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Farming

WG presses ahead with agri-policy change

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THE MINISTER for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, last week confirmed what the Welsh Government calls ‘Sustainable Farming’ will remain at the heart of future Welsh agriculture support.
The Welsh Government published its response to last year’s Sustainable Farming and our Land consultation on Wednesday, July 8.
The consultation proposed future funding should support and reward farmers who operate sustainable farming systems and protect and enhance the environment.
Responses to the consultation broadly backed the Welsh Government’s aims but with important caveats to the support expressed.
A significant proportion of the responses came from outside Wales. Those responses came particularly from individuals pursuing an anti-farming agenda, or as part of coordinated campaigns from groups lobbying the Welsh Government.
Over half the respondents (1,900 out of 3,300) came from members of the RSPB.
PLANS LACK SUBSTANCE
Responses from individual farmers cited within the Consultation Report reflect widely-held concerns that the Welsh Government’s plans are thin on detail. Those responses also highlight worries that Welsh farmers will be driven into an uncompetitive position due to new and burdensome regulation.
Despite those concerns, Lesley Griffiths confirmed a future agricultural support scheme will continue to be developed around the Sustainable Land Management framework.
During an update to the Senedd, the Minister also set out the next stages in the development of future support, including:
• Undertaking a range of economic analysis to understand the impact of moving from an entitlement based income support scheme to a voluntary scheme which rewards the production of outcomes. This will be published next summer and no decision on a future scheme will be made without consideration of this analysis;
• A transition period to enable farmers to adjust their existing business model to accommodate any changes required by the proposed scheme; and
• Publishing a White Paper before the end of this Senedd term, which will pave the way for the introduction of an Agriculture (Wales) Bill during the sixth Senedd term.
The Minister said: “Our proposals in Sustainable Farming and our Land provide an important income stream for farmers, recognising the important work they do in delivering environmental outcomes and rewarding them for it.
“We are also looking to reinforce the long term competitiveness of the sector through enhanced business advice and support, helping support farmers in the new economic realities following the UK’s departure from the EU.”
WG PRESSES AHEAD REGARDLESS
Lesley Griffiths continued: “Following consideration of the responses to the consultation, we will continue to develop a future system of agricultural support around the Sustainable Land Management approach.
“This approach will allow us to respond to the climate emergency, will help to reverse biodiversity decline, will ensure high standards of animal health and welfare, and protect our natural resources. Food produced using this approach will be sustainable, ensuring a food supply for future generations.
“Over the coming months, we will continue to engage with the sector and industry representatives on the ongoing development of these proposals for the White Paper, paving the way for an Agriculture Bill. This Bill will set out a support framework which can accommodate the development of agriculture and forestry within Wales for the next fifteen to twenty years. The Bill will enable farmers to be financially supported and ensure a coherent and fair system of regulation can be applied to the agricultural sector.”
A FURTHER CONSULTATION
To ensure farmers are supported following the UK exit from the EU, the Minister also confirmed plans to launch a FURTHER consultation this summer seeking views on the retention and simplification of rules around agricultural support for farmers and the rural economy. This support would bridge the gap between the current EU funding and any new scheme based on sustainable land management.
The Minister added: “It has been a difficult few months globally and Welsh farmers have not been exempt from recent circumstances. I am proud of the resilience they have shown in responding to those difficulties.
“Farmers, foresters and other land managers play a vital part in the economic, environmental, and social well-being of Wales. We will continue to support them to adapt to economic changes as well as the impact of climate change.”
GOVERNMENT FAILING RURAL COMMUNITIES
The Welsh Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Andrew RT Davies responded: “It’s all very well for Lesley Griffiths to stand up and make promises of support to our vitally important farming sector. However, those promises will only materialise if they are driven by a minister who has a finger on the pulse during this COVID-19 pandemic. That has not been the case.
“Time and time again, the Welsh Government has failed our rural communities. Just last week, the Wales Audit Office published a damning report into this government’s handling of the Rural Development Grants Scheme.
“What rural communities desperately need the Welsh Government to do is set out clearly what any support it offers aims to achieve. That should include incentives for food security and for unleashing Wales’ environmental and food-producing revolution.”
CUT BUREAUCRACY SAYS FUW
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The proposal to adopt the United Nations’ Sustainable Land Management (SLM) principle as the objective and framework for a future policy fails to encompass wider Welsh goals and objectives, including those defined in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015, and therefore falls short of being a holistic policy.
“While we welcome some of the conclusions reached in the Welsh Government’s response to the consultation, we remain convinced that families, jobs and communities should be at the heart of planning a new policy – alongside sustainable food production and the SLM principles.”
Mr Roberts said that a scheme which focuses only on the provision of Public Goods and environmental outcomes would fail to take proper account of prosperity, jobs, culture and other issues inherent to the Wellbeing Goals and other Welsh objectives, risking severe adverse impacts.
“We, therefore, welcome the Welsh Government’s commitment to undertake a range of economic analyses to understand the impact of moving from an entitlement based income support scheme to a voluntary scheme which rewards the production of outcomes.
“This work needs to be thorough and look at impacts for individual businesses, sectors and regions of Wales as well as the implications for the tens of thousands of businesses which rely on agriculture and the scheme delivery costs.
“Above all else, it is concerning that the recent food shortages, delays and difficulties in administering our current environmental scheme – Glastir – and hundreds of consultation responses highlighting concerns about the overall direction of travel has not given the Welsh Government more pause for thought.”
STANDARDS FEAR
TFA Cymru said: “Any new regulatory framework must take into consideration standards which are being used in other parts of the UK and internationally; particularly where goods produced under those differing standards find their way in front of Welsh consumers. That not only undermines domestic production, but it also allows poorer standards to continue in other jurisdictions.
“If it is felt important to introduce a new level of regulation in respect of agricultural production which is not applied elsewhere, the Welsh farming community would legitimately expect protection against products imported to Wales produced to standards which would be illegal at home.”
WG SHOULD ‘PAUSE & REFLECT’
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “This announcement provides us with some additional clarity on the direction of travel as regards future support. In light of the continuing Coronavirus disruption, as well as ongoing Brexit uncertainty, I would really have liked to have seen Welsh Government taking the opportunity to pause and reflect on this process rather than pressing ahead with new policy development.
“Despite the representations made by NFU Cymru, today’s statement from Welsh Government makes no provision for some sort of stability payment, and that is very disappointing, especially in light of the recent market volatility.
“I was pleased to see the Minister acknowledge the role of agriculture and the food supply chain in keeping the country fed during the Coronavirus outbreak. I am, however, keen to ensure we do not forget the lessons of the pandemic: in particular, how it underscored the value of having a secure domestic primary production base – something which we very much consider ‘a public good’. I also welcome what the Minister said about the simplification of some of the rules around CAP legacy schemes. While that is positive news, it must deliver genuine simplification of complex rules if it is to benefit the sector.”

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Farming

FUW: food standards must be maintained

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THE FUW has highlighted the importance of a trade deal with the EU at a meeting with Minister for Trade Ranil Jayawardena MP and Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams.
The round-table discussion, which included representatives from the FUW and NFU Cymru officials, at Pickstock Farm in Llanfechain was arranged by Craig Williams MP.
Speaking after the event, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We had a good meeting with the Minister and a lively debate around the dangers of allowing cheap substandard food imports after the Brexit withdrawal period.”
Mr Roberts highlighted that food in other non-EU countries was produced to lower animal health and welfare, environmental and social standards than those legally required in Wales and the UK.
“I made it very clear that we must continue our trading relationship with Europe and that if we lose that the consequences for our industry would be devastating.”
Mr Roberts added that we have seen the impacts that the overnight closure of export markets can have on farm incomes and supply chains and reminded the Minister of the impacts of BSE in 1996, FMD in 2001 and the collapse in wool prices following the loss of the China market earlier this year.
He added: “It must also be noted that if we do have a trade deal, the domestic policies we apply to our own producers must be developed with the policies applied for our main competitors in the EU in mind.”
Whilst reassurances were made by the Minister regarding food standards being maintained, Mr Roberts stressed that incoming food products to the UK market must comply with the same standards and regulations as our food producers.
“We will not stand for a race to the bottom when it comes to standards and I took the opportunity to remind the Minister that we supported Neil Parish’s New Clause 2 amendment and have advised Lords on similar amendments that would have the same effect. It is essential that what is included in a trade deal is subject to our standards,” he said.
Speaking about Westminster’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill, which sees the Government try to legislate to break an international treaty it negotiated, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “To propose legislation which would breach an international treaty signed just months ago at a time when we are negotiating trade deals with a long list of countries beggars belief.
“The current government campaigned in the 2019 election on a platform supporting the signing of the withdrawal agreement treaty, which it did as soon as it came to power,” said Mr Rickman.
“As such, and however much the Government now disagrees with sections of it, they do not have a mandate to make such a U-turn, and they certainly do not have a mandate to break international law in a way that would cause such damage to our international reputation.”

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Farming

TFA calls for Agri-Bill amendments

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THE TENANT Farmers Association (TFA) is seeking crucial amendments to the Agriculture Bill as it enters its final Parliamentary stages.
This week, members of the House of Lords began debating the Report Stage of the Agriculture Bill, before it heads back to the House of Commons for sign off prior to Royal assent.
The new legislation will provide the foundation upon which future policy for agriculture and the farmed environment will be built in the years ahead.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “We need this new legislation as it will provide the powers that Government Ministers in England need to implement new policies for farming, as we leave behind those we have known as part of the EU.
“It also has wider implications for the whole of the UK in those areas where Westminster retains responsibility within the Devolution settlement, including on trade and the regulation of food supply chains”.
“Much of the policy detail will be set out in Regulations, but it is essential that the primary legislation underpinning those Regulations is robust. Whilst we welcome the provisions within the Bill focusing on farm tenants, there are significant weaknesses which need to be addressed. The TFA is encouraging their lordships to ensure that these shortcomings are addressed before the Bill receives Royal Assent,” said Mr Dunn.
Without their landlord’s consent, a significant number of farm tenants will struggle to take part in the flagship ‘public payments for public goods’ policy to be created under the new legislation. Whilst the Bill provides a good framework for some farm tenants to appeal against the refusal of their landlords to let them take part in schemes, newer tenants occupying on Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) are excluded from the appeal process. The Government argues that as FBTs are normally let for shorter terms and therefore renegotiated more often, tenants should be able to negotiate the terms that they need to take part in new schemes.
“With FBTs representing nearly half the land in the tenanted sector of agriculture in England, it makes no sense that they should be excluded from the appeal process. The Government’s argument misunderstands the way in which the let land market operates. With many more people seeking than providing opportunities to farm, landlords are routinely able to dictate the terms under which farms are let. Without an adequate appeals process, many FBT tenants will be locked out of future schemes,” said Mr Dunn.

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Farming

Parasite warning for beef farmers

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BEEF farmers are being advised to get on top of parasites at housing to prevent any production losses, after a warm and wet summer, may have led to an increased risk of mixed worm burdens across the country.
Housing is an important time to clear out any parasites picked up during grazing to prevent growth rate reductions and health issues, according to vet and integrated beef for StraightLine Beef Rob Drysdale.
“The warm and wet weather we are having could mean livestock are at higher risk of a mixed worm burden. It is vital cattle are housed free of worms, fluke, and external parasites such as lice and mange mites to prevent production losses and housing provides the ideal time to do this,” he said.
Mr Drysdale says faecal egg count tests to detect worms and coproantigen tests to detect fluke should be used in combination with farm history and symptoms to determine the issue and whether there is a worm burden, fluke burden, or both (mixed burden).
“Calves that are not performing at grass could also be indicative of a parasite problem and should be treated,” Mr Drysdale said.
Should a mixed burden be an issue then farmers should look to use an appropriate product to treat the problem. He added: “To control a mixed burden the best way is to use a product such as CYDECTIN TriclaMox Cattle Pour-On as it is a combination product that will treat for gutworms, lungworm, lice, mites as well as late immature and adult fluke.
“Lungworm can be particularly problematic at housing as they can often be present without any symptoms. However, when animals are stressed that is when they can cause problems. Lungworm can be a major issue because of the respiratory impact it has.
“Always work with your animal health care provider when drawing up a parasite control plan,” he added.

When worming stock make sure you:
• Weigh animals and dose to the heavier weight (if the weights are similar)
• Check dosing guns are calibrated
• Check the wormer you are using is within date and has been stored correctly
• Make sure your equipment is fit for purpose
• Check how you apply it i.e. pour-on, subcutaneously, etc
• Buy your products ahead of the housing season so you are well prepared.

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