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Farming

Confidence drops as markets stay volatile

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British farming has faced massive challenges in 2015: Meurig Raymond

British farming has faced massive challenges in 2015: Meurig Raymond

INCREASED volatility and falling commodity prices across the sectors have seen farmers’ confidence drop to lower levels than last year, a new survey by the NFU has revealed. Confidence, specifically in the arable and dairy sectors, has declined significantly from 12 months ago, but farmers across the industry have told NFU that the three-year forecast is much more positive. As part of our sixth annual confidence survey, members told the NFU that they expected negative impacts on their businesses in the coming year relating to regulation and legislation (69%); CAP reform (51%); output prices (56%) and input prices (46%). Output prices are the second most important factor affecting confidence, as members have seen their margins squeezed as a result of the fall in farmgate prices greater than the reduction in their costs of production.
The survey also shows that in the last two years twice as many farmers have seen their profits declining, with 49% of respondents now reporting declining profits (42% last year). Some 7% think their business may not survive – the highest figure in any year so far. Those figures were even more worrying in the dairy sector, where almost 20% of dairy respondents declared that their business may not survive, a rise from 3% in 2014. NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “This year has seen British farming face massive challenges, not least of all falling farmgate prices, particularly within the dairy and arable sectors. “Given the levels of volatility we have seen across the industry it is no surprise that we have seen farmer confidence in the negative.
It shows very clearly that we are absolutely correct to urge Defra and RPA to make every effort to speed delivery of BPS payments and that we press processors and retailers for a fairer return for the highquality food that farmers supply. “Regulation remains the key blocker for our members’ confidence. This gives a clear message that government must to do all that it can to ease regulatory pressure. Confidence is critical because it influences investment and production intentions. If we want our farms to compete in an increasingly global market place and make the most of emerging export opportunities, we need government action rather than rhetoric when it comes to reducing red tape. This is why NFU is calling for action in 2016 to reduce the frequency of farm inspections and improve their coordination.
“Our research has shown that looking forward, farmers have a generally optimistic outlook on their medium-term prospects. The government has a golden opportunity, in its 25-year Food and Farming Strategy, to map the course for a more confident and profitable industry. The NFU urges government, retailers and the public to back British farming to ensure this optimism is not misplaced.” More farmers said they want to invest in diversification, training and energy efficiency in the three years to come. Those intentions are backed by the higher levels of borrowing in agriculture registered for the first nine months of the year.
The volatility of markets was a key part of evidence given by the NFU to House of Lords committee on December 16. The NFU has given evidence to a group of Peers on how agricultural price volatility impacts farm businesses. Head of food and farming Phil Bicknell appeared before the House of Lords Energy and Environment Sub- Committee as part of its enquiry into market prices and wider resilience among farmers. It follows a similar enquiry being held by MPs on the House of Commons Efra Select Committee into farmgate prices.
With volatility characterising most agricultural markets, and the associated pressures on cash flow, profitability and long term business planning, the committee heard about the challenges of price volatility faced by NFU members. Mr Bicknell emphasised that sustained price volatility risks the viability of farm businesses, leads to reduced investment levels, and is a challenge for the whole food supply chain rather than just a farming issue.
He said: “Volatility is an ever increasing characteristic of agricultural markets, particularly as we’ve seen farm policy back away from market management and control to less marketdistorting policy tools. “Farming is a very resilient industry. Our industry is made up of farmers who are past masters at dealing with anything that’s thrown at them – whether that’s periods of low prices or the recent devastating floods that hit farming communities in Northern England. “But it’s important that we’re an industry that thrives rather than just survives and is geared up for future food production. A boom and bust cycle of prices benefits can be damaging in the long run.”

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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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Farming

Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues

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THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.

Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.

Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.

Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.

“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.

Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.

PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said;  “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.

“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.

“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”

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Farming

NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG

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NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.

In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.

“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.

“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.

“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”

Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.

“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence.  We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”

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