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Farming

Increase in waste disposal charges

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Breach of code of practice: St Merryn Foods.

Breach of code of practice: St Merryn Foods.

PLANS by St Merryn Foods to increase charges for processing beef and lamb have left beef livestock producers bitterly disappointed, NFU Cymru have announced.

The food processor announced last week that they would be increasing their charges for processing beef and lamb as of Monday April 27, citing the recent and dramatic increase in waste disposal and rendering charges, particularly Specified Risk Material (SRM) as the reason.

Charges will increase to £19.20 for processing a beef animal and to £1.95 for a lamb. St Merryn claim they have held back on implementing these increased charges for as long as they could but challenging trading conditions mean that they must recover some of the increased costs levied on their businesses.

John Davies, NFU Cymru’s Deputy President, said beef producers will be bitterly disappointed as this cost is outside of their control and comes on the back of 11 consecutive weeks of falling beef prices as a result of lacklustre consumer demand and the challenge from imported product, made more competitive by the weak Euro.

“Farmers will be extremely frustrated that just a few months after the Union and the BMPA launched the processor code of practice, we have a signatory to the code making changes to their terms and conditions without providing their producer suppliers with the 12 weeks’ notice they had promised,” said Mr Davies.

“We understand that St Merryn held off increasing their charges when others had already increased theirs some months ago. We assume that the renderers would be talking to processors highlighting the pressures on animal by-product markets, if so these challenges should have been communicated to farmers; ideally within the 12 week window.”

Expressing concern about the way St Merryn acted in relation to the price rise, Mr Davies continued: “This lack of transparency is totally against the letter and spirit of the processor code, and is the last thing we need when we are trying to build trust and greater transparency within the beef supply chain – which is yet again facing pressure on farm gate prices. We ask the renderers and retailers to work within the spirit of the code and communicate changes to their terms and conditions to suppliers in good time.”

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Farming

Agricultural Society launches search for Ambassador-elect

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PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society are looking to appoint a new Ambassador for 2025 to help support officeholders in promoting and meeting the aims of the Society.

The voluntary role will shadow the 2024 Ambassador at this year’s County Show and other Society events. They will also play an important role in the promotion of the work of the Society, the agricultural industry and rural life in Pembrokeshire. 

The role was awarded to Ffion Edwards during last year’s show. Ffion is a nurse from Maenclochog. She has enjoyed many years of attending the county show and believes that there are so many good elements to it. Ffion has been a member of Llysyfran YFC for 15 years and enjoys every aspect of young farmers – trying new experiences, competing and travelling to name a few.

Adam Thorne, Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, said, “The Ambassador role is an important one. In order to fulfil the role successfully the applicant must have excellent communication skills and an enthusiasm to carry out required duties. Knowledge of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society and the County Show is desirable.”

Anyone aged between 18 and 30 and residing in Pembrokeshire can apply for the role. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview from 7pm on Tuesday, 13 August, at the County Show office. The successful applicant will receive an allowance of £200 and membership of the Society for three years.

Those interested in applying for the position will need to complete the online application form.

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Farming

Farmers Union of Wales announce new head of policy

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THE Farmers Union of Wales is delighted to announce that Gareth Parry has been appointed as Head of Policy just a few days before his wedding.

It was a double celebration for Gareth, born and bred in Llanfarian near Aberystwyth, as he and Catrin, the FUW headquarters Office Manager, were recently married. They have already settled on the family’s dairy, beef and sheep farm in Llanafan, Ceredigion.

Gareth, who graduated from Aberystwyth University with a first class honours degree in agriculture and business studies, has been working for the Union as a Policy Officer for the past five years. He recently led the Union’s 20,000 word response to the Welsh Government’s most recent Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation. He is the public face of the Union supporting the President in meetings at both Westminster and the Senedd, including regularly meeting with the Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary and his team. He also meets and guides members throughout Wales and is regularly seen interviewed by the media.

Gareth has already started in his role and is proud of the work that the Union achieves: “I am extremely proud of this opportunity and grateful to everyone for their support over the last few busy months. We have a team of hard-working staff with great expertise at the FUW and it is a privilege to work with them as we represent the interests of our members.

“I’m looking forward to the agricultural shows over the summer months, the opportunity to chat with Welsh farmers, to discuss the issues of the day with other organisations and to prepare for the next exciting period for the industry. It is no mean feat to set a new agricultural support policy for Wales as it is the foundation of the countryside, the economy, culture and heritage. I’m looking forward to playing a part in this important historical moment for Wales’ rural communities.”

When the Union’s work allows, Gareth has a keen interest in car rallies and has competed on many occasions with his co-driver. Navigating these off road tracks with his driving partner, Scott Faulkner, they came home with the ‘British Trials and Rally Drivers Association’ cup back in 2019. The new head of policy has travelled the world rallying and he also enjoys restoring cars and vehicles.

Welcoming the appointment, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We are delighted that Gareth has been appointed FUW’s Head of Policy. He is an accomplished, professional and intellectual ambassador for agriculture. We are very fortunate to have benefited from his expertise and sharp mind during the past few months. We look forward to continuing to work with Gareth, as we step into the next part of this important journey within Welsh agriculture.

Guto Bebb, FUW Chief Executive said: “Many congratulations to Gareth on his appointment to this prominent role and to Catrin and him on their recent wedding. We are proud of the quality of our staff and are grateful to all our staff members throughout Wales for their dedication to the Union.

“Whilst we celebrate Gareth’s announcement, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Nick Fenwick, our former Head of Policy for his work for the FUW and for Welsh agriculture. Nick’s contribution to the Union’s work and the industry during a long period of time is very much appreciated. Staff and members have had the privilege of working with an agricultural expert who showed great commitment and professionalism to working on behalf of Welsh farmers. We wish him and his family well for the future.”

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Farming

Why every Welsh farm should set a goal to increase soil organic carbon

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REDUCING soil disturbance, growing cover crops and increasing plant diversity will help Welsh farms better cope with future climate challenges.

As the industry moves towards utilising more sustainable food production techniques, the goal of every farm should be to increase soil organic carbon, insists Neil Fuller, an expert in the science of soil management.

At a recent Farming Connect soil health event at Treathro Farm, a beef farm near Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire, where David and Debbie Best are trialling different soil management practices, Mr Fuller said soil health offered significant sustainability and productivity outcomes for farm businesses.

As a starting point, he recommended getting an active measurement of the health of farm soils – its biological, physical and chemical health.

From microscopic fungi and bacteria to earthworms and beetles, soil contains billions of organisms.

“Most are beneficial to crops and perform a variety of functions, from breaking down organic matter and improving soil structure and drainage,’’ said Mr Fuller.

Many will also act as predators for pests, reducing the need for chemicals.

Earthworms are good indicators of soil health as they are sensitive to pH, waterlogging, compaction, rotations, tillage and organic matter.

Their numbers and distribution across a field can reveal what is going on under the surface.

Mr Fuller brought this message to life with a ‘soil safari’ by examining different soils and worm activity under a high-powered microscope and shared on a big screen.

Farm soils should have three types of earthworms – surface, topsoil and deep-burrowing earthworms.

Small surface worms live and feed on surface litter and organic amendments, topsoil earthworms are found in the topsoil, forming horizontal burrows that mix the soil and mobilise nutrients, and deep-burrowing earthworms make deep, vertical burrows.

While most soils have topsoil worms, the absence of surface and deep-burrowing worms suggest that the soil has been overworked and soil functioning is compromised.

Mr Fuller said the physical structure of the soil also needs to be considered.

If soil is compacted, there is less room for plant roots to grow and for air and water to circulate.

Compacted soils have lower infiltration and drainage rates, as well as reduced biological activity, plant root growth and yields.

They are also less able to cope with weather extremes, warned Mr Fuller.

Chemical properties are also important to soil health. Maintaining the optimum pH level and adequate supply of plant nutrients helps to support crop growth.

At Treathro, the Bests are working with Farming Connect to examine the impact of different management techniques and sward types on soil microbiology.

There are four trial fields: in one the Bests are rotational grazing their Red Devon suckler herd on permanent pasture and in another they intend to grow a minimum tillage herbal ley.

The other two trial sites are a field of perennial ryegrass and white clover used for haylage and a cliff-top field that is an SSSI and only lightly grazed by ponies.

Non Williams, Farming Connect Carbon Specialist Officer, said the average soil carbon stock in the top 10cm of soil was founds to be highest in the cliff top field, at 62.2 tonnes a hectare (t/ha), while in the rotationally grazed permanent pasture it was 51t/hectare (ha).

In the field used for haylage, it was 45.7t/ha and 41.7t/ha in remaining field.

Dr Williams said that at greater soil depth, 30-50cm below ground, the average soil carbon stock was highest – 30.4t/ha – in the perennial ryegrass and clover field used for haylage.

The project is also examining the levels of beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes in the soil at Treathro.

Lynfa Davies, Farming Connect Biodiversity Specialist Officer, said this had shown that there were very dominant levels of beneficial bacteria.

Ideally fungi levels should be higher but she suggested low levels were typical of many agricultural soils.

“This can be improved through regenerative practices such as using deep-rooted leys using min-till methods which allow fungi to proliferate,’’ said Ms Davies.

Using less artificial fertilisers and increasing soil carbon will also help, she added.

But she warned that improving soil health is not a rapid process.

“It is important to remember that building soil health takes time and it may take several years before significant changes are seen,’’ said Ms Davies.

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