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Farming

Unions meet after protest

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On the march: F armers flex muscles in Brussels

On the march: Farmers flex muscles in Brussels

LIVESTOCK board Chairmen from the UK farming unions have met in Brussels to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the beef and sheep sectors. The discussions followed Monday’s (Sept 7) protests when around 5,000 farmers from across Europe joined forces on the streets of the Belgium capital for a COPAorganised demonstration. Talks involving NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, the NFU and the Ulster Farmers’ Union centred around the current pressure on the farm gate price of lamb, imports, as well as the outcome from the Red Tractor consultation on lifetime assurance for beef, while progress was made on TSEs and sheep carcase splitting and red tape reviews. Lyndon Edwards, NFU Cymru’s Livestock Board Chairman said: “We have seen further pressure on the farm gate price of lamb and it has been an extremely challenging time for the UK’s sheep producers.

With an increase in production, the strength of sterling which continues to make exports challenging, the UK is attractive to imports. When this is combined with a fall in consumption, we need now more than ever, a focus on promotion and product innovation from our respective levy bodies.” Naturally, on the table for discussion was the significant shift in trade patterns of New Zealand lamb entering Europe since the original GATT agreement and current TRQ came into force. Lyndon Edwards said: “New Zealand has a fixed EU quota of 228,000 tonnes. We believe that the move from frozen to fresh, and from carcases to bone in cuts represents a substantive change in the trade since the original agreement in the 1980s and this change is having an effect on the UK and EU sheep market. We will be taking these issues to the Commission and will work with the sheep task force to ensure these matters are addressed.” Ulster Farmers’ Union beef and lamb Chairman Crosby Cleland said: “In addition to the New Zealand quota requiring greater attention from the Commission, concerns remain at a national level about how NZ lamb is labelled in the UK.

“There have been a number of examples of New Zealand lamb found in retail stores being labelled as ‘produced in the UK from New Zealand and Australia’. This is a clear breach of EU labelling laws for lamb and we would ask that Government take firm action against those who attempt to take advantage of labelling laws in place to protect UK sheep producers.” NFU Scotland livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam said: “There is huge frustration among sheep farmers that despite being at peak season for home produced lamb, we continue to see imported product from New Zealand promoted on some supermarket shelves.

We’re pleased that some supermarkets back our farmers by taking 100 percent British lamb – not just at this time of year but for a full 12 months. We’d also like to see other supermarkets really delivering on their commitments to back our farmers. “The UK livestock unions are committed to challenging our retail sector to put more effort into promoting home produced lamb on supermarket shelves. Their support would be a huge boost to confidence in the face of challenging market prices. But we also need Europe to act and urgently review the trade terms around New Zealand import volumes to establish if these are still relevant.”

With the call for a European task force to address market transparency in the sheep sector, the group discussed a proposal to introduce a processor code for sheep. This would be similar to the beef processor code and would ask processors to provide their producer suppliers with 12 weeks’ notice of any change to their terms and conditions. NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “There is no standardised dressing specification for sheep and currently there are two in operation: MLC Standard (tail on or tail off) and ‘company spec’, of which there could be many operating at plants on any given day.

With very limited guidance available it is difficult for farmers to make informed decisions. Sheep carcass classification in the UK remains voluntary and it is still commonplace for many abattoirs, especially the smaller ones, to pay based on weight. An EU Commission report found that in 2013 only four processors were actively participating in price reporting across England and Wales. Given that the UK is legally obliged to report prices to the EU and that the UK is the largest producer of sheep meat in the EU this level of participation is inadequate. We would like a processor code to address these issues leading deadweight price reporting and to see an end to the practice of rounding down of weights to the nearest half kilo.”

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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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