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Farming

FUW: Devolution must be respected

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IN RESPONSE to a UK Government white paper on internal markets, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has stressed the importance of protecting Welsh farmers against unfair competition from other parts of the UK and countries across the globe, and that Welsh devolution must be respected.
In his introduction to the UK Internal Market White Paper, Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlights how increasing differences between rules and standards applied by different Governments in the UK’s four nations after Brexit could cause market distortion, discrimination and unfair competition for businesses in a way not seen for hundreds of years.
The White Paper, therefore, proposes measures to prevent such impacts based on the principles of ‘non-discrimination’ and ‘mutual recognition’
FUW Head of Policy, Dr Nick Fenwick said: “We are glad the UK Government has woken up to the need to take this issue seriously as it has previously been kicked into the long grass because it is so politically contentious.”
Dr Fenwick said that the FUW had been highlighting the need to address this issue since the EU Referendum in 2016, and in July 2018 the FUW had published a detailed paper considering the matter entitled ‘Filling the Void – Steps towards a post-Brexit UK policy framework’.
“While we welcome the UK Government’s recognition of this issue, we are extremely concerned at the suggestion that rules could simply be dictated by London, rather than there being a means by which to reach agreement between UK Governments.”
Dr Fenwick said such a move could undermine devolution and work to the disadvantage of Welsh farmers.
“The consideration of such matters in a White Paper within months of the end of the Withdrawal Agreement period gives us very little time to hold proper detailed discussions and introduce the type of structures and bodies we truly need to make recommendations, enforce regulations, arbitrate on matters etc. in a way that is fair.”
“It also gives us very little time to sort out what are huge constitutional issues which also happen to be crucial to the running of Welsh businesses,” he added.
In response to the White Paper, the Union further stressed that while the UK Government is right to recognise the dangers of direct and indirect discrimination, unfair competition, market distortion and other issues that could arise within the GB/UK internal market, it should also recognise that the same issue exists across international borders.
“Given the current trade negotiations with the EU and USA, for example, the UK Government should also recognise the likelihood of such adverse impacts occurring as a result of inappropriate or ill-considered trade deals which expose us to different standards or unfair competition,” said Dr Fenwick.
“This is a particular concern with regard to agricultural produce produced to environmental, health and welfare, social and other standards that do not meet those required of UK producers, and subsidy and support regimes that differ significantly to those introduced in future in the UK’s four nations.”
At present, while significant differences between the UK and the EU is allowed under Single Market, Common Agricultural Policy and related rules, these are within strict boundaries aimed at minimising market distortion and unfair competition while recognising regional and national needs.
If a trade deal with the EU is reached, there is potential for market distortion and unfair competition for UK producers as a result of the fact that the EU will continue to pay farmers direct support, but Wales and England want to move over to environmental ‘public goods’ style payments – with many lobbying for farm payments to be cut altogether.
“The EU’s reaffirmed commitment to maintaining direct support for active farmers through CAP payments, coupled with a move in Wales and other parts of the UK to get rid of direct farm support in favour of environmental payments, would clearly introduce the kind of unfair competition the UK Government refers to in this paper.
“This danger is no different in principle to the dangers recognised in the Internal Markets White Paper, so also should be recognised by our Governments – not only in the context of unfair competition from the EU, our most important trading partner in terms of food, but also countries like the USA if we are to strike a deal with them.
“We need a trade deal with the EU to avoid massive damage to farms and other businesses, but we also need our governments to recognise the self inflicted damage that could be done by radically changing our own farm support systems while our main competitors twenty or thirty miles away over the sea continue with direct farm support,” he added.

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Farming

Welsh Dairy Show 2020 due to take place in Carmarthen has been cancelled

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The Welsh Dairy Show 2020 due to take place in Carmarthen has been cancelled.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (Sept 9), a spokesman said: “It is with deep regret that following an assessment of the current COVID19 restrictions that the organisers of the Welsh Dairy Show, on the United Counties Showground in Carmarthenshire, have made the difficult decision to cancel the Welsh Dairy Show 2020 which was due to take place on Tuesday, 27 October 2020.

“We hope to see you all again in October 2021.

“Could you please help us spread the word and let your followers / readers know the sad news.”

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Farming

Consumers appreciate locally-sourced food

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A SURVEY from Weetabix has found that almost a third of UK consumers admit the Covid-19 pandemic has made them realise how important locally sourced products are to the UK economy, with 48 per cent of Brits actively looking for locally sourced items in the supermarket.

A third of those polled say they have been more supportive of local British businesses both during and since lockdown, than ever before. More than a third do so to be more ethical in their shopping habits, whilst over two thirds hope to support local farmers and almost half do so for healthier and fresher produce.

The survey comes as Weetabix unveiled a stunning crop circle in the British countryside during this year’s harvest to raise awareness of the value of locally produced food to the UK economy.

Carefully produced over 36 hours, the crop circle highlights Weetabix’s commitment to working exclusively with local farmers. The company sources of the wheat in Weetabix Original biscuits from within 50-miles of their mills in rural Northamptonshire.

The crop circle was created on Antony Pearce’s wheat field at Moat Farm, Stoke Mandeville.

Antony Pearce commented: “As a British farmer it’s comforting to see some positives emerge from the first half of the year with people looking to support local businesses more and seeking to have a greater understanding of where their food comes from. We have grown the highest quality wheat to meet Weetabix’s high standards for 10 years and are proud to be one of the farms that fall within the 50-mile radius of their factory.”

A further 51 per cent believe that by ‘buying local’ they are helping the economy and 45 per cent hope to reduce their ‘food miles’ – the distance food has travelled before it arrives at our homes.

In fact, more than a third say they check the food miles of items when shopping by looking up the country of origin, believing the benefits of buying goods with fewer food miles to be include a lower carbon footprint (64 per cent), helping preserve UK farms (54 per cent) and less pollution (57 per cent).

When it comes to meals, breakfast is believed to be the dish with the least food miles behind it – possibly due to the likes of eggs, cereals and milk. A further 29 per cent also believe fewer food miles will mean they receive healthier food and 58 per cent think the goods will be fresher as they have travelled less.

Francesca Theokli, Marketing Director at Weetabix commented: “Our study showed that more than two thirds believe companies are not transparent enough about where their food is grown and produced. So we wanted to create this crop circle to highlight our ongoing commitment to locally sourcing the highest quality wheat from a 50 mile radius of our home and help consumers make an informed choice when selecting what to have for breakfast.
“There are many ways Brits can support local farmers and being careful about where breakfast is sourced is one simple step.”

The research also revealed:
• Items people are likely to buy which have been grown and produced in the UK were found to include butter (49 per cent), eggs (71 per cent) and strawberries (55 per cent).
• Whereas the likes of teabags (22 per cent), bananas (13 per cent) and chocolate (19 per cent) are believed to be difficult to purchase ‘locally’.
• A further 31 per cent feel there are limited options of local products in supermarkets and as a result, 45 per cent of Brits would like to see the big brands sourcing local ingredients to lead the way.

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Farming

Bath and West Dairy Show goes ahead

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DAIRY producers will at last be able to get out and about to meet colleagues, see new kit & hear from expert speakers, with the welcome news that the Royal Bath and West Dairy Show will go ahead on October 7 and it will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.

So what has changed over the years, both within the industry and the event itself?

Allen Cotton OBE, current vice president of the Royal Bath & West Society, has not missed a single show in 39 years, having been an original committee member. “I remember sitting round a table and trying decide what time of year to have it – we decided on the first Thursday in October before the carparks got too wet.”

The event was even held during the foot-and-mouth outbreak, albeit in January without any cattle. And it’s a similar situation this year as there won’t be any cattle due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Without the cattle we have more space to spread the trade stands out so that could be an advantage.”

So what else has changed over the years? “The breeds have changed a lot – the numbers of Holstein Friesians have reduced and have been replaced by Jerseys and Guernseys,” says Mr Cotton. The Holstein Friesians are also bigger, and the udders on the animals have improved – which is reflected by the higher yields that farmers are achieving, he adds. “We used to produce around 6,000 litres a cow – a 9,000 litre cow was quite exceptional really; now some people’s herds average that.”

Technology has significantly changed over the years too. “When the show began many people were still milking into buckets – now we have robots milking cows.”

There is also more emphasis on the business aspects of dairy farming, so it’s unsurprising that the seminars remain a popular feature of the show. The hot topic 40 years ago was dairy herd management, with seminars on improving grassland productivity and breeding policies.

The latter certainly draws parallels to this year’s seminar theme: ‘Breeding the cow of the future’, with speakers examining how producers can use pedigree genetics or crossbreeding to produce the optimum cow for their system.
So what does the future hold? According to Mr Cotton’s son David – who is now chairman of the committee – the industry is always evolving, and the show with it. “The drive for me is presenting ideas for the future and getting the next generation involved. The show is also a great opportunity to socialise; catching up with people you may not have seen since last year.”

Although things will be a little more challenging this year to comply with the latest guidance and safety measures, the advantage of its location is that there is plenty of space and open air, says David. “The main thing is that people need to book online, for track and trace – our aim is to put on a good show where people can see the latest technologies, hear from expert speakers and network in a safe and open environment.”

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