A NUMBER of the hot topics in food and farming will be up for debate at the National Sheep Association (NSA) Welsh Sheep Event in Glynllifon near Caernarfon on May 21.
As part of the event, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is working with the NSA to organise a series of discussion seminars, with expert keynote speakers from all over Wales and beyond ready to discuss the biggest issues of concern to sheep farmers.
One vital topic which will be addressed is the environmental credentials of Welsh farming.
While some media discussion of livestock farming has focused on its impact on deforestation and greenhouse gases in some parts of the world, HCC and others have pointed out that Welsh farming has a much more positive story to tell.
Rearing sheep and cattle on grassland, as is overwhelmingly the case in Wales, requires much fewer inputs in terms of water and supplementary feed, and grass-based farming systems can help to regenerate the soil and aid carbon sequestration.
Dr Prysor Williams from Bangor University is one of the guest speakers at May’s event. He said; “I’m looking forward to a lively discussion with farmers at the NSA event, bringing out how small on-farm changes can both increase efficiency and the farm’s environmental credentials. There will also be an opportunity to discuss how Welsh agriculture can deliver many environmental benefits compared to other production systems.”
The environment seminar will also include contributions from Glynllifon farm manager Rhodri Owen, and HCC’s Gwawr Parry who will discuss how genetic improvement could help secure a sustainable future for upland sheep farming.
Another session will concentrate on animal health, with a particular focus on how pro-active management of flock health can have a positive impact on farmers’ businesses. HCC’s Dr Rebekah Stuart will be joined on the panel by Dr Neil Paton of the Royal Veterinary College and Dr Peers Davies of Liverpool University, who will respectively discuss sheep scab and ‘iceberg’ diseases which can indicate wider flock health problems.
A third seminar will take a broad view of the future of the sheep sector after Brexit, with industry leaders Phil Stocker (NSA), Tim Render (Welsh Government) and Gwyn Howells (HCC) on hand to discuss the latest developments.
Search is on for Welsh Livestock Champion
NFU CYMRU and NFU Mutual are again looking to find the best livestock person working within the agricultural industry in Wales.
Now in its sixth year, the Welsh Livestock Champion of the Year Award seeks to champion dedicated, committed and enthusiastic livestock persons from all across Wales. The award winner will receive a top prize of £500 and a Welsh Royal Crystal Trophy.
Wyn Evans, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Livestock Board, who will judge on behalf of NFU Cymru, said: “Here in Wales we have some of the best quality beef and sheep in the world, produced to the highest animal health and welfare standards. This award aims to celebrate excellence amongst Welsh livestock producers.
“We want to recognise the key role an exceptional livestock person can make to a livestock farm and the Welsh livestock industry as a whole. Potential winners will be judged on their management of the flock/herd, their animal health planning, breeding programme, their stock handling skills, how they incorporate health and safety into their day-to-day activities on-farm and their vision for the future of the industry.”
Mike Thomas, Builth Wells Group Secretary who will be judging the award on behalf of NFU Mutual, said: “The quality of the stockmanship is a major factor in determining the success of any livestock business. We have some superb stock people in the industry here in Wales and I am confident that this will be a keenly contested competition once again this year and one which NFU Mutual is pleased to support as the leading rural insurer in Wales.”
The closing date for entries is Monday, November 11, and the winner will be announced at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells on Monday, November 25.
HCC works to open the Chinese market
A DELEGATION of government officials from the People’s Republic of China has visited Britain this week as part of an ongoing process to lift years-old restrictions on exports of UK sheepmeat to mainland China.
Organised by the UK Export Certification Partnership, of which Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is a member alongside other levy boards, industry bodies and Government, the visit brought officials from the Chinese General Administrations of Customs (GACC) to the UK to learn more about disease control measures for sheepmeat.
As well as visiting farms and processing facilities, the delegation heard from vets and other experts.
HCC Export Development Executive Deanna Jones said that the visit was another important step, following the announcement earlier this year of the signing of a protocol agreement on beef, which could lead to the Chinese market opening to PGI Welsh Beef in 2020.
“The Chinese market is, of course, the most populous in the world,” said Deanna. “If we were able to lift the historic restrictions on exports to the People’s Republic, it could be a major boost to lamb and beef farmers in Wales.
“In the summer, we made very good progress on beef following the GACC inspection and the visit of the high-level Chinese delegation with Welsh Government to farms in Wales,” added Deanna. “But we’ve always been clear that being able to export PGI Welsh Lamb is hugely important. We’re therefore pleased to see progress in this area too, although it’s too soon to say when sheepmeat exports might begin.”
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “The red meat sector is of huge importance to Welsh agriculture and the economy. As we prepare to leave the European Union, lifting restrictions could provide a great opportunity for our producers to explore new overseas markets and get a foothold in the Chinese market for our iconic PGI Welsh Lamb.”
The visit was financed from the £2 million funds of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by Britain’s three meat levy bodies: AHDB, HCC and QMS.
The fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at the point of slaughter in England for animals which have been reared in Scotland and Wales.
FUW open letter urges against Brexit protest votes in EU election
THE FARMERS’ UNION OF WALES (FUW) has warned that protest votes in Thursday’s election in favour of hard-line Brexit MEPs will damage agriculture, rural communities, and the UK’s reputation on the international stage.
Speaking at the NSA biennial Sheep Event at Glynllifon yesterday (May 21), FUW President Glyn Roberts described the European Elections as one of the most unusual in living memory, but warned votes should not be treated lightly or be used to send a message of frustration to mainstream politicians.
Mr Roberts said: “That frustration is understandable, as is the fatigue we all endure around Brexit, having seen mistakes at every turn and so many promises broken.
“But the dangers of placing symbolic votes for single-issue hard-line Brexit politicians who have no manifestos to speak of cannot be underestimated.”
A vote for those who would see us rapidly exiting the EU – rather than doing so over a realistic and safe timetable – would hit farmers and rural communities hard and cause untold damage to our economy, warned Mr Roberts.
He said: “We must look at the facts, not the rhetoric, and recognise that the only way in which to make Brexit a success is to be patient and cautious.”
The union has long warned of the dangers of trying to untangle too quickly the UK from an EU which it has spent almost half a century becoming more aligned with.
“Rash decisions and votes born of frustration with the failures of mainstream politicians can only lead to long-lasting economic and social damage to our food producers and security, and our communities and nations as a whole,” said Mr Roberts.
Mr Roberts highlighted that import tariff rates, published by the UK Government in mid-March, were a fraction of those which would apply to the tariffs UK farmers would have to pay to export – an approach championed by Nigel Farage, who admitted in 2018 that: “It could be the [sic] lowering of standards in terms of what we buy in our shops, and it could be bad news for farmers.”
In addition, some candidates say that, if elected, they will use their time in the European Parliament to be a disruptive force.
“My fear is that such individuals will send messages across the EU and the World that the UK is anything but a mature country which is open to trade and fit to play a role on the international stage,”said Mr Roberts. “Rather, it will close doors across the World and further undermine our international reputation.
“We must ensure the Members of the European Parliament we do elect genuinely represent Wales and the UK’s long term interests, by acting with respect, honour and diplomacy,” said Mr Roberts.
“We must build bridges with their counterparts and officials from across the European Union – the people with whom the UK will in coming months have to negotiate a favourable trade deal if the affluent markets on our doorstep are to remain open to essential trade.”
Mr Roberts also sent a stark warning about the rise of extremism, saying that symbolic votes for popularist politicians who are very much to the right of conventional politics, some with links to the extreme right, brought to mind what was seen across Europe in the 1930s.
“The frustrations with the Brexit process and desire for ‘Britishness’ is understandable, but – whilst I regard myself as a Welshman, first and foremost – I do not believe that such a lurch to the right would reflect true Britishness. In fact, it would be a move towards the sort of politics against which battles were fought seventy five years ago to protect our nations and freedoms,” Mr Roberts added.
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