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Union Leader’s New Year message



Appointment welcomed: Rebecca Evans' approach endorsed by both FUW & NFU

Appointment welcomed:
Rebecca Evans’ approach
endorsed by both FUW & NFU

The year, 2014, ended as it started with uncertainty within the farming industry as to how the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be distributed across Wales from 2015. Throughout the entire CAP reform process NFU Cymru has consistently argued for a policy solution that seeks to minimise disruption, as much as possible, in the move from historic to area based payments. NFU Cymru has stressed to Welsh Government the importance of reconsidering all the options available under the EU regulations to help inform its new consultation. As well as a differentiated payment rate system, consideration should also be given to the approach to CAP direct payments adopted in Ireland, the so called ‘tunnel approach’ which seeks to limit the losses for farmers in the transition towards an area based payment.

Once the Welsh Government comes forward with a new set of options NFU Cymru will consult widely with our membership to ensure that our response takes account of the views of members across all regions and all sectors of agriculture in Wales. Since the new Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture took over the reins in July we have welcomed the constructive and positive dialogue that we have had with her and her team. Rebecca Evans has highlighted her intention to produce an Agriculture Strategy for Wales in 2015 and NFU Cymru looks forward to this being developed in a genuine partnership to help achieve our goal of a productive and profitable agriculture industry in Wales.

This strategy must come forward with some key actions and targets, tying in wherever possible with the ambitious targets set within the Food Strategy launched last summer. Once these actions and targets are identified then all policies, schemes and projects must work towards delivering against the strategy. The Wales Rural Development Programme (RDP) can play an integral role in delivering on the Agriculture Strategy. For this to happen we need to see schemes and projects developed that offer clear farmer benefit, ensure high levels of uptake and participation, are easily accessible and adequately resourced.

Price volatility has impacted upon all sectors of agriculture in Wales in 2014. Whilst the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) does help farming businesses to manage volatility, this support is changing and levels of support are declining. We continue to meet with processors and retailers to stress the importance of working with farmers on long term supply chain relationships that seek, wherever possible, to reduce exposure to the ups and downs of global commodity markets. 2015 will see a Westminster general election and I see this as an opportunity for all our political parties to reaffirm their commitment to the work of the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA). I will be looking to see the powers and resource given to the GCA increased so that the GCA can investigate all links in the supply chain.

This will help drive out unfair trading practices between the farm gate right through to retailers and food service companies. Public Food Procurement is an area where I see room for improvement at both a Welsh and Westminster Government level, with our Governments ensuring that public food procurers place far greater emphasis on quality marks like PGI and assurance standards like the Red Tractor. Whilst I welcome the current downward trend in the number of new bovine TB incidents, and cattle slaughtered as a result of TB, we must not forget that this disease continues to cause untold misery to farmers and their families.

Dairy farmers responding to the Welsh Dairy Farmer survey published in 2014 highlighted bovine TB as ‘the greatest issue affecting their business’ and the HCC commissioned Beef Review came to the conclusion that the Welsh beef industry is ‘no doubt badly handicapped by endemic bovine TB’. Farmers are doing their utmost to get on top of this disease through complying with the stringent cattle control measures, but I continue to maintain that eradication of bovine TB from the Welsh countryside can only be achieved through the removal of diseased wildlife alongside the cattle measures we already have in place.

Despite the challenges posed by CAP, global markets and bovine TB, I remain optimistic for our future. The key fundamentals in terms of a growing domestic and world population evermore seeking assurance over the quality and provenance of their food remains in place and Welsh farmers are well placed to capitalise. What makes me most confident about our future is the professionalism, commitment and dedication that I have seen from our younger and next generation of farmers. As NFU Cymru President I am committed to doing my utmost to ensure that we create the conditions that, through Government policy and in the marketplace, gives them the best possible chance for a long and prosperous future farming the land.

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NSA Lambing List closes



AS A much-valued service to its members, the National Sheep Association’s (NSA) Lambing List provides farmers with a place to advertise for much-needed lambing assistance from students and others seeking work experience each year.

The list annually provides an annual matchmaking service for around 400 farmers and veterinary and agriculture students. And despite a second lambing season under the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions the list has once again successfully helped farmers across the UK at this busy time of year.

The list has now closed and will reopen for advertisements for the 2021/2022 lambing season in the Autumn.
 NSA Communications Officer Katie James says: “The popularity of the NSA Lambing List grows each year.
“The guidance it provides to farmers using it and the links it offers students means it is incredibly valued by all parties involved. For most, the past two lambing seasons have taken place during Covid-19 restrictions meaning potential shortages of staff due to travel constraints or illness from the virus itself and additional measures to consider such as separate accommodation for temporary staff and social distancing.

“All at NSA are therefore pleased that the list has been able to help remove some of these concerns and provide a trusted method of securing extra help for its sheep farming members.”

 In a previous survey of NSA members using the list, more than 90% of respondents said they valued the list and would use it again to try and source additional lambing help from veterinary and agriculture students.

 Students who will be looking for work experience to assist their application to university or as part of ongoing veterinary studies are encouraged to consult the list from November 2021 when it becomes available once again to aid the student/farmer matchmaking.

NSA members will be able to add details of their available placements for their next lambing season from October.

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MPs urge level playing field



IN its new report—Seafood and Meat Exports to the EU—the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee expresses urgent concerns for exporters of highly time-sensitive fresh and live seafood and meat shipments to the EU, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.
Despite overcoming initial “teething problems” the new barriers small seafood and meat export businesses face could render them unviable, and factories and jobs may relocate to the EU.
The Committee’s report, therefore, calls on the Government to ease burdens, including:

• as a matter of priority, seeking agreement with the EU on digitising the certification of paperwork such as Export Health Certificates
• taking a flexible approach to the compensation fund for seafood exporters—including reconsidering the cap of £100,000 on individual payments, and providing similar support to meat exporters
• providing the same help to small meat and seafood businesses with the costs of extra red tape for exports to the EU as they can receive for moving goods to Northern Ireland
• establishing a ring-fenced fund to help create new distribution hubs, which allow smaller consignments to be grouped into a single lorry load, so reducing transport costs.

The Committee criticises the fact that controls on EU seafood and meat imports will not commence until 1 October 2021, with checks at the border only commencing from 1 January 2022.
This has placed British businesses at a competitive disadvantage and reduced the incentive on the European Commission to negotiate measures that would lessen the burdens facing British producers.
The report finds that adhering to the revised timetable will be ‘crucial’, to ensure food safety and to create a regulatory level playing field.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said: “British businesses have acted with incredible agility and perseverance to adapt to the new processes for exporting meat and seafood to the EU.
“With the many checks causing delays and costs, this hasn’t been easy. We are concerned that in the absence of equivalent checks for imports from the EU to Great Britain, there will be serious long-term repercussions for our producers.
“As it stands, the playing field is not even, and the Government must ensure that the new timetable to introduce import checks is adhered to.
“Even as “teething problems” are sorted, serious barriers remain for British exporters, and it is now imperative that the Government take steps to reduce these.
“It must be pragmatic in seeking an agreement with the EU to reduce the red tape that harms both sides, and in the meantime, crack on with giving practical support to small British businesses to sell their produce abroad.
“By the end of the year, the Government must have developed a digital system for certifying EHCs for imports from the EU, enabling it to then negotiate a reciprocal arrangement.”

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Cattle prices exceed averages – and expectations



BEEF cattle prices in England and Wales have hit the milestone of £4 per kilo, making this average the highest on record in a number of years.

The average deadweight price for steers for the week ending 24 April was 401.4p per kg which is 83p higher than this time last year and 67p above the five-year average.

Market prices at present are being influenced by a number of unique factors, including strong UK domestic retail demand, a lack of supply due to stockpiling in late-2020 ahead of the Brexit deadline, and changes in trade patterns caused by both Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Whilst the impact of these factors on demand for beef in 2021 is unpredictable, newly released data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that no radical shift is likely in the supply of animals over the coming months.

During 2020, total calf registrations in GB were up marginally (0.5%) on 2019. In Wales, the figures show an increase of 1.4% in beef calf registrations, whilst dairy calf numbers increased by 3.2% on the year. For 2021 so far, beef calf registrations are currently trending 1.1% below last year.

Glesni Phillips is a Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). She said: “As we approach the peak calving period for spring calving herds in Wales, it is expected that BCMS monthly registration figures will increase over the coming months.

“However, the suckler cow herd in the UK has been retracting in recent years and currently, it shows no signs of re-building quickly. Prime heifer slaughterings during 2020 and the first quarter of this year, for instance, are higher than recent historic levels.

“These figures would suggest that supply onto the domestic UK market will likely remain tight for some time. Domestic retail figures for beef are strong, and with barbeque season coming up we should continue to see good demand  for good quality, locally produced beef.”

A more detailed analysis of the BCMS calf registrations data is available in HCC’s latest Market Bulletin on the HCC website.

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