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Farming

Agri organisations want Brexit extensions

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THE UK Farming Roundtable, representing farmers and growers from agricultural organisations across the UK, has today written to all MPs urging them to unite around a single option for an orderly Brexit by Wednesday next week. Failing this, the Government must request a further extension to the Article 50 negotiations.

The letter said: “We are intensely frustrated at the continuing impasse over the UK’s departure from the EU and urge you to take whatever steps are necessary, right now, to ensure the UK does not leave without a deal in the coming days.

“Government and Parliament must ensure our departure from the EU is an orderly one. The farming sector is clear that leaving without a deal would cause huge economic damage to British farming. Over recent months farming organisations, alongside individual farmers and growers, have consistently warned MPs of the severe consequences that no-deal would have, not only for our agricultural and horticultural sectors and the jobs they provide, but also for food supply in the UK and the high standards to which our food is produced and our farmed environment is managed.

“To this end, if parliament has failed to coalesce around a single and clear option for an orderly departure from the EU by the end of the day on Wednesday April 3, the government must request an extension from the EU27 to the Article 50 negotiations. This extension must be of sufficient length to allow government and MPs to agree on a stable way forward out of the current impasse that ensures a stable operating environment for farm businesses. A further extension of just a matter of weeks is not acceptable, given the damaging time and resource that has already been expended in managing the threat of a no-deal departure over recent weeks and months.

“It is unacceptable for farming – and for wider British businesses – to be in a perpetual state of uncertainty with no clear idea of the trading conditions they could be operating under in just a matter of days. This extreme uncertainty is already having real-world impacts on British farming and food production, with investments being put on hold, critical jobs remaining unfilled and farm-gate prices facing increasing downward pressure.

“Time is almost up. MPs must now consider the concessions they will need to accommodate to bring to an end the enormous and damaging uncertainty that is already undermining our food and farming sectors, not to mention the wider economy.”

WELSH FARMING UNIONS RESPOND

Responding to the Parliament’s rejection of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, NFU Cymru President Mr John Davies said: “It is very clear that Parliamentary support for the Prime Minister’s proposals is simply not there. Brexit uncertainties continue to bear down on the sector, meaning that we have no idea of the trading conditions that we might be operating under in a matter of days, something which is having a severe impact on the sector’s confidence and general wellbeing.

“If we are leaving the European Union, then this must be done in an orderly fashion. That is why I lent my signature to a letter which went to all MPs yesterday, stating that if by Wednesday 3rd April Parliament has not coalesced around a single clear option for an orderly departure from the EU, the government must seek an extension from the EU27 to the Article 50 process. Such an extension must be long enough to find a way forward out of the current impasse which delivers a stable operating environment for farm businesses.”

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “With power over the Brexit process now resting firmly with Parliament, MPs need to recognise that withdrawing Article 50 is the only way to secure sufficient time to allow a consensus to be reached which bridges the political divides which exist within and between parties.”

Having called for Article 50 to be revoked in January, in recent weeks the FUW has called for preparations to be made for holding European Parliament elections and for all relevant legislation to be changed to allow Brexit to take place over a far more realistic timetable.

“The uncertainty that is affecting businesses across the UK is a direct result of the UK Government’s decision to try and achieve the unachievable over a very short timescale – something we warned against on the day the referendum outcome was announced.

Businesses need to know it will be ‘business as usual’ for a set period and have plenty of warning – months or years – of what exactly will happen after that date so they can prepare properly.

“It is a disgrace that businesses have been facing complete uncertainty as to what might happen in just days’ time, and the responsibility for that lies firmly with the UK government.”

Mr Roberts reiterated the FUW’s long-held view that leaving the EU while staying in the Single Market and Customs Union remained the best way to bridge the political divide which had come from the EU referendum.

“I am heartened by the outcome of the indicative votes which took place last week, and all the necessary moves to allow that process of compromise and common sense to continue need to take place. Revoking Article 50 would be a sure way to give the process sufficient time.

“At the very least, agreeing a lengthy extension period and holding EU elections would bring us closer to having a timetable that properly reflects the magnitude of the task at hand.”

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Farming

Managing Director for new Pembrokeshire creamery announced

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PEMBROKESHIRE CREAMERY LTD, the West Wales-based business currently building a new state of the art liquid milk processing facility in Haverfordwest, has appointed Mark McQuade as managing director.

Mark brings extensive dairy industry experience from previous roles as operations director of McQueen’s Dairy, national accounts director of Muller Wiseman Dairies and as an executive board director of First Milk.

Pembrokeshire Creamery Ltd will have the capacity to bottle more than a million litres of milk a week in its initial phase and gives UK supermarkets the opportunity to offer their Welsh customers milk that is both sourced and bottled in Wales rather than being driven to England for processing which is currently the case.

By removing the need for Welsh milk to be transported to bottling plants in England, Pembrokeshire Creamery will be able to reduce food miles, increase supply chain efficiency, create new skilled jobs and support local farming communities.

Mark commented: “I am very excited to be joining the team in Pembrokeshire. We aim to be the only BRC Certified facility to offer Welsh milk that is also bottled in Wales, and as such, the new facility has huge potential. I know from having worked with Pembrokeshire dairy farmers in previous roles that this is a fantastic milk field in which to build an authentically Welsh milk supply for Welsh supermarket stores.”

Huw Thomas, CEO of Puffin Produce and Pembrokeshire Creamery board member added:

“We are delighted that Mark has agreed to join Pembrokeshire Creamery as he brings with him rich industry knowledge and experience which will help accelerate our growth ambitions.”

Construction work began in November and the plant will be fully operational by the Autumn of 2023.

Pembrokeshire Creamery Ltd has also announced a multi-million pound contract with Sycamore Process Engineering to design, manufacture and install the milk processing equipment.

Paul Manning, project director at Sycamore Process Engineering said: “We bring more than 30 years of experience in the dairy, food, and beverage industry and a strong focus on sustainability, ensuring our process solutions are energy efficient, and promoting the best OPEX with minimal product wastage. We’re working closely with Pembrokeshire Creamery to develop a top of line processing facility which meets their current needs and can expand with them as the business grows in future.”

Other businesses contracted to the construction phase include DKAN for ground works, Morgans of Usk for the steel frame and ABS Elbrow for cladding.

The development of Pembrokeshire Creamery has been supported by the Welsh Government and the EU RDP-funded Food Business Investment Scheme. Additional funding has been supplied by HSBC.

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Farming

Calls on Welsh Government to address Pembrokeshire rural poverty

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PLAID CYMRU member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, Cefin Campbell, has renewed calls for the Welsh Government to commit to developing a strategy to address rural poverty in Wales.

Mr Campbell’s calls follow recent figures, published by Loughborough University on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition that showed Pembrokeshire had the highest child poverty rate of any local authority in Wales – with 35.5% of children living in poverty.

Challenging the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to commit to developing a focused strategy on addressing rural poverty, Mr Campbell also highlighted wider challenges within rural communities that contributed towards a pattern of “entrenched poverty” over the course of many years and generations.

Commenting Cefin Campbell MS said: “The true extent of rural poverty is often masked by the relative affluence of some rural areas and a wider culture of self-reliance within our rural communities.

Rural communities across Pembrokeshire face many unique pressures that have contributed towards a pattern of long-term entrenched poverty. These include poor access to public transport, patchy public service provision, a lack of affordable housing, and relatively low incomes and high prices. Sadly, the developing cost-of-living crisis over recent months has merely exacerbated these factors and plunged many households into further financial hardship and uncertainty.”

Previous research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that most rural households typically spend 10-20% more on everyday goods and services compared to those living in more urban areas. A recent report by Sustrans Cymru also emphasised that people living in rural areas of Wales are some of the worst affected by transport poverty – with households likely to spend more than 10% of its income on the costs of running a car.

Such financial pressures were further emphasised with research from the Bevan Foundation, published last year, finding that a typical worker in Pembrokeshire is a belt-tightening £346 a month worse off than a typical UK worker.

Cefin Campbell MS added: “The hardship being faced by Wales’ rural communities is a wake-up call – and inaction in addressing such rural poverty may very well become Welsh Labour’s legacy in Wales.

It’s time the Welsh Government committed to better identifying the many unique and exclusive factors that contribute towards this rural poverty, and work with stakeholders to bring together a strategy and vision to better empower and aid these communities”.

Speaking in response to Mr Campbell’s calls for a specific rural poverty strategy, First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “I recognise that there are certain factors that are unique to people living in rural areas, and I can agree with what the Member said. It is sometimes difficult to identify poverty in some of our rural communities. Of course, every part of Wales is facing a challenge at the moment—whether you live in the Valleys, in the centre of Cardiff, there are unique challenges in all parts of Wales. I can tell the Member that a plan will be drawn up. The Minister for Social Justice is currently working on practical steps that we can take to help, particularly in the area of child poverty.”

Calling for action: Cefin Campbell MS (Image file)
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Farming

Trial for Pembrokeshire farmer who denies breaking ban on keeping animals

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A CONTROVERSIAL Pembrokeshire farmer who was disqualified from keeping animals indefinitely will face a trial today (Jan 18) at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court.

The whole day has been set aside for the case.

He is charged with breaching a court order by keeping lovebirds, dogs and tortoises.

Sean Ronald Burns, age 52, of Bramble Hall Farm, Ferry Lane, Pembroke Dock, was given a 20-week prison sentence on February 13, 2020. He was banned indefinitely from keeping animals, this includes having any involvement or influence over the care or welfare of animals.

The farm has been subject to a number of raids with many animals being confiscated (Image: M Cavaney/Herald)

The sentence followed a trial in which Burns was found guilty of illegal dog breeding. He had previously admitted 13 animal welfare charges.

In September 2020 he received a suspended prison sentence, alongside two other men for his part in the production of smokies at Bramble Hall Farm.

In November, Burns, 52, denied three charges of breaching a disqualification after conviction.

He is accused of keeping tortoises, love birds and dogs at Bramble Hall Farm and another address in Pembroke between January 26, 2022, and July 11, 2022, contrary to the animal welfare act.

He appeared in front of Llanelli Magistrates Court on Thursday, December 15, for a pre-trial hearing.

Burns’ farm was dubbed the “Farm of horrors”

Police sealed off the farm as protests mounted against the treatment of animals (Image M Cavaney/Herald)
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