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Farming

New European policies ‘must have family farms at heart’

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ANY NEW policies adoptedfuw by the EU Parliament following yesterday’s elections must ensure they have family farms at their heart, according to Farmers’ Union of Wales president Emyr Jones. 

Speaking on the eve of last weekend’s Royal Welsh Spring Festival, Mr Jones said that between May 22 and 25 people across the EU will elect 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who, alongside the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, will decide policies affecting our daily lives, more so for farmers than any other section of the community. Mr Jones was launching the FUW’s latest campaign “Supporting Family Farms Since 1955” that coincides with this year’s UN International Year of Family Farming which is highlighting the potential family farmers have to eradicate hunger, preserve natural resources and promote sustainable development. He added: “Given the diversity of climates, topography, cultures and economies across the EU, it is no surprise that even the most pro- Europeans can become frustrated with Brussels dictates which make no sense in a region such as Wales, while those bitterly opposed to the EU have a field day blaming all the ills of the world on our membership. “Yet, despite the focus in the UK press on the issue of EU membership and where the balance of powers between Member States and Brussels should lie, reporting of the daily deliberations of the EU Parliament regarding issues which we might support, or bitterly oppose, remains scant at the most. “This leaves members of the general public detached from the politics and policies they so often bemoan, allowing pro and anti-EU politicians to blame the EU whenever it suits their agendas to do so, and Governments to hide their own insatiable appetites for red tape behind the convenient scapegoat of EU Regulations. “With agriculture taking the most significant portion of the European budget, and bearing the brunt of so many disproportionate and costly regulations, Wales’ farmers must consider carefully the implications of all the options now being discussed.” Those options are: to allow the EU to continue on its present course, which many believe will lead to a United States of Europe; to try and restore it to something more akin to the Common Market we voted to remain a part of in 1975; or to pull out altogether, leading to a full restoration of sovereignty but with no guaranteed access to our most important markets and the common agricultural policies which are part and parcel of that access. “The FUW’s current position is simply that we support EU membership – hardly surprising given that successive UK Governments have made it clear that they wish to increase food imports from outside the EU and dismantle the CAP – a policy which provides essential incomes for Welsh farming families and ensures plentiful, safe and affordable food for EU citizens,” said Mr Jones. “And, of course, we need only look back to the 2001 FMD outbreak and the accompanying export ban to see the impact that being closed out of the common market has on prices. “However, Welsh farmers have much to be aggrieved about when it comes to the suffocating and costly bureaucracy that emanates from the EU, and many wish for a return to the halcyon days when food production and common sense took priority over paperwork and illogical rules. “Whatever our views, we must weigh up the implications of all options with our heads as well our hearts. Welsh agriculture and our rural communities currently rely on the CAP and access to EU markets, and those who wish to see us operating outside the EU must provide valid economic assessments and policies which set out how a collapse in rural incomes and food production would be avoided. “We must also be aware that a renegotiation of powers could centre on the renationalisation of agricultural policies, with the focus not on reducing burdensome EU Regulations, but on implementing key recommendations from the 2005 Treasury/Defra ‘Vision for the CAP’ – a blueprint for dismantling agricultural support and increasing food imports. “Again, we need solid proposals and assurances that any renationalisation of powers will not lead to the collapse of Welsh agriculture and rural incomes. “Those assessments, analyses and policies must have at the heart of them the Welsh family farm: farms which have the highest productivity per hectare, are responsible for the overwhelming majority of Welsh food production and form the backbone of our rural communities.”

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Business

James Evans MS calls for overhaul of ‘toxic’ Meat Promotion Wales

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A CONSERATIVE MS called for Hybu Cig Cymru to be made fully independent amid concerns about a “toxic bullying culture” within the meat promotion organisation.

James Evans, the shadow rural affairs secretary, warned the farming industry is losing faith in Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), Wales’ meat marketing board.

He said HCC’s chief executive has stood down, two senior executives are leaving and board members are on the verge of resigning.

Mr Evans said: “There have been no board minutes published since 2022, and no up-to-date financial statements or annual reports on their website since 2021.

“This is a very concerning position for HCC to find itself in. The body underpins an industry that’s been valued at more than £1b to Wales.“

The Brecon and Radnorshire MS said a toxic culture of bullying and governance issues within the Welsh Government-owned company are undermining farmers’ confidence.

He said: “A lot of people in the industry, as well, are very concerned about whether the board and the chairman of the board have got the power and the levers that they need to actually turn the organisation around.

“The industry is losing faith.”

During rural affairs questions on June 19, Mr Evans called for a fully independent meat marketing board, run by farmers and processors for farmers and processors.

He told the Senedd: “A lot of farmers I’m speaking to are telling me, ‘Take it away from the Welsh Government, give it back to the industry, give it to the processors, let them directly appoint people onto that board, and, if they don’t perform, they can take them away’.”

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s shadow rural affairs secretary, warned that the situation is “going from bad to worse”, with two directors resigning this week.

The North Wales representative raised concerns about absence levels and staff turnover as he echoed calls for government intervention.

Pressing Huw Irranca-Davies, the Welsh Government’s rural affairs secretary, he warned of the risk of undermining the faith of HCC levy payers and the reputation of Welsh red meat.

He asked: “For how long will you say that this is someone else’s problem?”

Mr Irranca-Davies replied: “We have to leave it to Hybu Cig Cymru to actually work through these issues and do them properly and assiduously. That is HCCs role…

“It is not for me to step in and, in some ways, tell HCC what to do, or intervene in what are sensitive and delicate discussions with both current and former members.”

Mr Irranca-Davies said he has not heard a universal voice from farmers calling for HCC to be made independent of the Welsh Government.

The rural affairs secretary, who is also responsible for climate change, recognised concerns about governance, saying he has met the chair to seek assurances in the past few weeks.

He told the chamber: “In terms of their day-to-day business and their performance, they’re getting on with it. I’ve had those reassurances that performance is not affected….

“But clearly, I’m aware of the internal governance issues and I’m sure they’re focused on resolving them.”

Mr Irranca-Davies, a former MP and Defra minister under Gordon Brown’s UK Government, pointed out that Heather Anstey-Myers was appointed interim chief executive in January.

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Farming

Strict condition expected to be removed from former farmer’s home in Spittal

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A CALL to remove a strict agricultural condition on a Pembrokeshire property, granted in the 1990s for a vegetable nursery which later suffered with the rise of supermarkets, is expected to get the go-ahead.

In an application recommended for approval at Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee meeting of June 25, Mr K Morgan seeks the removal of an agricultural occupancy condition on land at Oakvale, Spittal.

It seeks the removal of a 1993 condition, which reads: “The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to a person solely or mainly employed, or last employed, in the locality in agriculture (as defined in Section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990), or in forestry or a dependent of such a person residing with him/her, or a widow or widower of such a person”.

Earlier this year, a certificate of Lawfulness was granted at Oakdale; the property having been occupied for over 10 years in breach of the occupancy condition.

An application for a certificate of lawfulness allows an applicant to stay at a development if they can provide proof of occupancy over a prolonged period, normally in excess of four years.

A supporting statement for Mr Morgan’s application says he and his late wife, who had previously run a dairy and arable farm, established a vegetable and plant nursery at Oakvale in 1990, later submitting a successful 1993 application for a dwelling with an agricultural worker condition.

They sold direct from the site and also to local shops, the nursery doing well for a number of years before suffering “with the advent of supermarkets,” ceasing all together in 2010, by which time the property was also serving as a small caravan site, which continues to this day.

Mr Morgan has continued to live at Oakvale whilst managing the caravan site, with his daughter and her family also living on-site to help care for Mr Morgan due to illness.

A report for planners states: “It is possible for the property to be occupied in breach of the condition by any non-qualifying person in perpetuity.  Whilst it is theoretically possible that a future purchaser might comply with the occupancy condition, meaning that the certificate would fall away, the consequences of such an action would result in a loss of upwards of 30 per cent of the value of the property.

“The very low likelihood of this course of action is such that the fall-back position associated with the certificate is a material consideration sufficient to outweigh the conflict with planning policy.”

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Farming

Wales legislates for ‘industry-led approach’ to tackle Bovine Viral Diarrhoea

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NEXT MONTH (Jul 1), the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (Wales) Order 2024 will be introduced to facilitate an industry-led approach to eradicating the disease.

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) is a widespread viral disease affecting cattle, which can lead to abortion, infertility, deformed calves, and compromised herd health and welfare, particularly among young stock. Herds infected with BVD often experience increased cases of calf pneumonia and scours, as well as reduced productivity and other cattle health and welfare issues. BVD is not recognised to be a risk to public health or food safety.

Cattle sector representatives and Welsh Government have been closely working together to develop legislation to facilitate the next steps towards the eradication of BVD in Wales. This compulsory phase of the industry-led BVD eradication programme starts this summer.

Eradicating BVD from Wales will improve standards of animal health and welfare and help Wales achieve its Net Zero targets sooner. Eradicating BVD from a typical Welsh herd of 40 cattle could reduce the carbon footprint by around 70,200kg CO2e annually.

In addition, eradication should bring significant farm-level financial benefits stemming from improved cattle health, welfare, and productivity, including increased milk yield and reproduction rates.

From 1st July 2024, the industry-led BVD legislation that Welsh Government is introducing will require keepers to:

  1. Screen their herds for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) annually by testing a small number of cattle.
  2. Isolate Persistently Infected (PI) animals from the rest of the herd for the remainder of their lives.
  3. Cattle keepers will have until 1st July 2025 to complete their annual herd test.

These measures will support the innovative, industry-led approach to stopping the spread of BVD, safeguarding animal welfare, and maintaining a healthy and sustainable cattle industry in Wales. Cattle industry representatives, with Welsh Government assistance, will set up a Wales BVD governance body involving a comprehensive partnership and farmer support structure to facilitate BVD eradication efforts.

Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, said: “I understand and appreciate the serious impact of BVD, not just on standards of animal health and welfare, but also the impact on production and the serious economic costs of this disease to farm businesses.

“The eradication of BVD in Wales is a long-standing commitment, and I fully support industry and Government working together in close partnership to achieve this outcome.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Dr Richard Irvine, said: “The benefits of being BVD-free include increased cattle health, welfare, productivity and fertility. Eliminating BVD can reduce costs and the carbon footprint of your herd. Maintaining a BVD-free status strengthens the health and welfare of our cattle farms in Wales, and can also help reduce antibiotic usage.

Embarking on this next phase of the BVD eradication programme in Wales is a really important step. I would like to recognise the industry-led approach, backed up by this new BVD legislation. We can achieve eradication through the ongoing efforts of all cattle farmers, working closely with their vets, to screen and protect their herds from BVD.”

Supporting comments:

John Griffiths, Head of Agricultural Research & Development and former manager of the Gwaredu BVD scheme, said: “It’s very important for us to work to eradicate BVD from our herds in Welsh, and this is one disease which is possible to eradicate. Many other countries are working to get rid of the disease and Welsh will now join Ireland, Scotland, and England to get rid of the disease.”

Dr Neil Paton, from Royal Veterinary College, said: “The BVD virus causes a huge impact on the welfare of cattle and getting rid of the virus will mean a much healthier cattle population and a much more productive one too”.

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