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Farming

Refusal of corrections to moorland map slammed by farmers

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moorland

Farmers have branded as “illogical, unobjective and unfair” the Welsh Government’s refusal to allow appeals against the incorrect categorisation of their land as moorland. 

In January this year, natural and food minister Alun Davies announced that payments in the moorland area would fall to around 10% of the rates payable in areas outside the moorland area. That moorland area is defined as land over 400m (1,312 feet) mapped as moorland in 1992 for the purpose of The Moorland Scheme. Farmers’ Union of Wales member John Yeomans, who farms with his wife Sarah near Adfa, Montgomeryshire, said: “On areas where my neighbours and I farm, that 1992 map was completely inaccurate, but we had no idea the mapping was taking place and there was certainly no offer of an appeal against the incorrect categorisation of our land. “In any case, The Moorland Scheme was voluntary, and there was no suggestion that more than 20 years later the map would be used to cut our payments by 90%.” Mr Yeomans described the minister’s decision not to allow appeals on objective grounds as “illogical, unobjective and unfair”. “If you took a seven-year-old child from the middle of London into our fields and asked them whether they thought it was moorland, they would give you a categorical ‘No’. “These areas are extremely productive improved areas of land, and no one in their right mind would describe them as moorland. “By introducing the 400m line the Welsh Government has massively reduced the number of incorrectly mapped areas which would have led to appeals and legal challenges, so it makes no sense not to allow the remaining handful of areas like this to be eligible for appeals based upon objective criteria.” Mr Yeomans’ comments come after the minister responded to correspondence from FUW president Emyr Jones highlighting the need for an objective appeals system. Mr Jones’ letter stated: “During successive meetings …stakeholders emphasised the importance of having an objective definition of moorland and an appeals process to allow land to be removed from the map if it did not meet that definition – not least because the original moorland map is now almost a quarter of a century old, and was drawn up for a voluntary agri-environment scheme, not a compulsory area based payment scheme. “We had been under the clear impression that this argument had been accepted, and are therefore concerned at recent suggestions by Welsh Government staff that grounds for appeals may be based upon administrative procedures rather than an objective definition of moorland.” In his response, Mr Davies stated: “There will be two grounds for appeal. First of all, moorland for CAP payment purposes must have been mapped as having moorland vegetation when the 1992 moorland vegetation map was drawn. “Secondly, if land appears on that map then it must now be at 400 metres or higher altitude. Thus the grounds will be clear cut and objective.” Further correspondence from the Welsh Government has confirmed that even if an area was wrongly mapped as moorland in 1992 it is not eligible for appeal. Mr Yeomans said: “Our land was wrongly mapped as having moorland vegetation in 1992 and is over 400 metres high, so it seems from what the minister and officials have said that there are no grounds for appeal. “In fact, it seems that the only way of securing a successful appeal would be to prove that fields have sunk below the 400 metre land due to an earthquake or some other similar natural disaster. “This is ridiculous when you consider that since long before 1992 the vegetation on our land has comprised ryegrass and clover varieties, including many bred by Aberystwyth’s Plant Breeding Station. “The land is not mapped as Open Access land under the CRoW Act, and was part of the Welsh Government’s demonstration farm network specifically because it was well managed grassland and not moorland.” Mr Yeomans said he was discussing possible legal action with others affected by the minister’s decision.

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Farming

PAS launches search for farm employees deserving Long Service Awards

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FARM and estate workers from Pembrokeshire, who have been employed on the land for 25 years or more, can be nominated for the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Farm Employee Long Service Award 2024.

The President and Trustees of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society wish to offer inscribed Awards to both male and female workers who have not received a Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society Farm Employee Long Service Award previously.

There were two recipients for the inscribed Awards at last year’s County Show: Darran Davies from Scleddau, Fishguard and Richard Davies from Treffgarn Owen, Haverfordwest.

The 2024 Long Service Awards presentation will take place on Wednesday, 14 August at 4pm, in the President’s Pavilion at the Pembrokeshire County Show and the Award recipient and guest will receive complimentary entry tickets to the show.

Adam Thorne, President of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society said, “It gives us great pleasure as a Society to reward those who have been employed for such a significant amount of time by one employer in the county. We recognise what an achievement this is and it deserves an award. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s Long Service Award. The decision of the committee will be final.”

Conditions of the Award being given are:

1. The recipient must, on the first day of the Annual Show, have been in service for 25 years on the same farm continuously, or continuously in the service of the same employer within Pembrokeshire.   

2. The employer must be a member of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society for the present year.

For those eligible to apply please complete the online application form and return it by 31 July 2024. If you are unable to complete the form online please contact the Show office on: 01437 764331. To apply online please click here: Long Service Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)

Pembrokeshire County Show, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will take place on 14 and 15 August 2024. Earlybird e-tickets and Society membership details are available on the website: www.pembsshow.org

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Farming

Rural expert urges communities to help bolster farmers’ mental wellbeing

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A RURAL insurance expert is calling on Welsh residents to step up their support for local farmers, amid growing concerns over their mental health.

Freddie Hamilton-Russell of rural insurance broker Lycetts has issued his appeal during Mental Health Awareness Week, when the spotlight turns to the pressures faced by different sectors of the community.

For farmers, the combination of economic instability, market volatility, red tape, a changing subsidy regime and climate change not only threatens their livelihoods but also risks impacting their mental wellbeing.

“Farming is not just a business, it’s a way of life that demands resilience in the face of the myriad of evolving challenges,” said Hamilton-Russell.

“But even the most mentally resilient can struggle under the weight of financial and economic uncertainty. It’s important that residents support the local agricultural sector to help keep their rural communities alive.”

Hamilton-Russell highlighted several ways in which people can make a difference.

“Minor changes in shopping habits can make a big difference,” he said. “From buying local farm produce to help ensure farmers have a steady income to patronising local restaurants that champion local fare.”

In recent years, many farmers have been thrust into diversified enterprises in a bid to survive – from farm shops, cafes and glamping sites to B&Bs, wedding venues and petting farms.

“Residents can help support these new ventures, not only by visiting them, but also by promoting them to friends, family, colleagues and on their social media channels,” Hamilton-Russell added.

“In addition, our Welsh farmers also need access to mental health resources that address the unique pressures of the farming sector and wider agricultural communities.

“Organisations such as RABI (The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) provide an invaluable service to UK farmers, helping them become more resilient and better able to cope with future challenges.

“By fostering awareness and advocating for such dedicated services, we can help safeguard the mental health of our farming community.

“Every individual can contribute to this cause. Whether it’s choosing to buy local, spreading the word about rural enterprises or supporting mental health initiatives, your actions can make a profound difference.”

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Farming

Delay to Sustainable Farm Scheme ‘is bad news for farmers’ says Trust

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THIS week the Welsh Government announced that Sustainable Farming Scheme has been delayed by a year. Wildlife Trusts Wales believe this is bad news for farmers, nature and climate. The post-Brexit farm payment scheme offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put farming in Wales on a sound sustainable footing to address the interlinked climate and nature crises and ensure a viable future for Welsh farming. 

The decision to delay the scheme comes at a time when Welsh farmers are suffering from the effects of months of heavy rain. This is placing farm businesses under increasing strain, which will only get worse as our climate changes. The UK Government’s 2021 Food Security Report found that, “The biggest medium to long term risk to the UK’s domestic production comes from climate change and other environmental pressures like soil degradation, water quality and biodiversity.”  

Rachel Sharp, Director of Wildlife Trusts Wales says: “The decision to delay the scheme simply prolongs the uncertainty at a time when farmers need to be rewarded for switching to sustainable farming methods which will benefit their businesses in the future. Delaying measures to help farms adapt to our changing climate now only increases costs tomorrow and so is bad news for farm incomes. The scheme offers a great opportunity for farmers to be on the front foot to address the changing weather – to plant trees for shelter for livestock, to switch to herb-rich grasses which are less prone to drought, and to store water in ponds on farms.   

“It’s clear that the current food system isn’t working for farmers, nature, climate and even consumers. We see nature in rapid decline on some farmland, rivers polluted from agricultural run-off and many farmers struggling to make their businesses viable. Although the extra year will give further time for farmers’ concerns to be heard, it is vital to be lead by science.” 

Most Welsh farms already have 6% tree cover and so do not have far to go to meet the proposals to reach 10% under the new scheme – trees benefit the farm through providing shelter for livestock, protect soil and to soak up flood waters. These areas do not have to come out of production because grazing beneath the trees is allowed.  

Rachel Sharp continues: “It is a critical time for farming in Wales and it’s important that the new scheme is adequately funded. We need to see the whole scheme rolled out in 2026 as farmers need clarity on all tiers of the scheme including the ‘Options’ and ‘Collaborative’ tiers. Farmers need to know what payment rates will be available to plan for their business. This year will be critical and piloting new approaches is needed so that farmers can see what the new scheme looks and feels like. As 90% of Wales is farmland there is huge potential to harness nature to help store carbon and to hold back flood waters in revitalised natural habitats and to mitigate the impacts of climate change for the people of Wales. This would then demonstrate the value of giving taxpayers’ money to farmers for public benefits that, in turn, support rural communities.”  

Nature is continuing to decline at an alarming rate across Wales, which is already one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. 18% (one in six) of species are at risk of extinction from Wales. The abundance of land and freshwater species has on average fallen by 20% across Wales since 1994.  

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