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Farming

Government bill fails to reassure

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OVER sixty groups, including the NFU, RSPCA and Soil Association, have sent a joint letter to the prime minister calling for UK food standards to be protected after Brexit.

The letter was sent to coincide with the passage of Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which has now had Royal Assent.
The groups agree that Brexit provides an opportunity to foster a sustainable, carbon-neutral model of farming in the UK building on high quality, safe and affordable food.

But they say the government must include its manifesto commitment to protecting animal welfare and food standards when trade negotiations commence.

Speaking to the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month, DEFRA Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Our strong British brand is built on high standards to which we hold ourselves.

“The high standards of British farming are the backbone of our biggest manufacturing sector of food and drink.
“We will not dilute our strong environmental protection, we will not dilute our high standards of food safety and animal welfare,” said Ms Villiers.

The UK Government’s ‘commitment’ on those issues appears nowhere in the UK Agriculture Bill proposed by Westminster and it rejected calls to incorporate regulations regarding food safety and standards within it.

A poll of delegates at the same Conference revealed no confidence that the UK Government would stick to its commitments on food safety and animal welfare.

The previous DEFRA Secretary, Michael Gove, promised a trade and standards commission should be created to oversee future trade talks. The UK Government has now ditched the idea altogether, leading to fears the UK Government is willing to sacrifice the UK’s farmers to get a trade deal – any trade deal.

Boris Johnson pledged in the past “not to in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards of animal welfare or food hygiene”, and the Secretary of State for Defra recently promised to “defend our national interests and our values, including our high standards of animal welfare.”

The Conservative Party’s manifesto also committed that “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

But the joint letter states that there will be ‘intense pressure’ on British negotiators to make ‘significant concessions’.

“It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded,” it says.
“In light of this, we urge you to take some specific actions we believe will enable you to ensure that the UK government can achieve its commitment to safeguarding the standar
ds of UK production, now and in the future.”

The groups add that Brexit means the UK can pioneer a new type of global trading system; one that moves away from the ‘narrow and dated focus on ever-cheaper goods’, to one that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes sustainable models of production and consumption.

The letter concludes: “With the enactment of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and our formal departure from the EU just days away, we believe these measures must be pursued as a priority.

“We believe that with the right policy framework and the establishment of a clear understanding of our shared vision for the future, Brexit can be a catalyst for the UK’s farming not just to be the envy of the world, but to provide a gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production.

“We would welcome the chance for a delegation of the signatories to this letter to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss how we can work in partnership to achieve this vision.”

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn said “We welcome the Government’s stated objectives to ensure we do not undermine our high food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards in our future trading relationships.

“Those commitments will be mere rhetoric without clear legislation to protect standards at our borders. Within the rules of the WTO, we will not get off first base if we can’t point to firm legislation which supports our standards.”

Together with a strong statute, Mr Dunn says the Government must also be smart in how it will use its newfound powers to set tariffs on imports.

“Producing to higher standards at home in comparison to some of the methods of production used abroad, inevitably, leads to higher costs. We must not undermine UK producers by allowing tariff-free or low tariff access to the UK market for food and food ingredients produced to standards which would be illegal domestically.

“While the Government is mindful not to add to costs for consumers, it is also in consumers’ long-term interest to ensure the production systems are operating to good standards. Smart use of our tariff arrangements will be a key part of our armoury,” said Mr Dunn

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Farming

Government won’t be able to blame Brussels

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BREXIT could have British farmers reap the benefits of international trade thanks to a leading British product, National Farmers Union vice-president Stuart Roberts suggested.

Brexit could help British farmers take on a leading role on the world stage thanks to great dairy and meat products created in the country, according to Mr Roberts. Asked whether leaving the EU could benefit the farming industry, the National Farming Union (NFU) vice-president insisted Brexit will offer the UK more freedom to trade with the rest of the world.

Speaking to talkRADIO, Mr Roberts said: “There are several benefits. If we talk about trade, there are certain parts of the world where I think we can have some real positive trade deals.

“Our dairy products, for example, are ones that we can lead the world on, we can add value to.
“When you look at our sustainable meat production in this country, people are crying out for this around the world. I think there are some opportunities in trade.”

The NFU vice-president also suggested leaving the European Union will grant the UK to have full control over farming regulations in the future.

Mr Roberts also said Brexit will force British politicians to be more “accountable” for the decisions they will take in the coming years.

He continued: “There are also opportunities in terms of the regulatory environment.
“We are now, at least, in a position where the politicians in this country will make the decisions and be responsible for it.

“They can’t blame someone else, they can’t pass the buck. In every aspect of society, probably for all of us, it was convenient to blame Brussels for things.

“Going forward people are going to have to be more accountable.”

The UK will no longer abide by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at the end of the transition period scheduled to conclude on December 31, 2020.

in December 2019, former Chancellor Sajid Javid announced farmers could enter the new year with confidence that they will be able to “thrive” after Brexit after he confirmed just under £3 billion of funding for 2020.
The cash – to be spread over two years – will be used to support farmers once all Brexit phases have concluded and the CAP direct payments scheme ends next year.

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Farming

Young hill farmer stars in £250,000 campaign

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AN ACCOMPLISHED young farmer from the Ceiriog valley is starring in a nation-wide campaign promoting PGI Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef.

Caryl Hughes, who farms in partnership with her family near Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, features in Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC)’s latest campaign.

The £250,000 campaign was announced in November 2019 by HCC Chair Kevin Roberts at the annual HCC Conference and will focus on Welsh red meat’s sustainable qualities. The campaign will include radio and tv advertising, on-demand tv advertising, print advertising and media partnerships. It will also feature core messages around Wales’ sustainable red meat production focusing on elements such as – landscape, climate and water usage.

The television advert sees Caryl at home on her farm in Ceiriog valley and displays the dramatic landscapes and natural surroundings where Caryl rears her own flock.

Caryl is a familiar face within Welsh agriculture; having previously held the role of National Sheep Association Young Ambassador and Montgomery YFC Chair.

Caryl has a degree in Agriculture from Aberystwyth University and, notably, was the first person to undertake the Llyndy Isaf Scholarship with the National Trust – where she managed a Snowdonia hill farm for a year combining sustainable farming practices with managing the outstanding natural environment.

Having also competed on S4C’s Fferm Factor, Caryl is also someone comfortable both on film and in the field.
Commenting on the campaign, Caryl said ‘Like most Welsh sheep and beef farmers, I am very proud of our industry, the food we produce and how we produce it. I’m very pleased to be involved in this campaign promoting exactly that.’

HCC’s Market Development Manager Rhys Llywelyn commented ‘We wanted the real, authentic voices of Welsh farming to star in this campaign to show the real picture of Welsh red meat production.’

‘Caryl’s knowledge, passion and experience are undeniable and she is a very credible ambassador for our industry and produce. We’re sure viewers and consumers at home will find Caryl very relatable and engaging in this advert’
HCC’s new campaign launched on Thursday, February 13, and can be seen and heard on on-demand television platforms and radio stations throughout England and Wales.

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Farming

FUW reminds members about SAF

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IT’s that time of year again when we start thinking about Single Application Forms (SAF).

The application window opens on Monday, March 2, and the Farmers’ Union of Wales is reminding its members that county staff are here to help and ready to take the stress of filling the form away from you.

The FUW provides this service exclusively to all paid-up members as part of their membership package, which has proved invaluable for thousands of members over the years – saving them time and a paperwork-headache.

FUW Membership and Operations Manager Caryl Roberts said: “The SAF completion process is probably the single most important form completion exercise being carried out by Welsh farmers since 2004, and the financial repercussions of errors on the forms are severe.

“Our staff are not only well trained but very well practised in dealing with the complex application process.”
Since the Welsh Government mandated that all applications should be done online, the FUW is focused on providing the best possible service to its members.

“I encourage our members and first-time form fillers to contact their local office as soon as possible to book an appointment if they need help in filling out the form,” added Caryl Roberts.

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