Alzheimer’s Society Cymru Country Director, said: “Alzheimer’s Society Cymru estimate that there are 17,000 people affected by dementia living in rural communities across Wales. They face a specific set of challenges and barriers; these include access to specialist support, peer support and a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia within the community.

“Loneliness is a real problem for people with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society research states that a third of people report to have lost friends since their diagnosis. Two thirds of people with dementia remain in their communities, but many feel trapped in their own homes – with almost one in 10 only leaving the house once a month. Carers are also more likely to feel isolated and unsupported.

“Our Side by Side service supports those affected by dementia to remain part of their community and continue to do the things they love. This can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness which can lead to depression and other mental health related issues. We are particularly keen to recruit volunteers from the Welsh speaking and farming community to Side by Side to help us to keep connected with people living with dementia.

“Alzheimer’s Society Cymru will continue to shine a light on the needs of people affected by dementia in rural Wales, and will be keeping a close eye on the implementation of the Welsh Government’s National Dementia Action Plan, to make sure people in those communities receive the care and support that they are entitled to receive.”

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Horizon document looks to future

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Sheep industry: In the firing line

A NEW analysis of Brexit’s potential impact emphasises the need for agricultural businesses to prepare for the future to ensure the long-term prosperity of the £1.6 billion Welsh farming sector.

The Horizon document, ‘Exploring the implications of Brexit for agriculture and horticulture in Wales’, has been produced by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and analyses a range of scenarios surrounding trading access, agricultural support payments, and movement of labour.

The report echoes other independent analyses which conclude that the sheep sector is most exposed to a ‘hard’ Brexit scenario. Over a third of PGI Welsh Lamb is exported abroad – over 90% of it to the EU – therefore the prospect of Tariffs or other barriers to trade is among the greatest risks.

Various other sectors could be affected in different ways in terms of trade and rural payments, and the report notes the potential vulnerability of the abattoir and processing sector to restrictions on migrant labour.

However the report concludes that the most efficient enterprises are best-placed to thrive in a changed environment, and lists a range of resources, provided by AHDB, HCC and Welsh Government’s Farming Connect programme, which can help farmers to prepare.

HCC’s Industry Development and Relations Manager John Richards said​:​ “The scenarios presented in the report represent the extremes of what we might expect from Brexit – anything from a free trade deal with Europe which allows us to trade exactly as we do now, to full tariffs on all agricultural imports and exports.”

“However, it’s very important that agri-food businesses take steps to assess the possible impact on their sector, and begin to plan accordingly through benchmarking and other tools,” he added. “HCC is ready to work with Welsh Government, Farming Connect and the whole sector on a range of initiatives to help make the transition.”

“We had a number of interesting discussions with farmers and industry representatives at the Brexit roadshow events we held – again jointly with AHDB – earlier this year,” said John. “It’s not easy to plan when we don’t know the final outcome, but knowing their costs and maximising efficiency is something farmers can do straight away which is certain to help.”

AHDB Head of Strategic Insight David Swales said: “For some sectors, Brexit presents a number of opportunities, while other parts of the industry face some potential challenges when we leave the EU.

“While we do not know all the details, we would rather farmers and growers start to prepare now based on the information we have at present. We will be updating our report as more information becomes available, but this latest Horizon document allows industry to avoid the wait-and-see approach, which we believe is high risk.”

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