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Farming

NFU responds to EU departure

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High standards must not be undermined: NFU-Cymru warns on future trade deals

NFU CYMRU has responded to the UK’s departure from the EU.
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “The 31st January marks our departure from the EU in legal terms and we will now enter a transition period. During the transition, we will remain in the EU’s single market and customs union, and so for that time, we will continue to be able to trade with the EU27 in just the same way as we did before we ceased to be a member state. I am not, therefore, expecting Wales’ farmers to experience any significant changes overnight, particularly given that we will also remain bound by the vast bulk of EU law during the transition.
“The Prime Minister has set himself the ambitious deadline of concluding a Free Trade Agreement with the EU27 by the end of 2020. It is essential that whatever agreement the UK Government reaches with the EU27, that it delivers the most favourable access possible for Welsh farmers to European markets, with tariff and non-tariff barriers eliminated wherever possible.
“We know that the transition period ends by default on 31st December 2020, although this transition can be extended by up to two years through a joint decision of the UK and the EU27 taken before 1st July 2020. However long the transition, we must avoid a situation whereby it elapses without having reached an agreement on a future trading relationship with the EU, as we know that that will mean we end up trading with our largest, most valuable export market on WTO terms, which means huge tariffs on our produce.
“For the first time in almost half a century, the UK will be able to take steps to pursue an independent trade policy, something which we could not do as an EU Member State. Whilst this new-found ability does present us with opportunities, I want to urge politicians to exercise a degree of caution here and to heed what we have been saying clearly and consistently around standards. We cannot allow a situation to arise whereby our high standards are undermined by imports produced to environmental or animal welfare standards which would be illegal in this country. Wales’ farmers must be allowed to compete on a level playing field after Brexit.
“Although Brexit will potentially open up new markets for us, we must not lose sight of the importance and value of the EU27, to which almost three-quarters of Welsh food and drink exports go. Therefore, before we turn to consider trade with third countries, we need to ensure that we have secured the most favourable possible access to the market on our doorstep.”
Commenting on developments closer to home, Mr Davies added: “Brexit does, of course, present us with the opportunity to pursue our own arrangements for agricultural support and, earlier this month, Welsh Government confirmed that it will be opting to introduce its own legislation in the National Assembly in due course to allow it to operate new policies for farmers in Wales post-Brexit. Just as I have urged the UK Government to take the time needed to get things right when it comes to trade, I make the same appeal of the Welsh Government when it comes to developing future agricultural policy.
“Crucial to any future agricultural support policy, of course, is funding, and I was pleased to have confirmation from the UK Government at the end of last year that current levels of support will be maintained for 2020. The UK Conservative Government made a manifesto commitment ahead of the General Election to guarantee the annual budget for farmers for the next five years, and we are pleased that Welsh Government has made commitments to ring-fence the funding it receives from Westminster for Welsh farming.
“Funding is crucial to help ensure that Welsh farming can continue to deliver and grow on its unparalleled contribution to the economy, environment, culture and social well-being of Wales. We need a long term funding arrangement to meet our ambition to further grow the food and farming sector whilst maintaining and enhancing our environment and delivering on our target of making the sector a net-zero emitter of greenhouse gases by 2040
“As a Union, NFU Cymru looks forward to working with politicians in Cardiff to devise a ‘Made in Wales’ policy which delivers against our three cornerstones of productivity, stability and environment to realise our ambition of a productive, progressive and profitable Welsh agricultural sector.
“In the nearer term, I am pleased that our Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths AM has signified her intention to maintain the BPS for 2020 and 2021, thus providing the sector with some much-needed stability at this uncertain time.”

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Farming

Staycation boom offers farms new revenue stream

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THE NUMBER of working farms looking to cash in on the boom in staycations has sky-rocketed, according to figures from Pitchup.com.

Of the 2,000 campsites listed on Pitchup.com – Europe’s largest outdoor accommodation provider – more than 700 are working farms and 300 of those operate temporary sites, set up to take advantage of the peak holiday season.
Many such sites have joined the business in the first quarter of 2021, eager to secure a post-COVID financial recovery.

The hike comes after a change in planning policy increased the length of time farms and other land-based businesses can legally operate a campsite without planning permission from 28 days to 56 days.

Other factors, Pitchup.com discovered, include concerns over falling support payments and Government plans to curtail farming through environmental policies which will disadvantage active farmers.

Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, said farmers were turning to temporary campsites in droves because they are the quickest and easiest form of diversification to get off the ground.

He said: “Establishing a campsite is very easy. At their most basic, all you need is a patch of land and running water, which most farms have already, and some toilets, which are easy to hire. Crucially, you don’t need planning permission to operate one for up to 56 days per year.

“With staycations booming and that trend set to stay, people are crying out for beautiful areas of the countryside where they can enjoy a relaxing break away from the pressures of work and lockdown.

“Farmers are perfectly placed to provide that. The farm-based campsites we work with can decide how many guests they want to host and with demand as it is, we are extremely confident we can fill those pitches.”

Mr Yates added that as well as being quick, convenient, and unobtrusive on day-to-day farming operations, pop-up and permanent campsites can be very lucrative.

“Although most campsites don’t generate quite this level of income, even small pop-up sites – which are the easiest by far to accommodate – return on average £13,000 in extra revenue per year, and many take tens of thousands of pounds more than this.

“It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that they’re becoming so popular among farms and land-owning businesses. We expect to see many more farmers try this kind of diversification as we come out of lockdown and the summer gets closer.”

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Farming

FUW calls for Welsh policies for Welsh agriculture

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THE FUW has urged the incoming Welsh Government to develop bespoke, tailor-made policies that reflect global realities as well as Welsh economic, social, and environmental needs.

Five years ago, ahead of the 2016 Welsh Senedd elections, the Farmers’ Union of Wales warned of the unprecedented challenges facing the incoming Senedd Members and Government. Since then, those challenges have not only materialised but been exacerbated and added to. 

Outlining the big issues facing agriculture in Wales at a press conference, which launched the FUW’s 2021 Welsh Senedd Election Manifesto, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The materialisation of a far harder form of Brexit than had been promised by those who lobbied for our departure from the EU has restricted access to our main export markets on the continent in ways that are only beginning to be felt. 

“At the same time, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition and has highlighted the fragility of global food supply chains and the importance of a strong farming sector on which our domestic markets should be able to rely upon for commodity products.

“While such issues have been largely beyond the control of our devolved administrations, the reaction of the Welsh Government to the uncertainty and challenges faced by our agriculture sector has at times been bewildering and counterintuitive, not least in terms of its appetite for drastically increasing costs and restrictions while advocating untried and untested reforms of rural support policies.”

Meanwhile, UK Government cuts to Welsh rural funding – in a direct contradiction to promises made repeatedly by those who advocated Brexit – have added to the pressures on Welsh agriculture, the rural economy, and Welsh Government, said the Union President.

Through its manifesto and ongoing lobbying work, the FUW continues to be clear that Wales’ family farms lie at the centre of our rural economy, culture, and landscape, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of businesses involved in the Welsh food supply industry, and making innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Welsh and UK residents – benefits central to which is the production of food, our most precious commodity alongside water.

“Moving forward we need policies which reflect the need to mitigate climate change and protect our environment, but such aspirations must be tempered by the knowledge that sweeping changes that undermine our family farms and food production will merely shift production to countries with lower animal welfare standards and higher global and environmental footprints” said Glyn Roberts.

Highlighting the disappointment of members over the years with the current Welsh Government, Mr Roberts added that rather than feeling that industry concerns have been taken on board and seeing proportionate measures put in place to safeguard the agricultural  industry, many consider the current direction of travel as a betrayal of devolution which directly threatens the agriculture industry and the culture, language and way of life which are intrinsically linked to Welsh food production.

Speaking from his farm in North Wales, he added: “With this in mind, I make no apology for highlighting our members’ frustration about the lack of bespoke Welsh policies regarding future farmingscheme proposals and tackling water quality issues put forward by the current Welsh Government, and the distinct feeling that those who govern us from Cardiff Bay are now more remote from and indifferent to our rural communities than ever.

“Welsh farmers are proud to produce world-leading food to environmental, animal health and welfare and food safety standards that are second to none, but these need to be regulated in a proportionate manner which does not stifle innovation, create unjustified restrictions and place Welsh farmers at a severe competitive disadvantage against other countries’ agricultural produce.” 

Such concerns are particularly pertinent in an era when the UK Government is proactively seeking to sign trade deals with countries with production standards which fall well short of those already required of Welsh food producers, and while the aspiration that further raising standards will provide our producers with a competitive advantage in high-end markets is understandable, it is also naive given what the data tells us about widespread consumer indifference to such standards both here and around the globe.

“Alongside other critical issues and priorities outlined in this manifesto, the FUW urges the incoming Welsh Government and Senedd to develop bespoke, tailor-made policies that reflect such global realities as well as Welsh economic, social and environmental needs and the seven Welsh Well-being Goals; policies that maintain our already high standards while ensuring Welsh producers are not undermined in ways that lead to greater imports of food from those with far lower standards than our own,” said the Union President.

For the period of the next Welsh Senedd and beyond, the FUW is committed to lobbying all those in Cardiff to ensure that agriculture and family farms receive the attention and respect that they warrant – for the sake of all our futures.

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Farming

Appeal for dog walkers to keep pets under control during lambing season

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THE LAMBING season is upon us and with many public paths crossing fields of sheep, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority is appealing to dog walkers to follow best practice when out in the countryside.

While walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail and other public footpaths and bridleways:

Always keep dogs on a short lead and under close control when sheep or any other livestock are present.
Clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it wherever you can or take it away –please do not leave poo bags in the countryside.

National Park Authority Public Rights of Way Officer, Meurig Nicholas said: “If your dog is out of your sight or left out of control, it may chase after, attack or worry sheep. Worried and stressed pregnant sheep can miscarry or abort their lambs.

“Young lambs are also very vulnerable at this time, and can get distressed and even die if they are separated from their mothers or abandoned after being chased by dogs.”

There have also been incidents where dogs have had to be rescued from cliffs because they were not kept under close control.

Mr Nicholas added: “These situations have resulted in emergency services such as the Coastguard and RNLI having to retrieve and rescue dogs. These incidents are avoidable and add unnecessary pressure to our busy emergency services.”

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