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Farming

NFU Cymru President, John Davies: ‘Much work ahead’

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AS WE close the book on what has been an eventful year, I’d like to survey the events of 2019 and look ahead to see what is on the horizon in 2020.

We’ve just emerged from the third UK General Election in four years, following what has been a period of extraordinary political instability. The result of December’s election gives the Prime Minister the majority he has been seeking to take forward his Brexit plans. Although in legal terms we cease to be an EU Member State at the end of January, there is much work ahead to secure the access we need to our nearest and most valuable export market.

Although uncertainty persists, I am ambitious for our sector. Wales’ farmers have the skills, natural resource base and ambition from which to rise to future challenges and opportunities which lie ahead. These opportunities include increasing our self-sufficiency by producing more high-quality food, securing new export markers and becoming producers of the most climate-friendly food in the world by becoming zero net emitters of greenhouse gases by 2040.

Leaving the EU at the end of January based on the current withdrawal agreement means that we enter a transition period, during which time we continue to enjoy access to the EU’s single market. We must ensure that when that transition ends, we can access that market on the most favourable terms possible, with tariff and non-tariff barriers eliminated wherever possible. The UK’s government must also avoid a situation whereby the transition period elapses without having reached an agreement on a future trading relationship with the EU, culminating in us trading with the EU on WTO terms.

Trade talks with third countries will begin soon and one point I have been making consistently, and for some time now, is that we must not allow our own high environmental and animal welfare standards to be undermined in any future trade agreements that the UK may enter into. I, therefore, want 2020 to be the year in which the new government moves ahead with the creating of a Trade and Standards Commission, which will be tasked with ensuring our high standards are upheld and respected in any future trade agreements with third countries.

2019 also saw the second stage of the Welsh Government’s consultation on the future of agricultural policy in Wales. The ‘Sustainable Farming and our Land’ consultation followed its 2018 predecessor, ‘Brexit and our Land’, and we were pleased to see these revised proposals including future support around the principle of sustainability. The union remains concerned, however, that the proposals suggest the continued supply of vital economic, social and cultural benefits provided by Welsh farming currently can be secured through what is, essentially, an agri-environment scheme. I’d like to once again thank all farmers and those living in our rural communities who responded to the consultation. We now wait for the Welsh Government to analyse the responses and bring forward the next stage of the process in 2020.

Sadly, as we welcome in the New Year, around 650 cattle farmers in Wales are affected by bovine TB restrictions and this, of course, has a significant knock-on effect on their business and family. NFU Cymru continues to lobby the Welsh Government to review its bovine TB eradication strategy and deliver a more holistic policy that tackles this disease across all its vectors. A peer-reviewed scientific report examining the effectiveness of badger culling in reducing outbreaks of TB in cattle has shown positive results in Gloucestershire and Somerset and we now look to Welsh Government to listen to the science and use all of the tools at its disposal to control the reservoir of disease in wildlife – not just through cattle controls. We also need the Welsh Government to look at the support for chronic herds in Wales and the massive impact long term breakdowns are having on these businesses.

On the dairy side, we look forward to a long-awaited consultation on statutory milk contracts. There are examples of good practice out there but what other industry would allow six weeks of payments in arrears and for processors to adjust prices at a whim? Of course, we want processors to have successful profitable businesses, but we need the same for our milk producers. After all, these are the people taking the price risk when product prices fall. This has to change as evidenced by the latest Welsh Government farm statistics when dairy farm income fell by a massive 43% in the year ending March 2019 compared to the previous 12 months. Statutory contracts will help bring back some stability which the sector needs right now.

Against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty and low market returns, the threat of regulation continues to weigh heavily on farmers’ minds. Back in November 2018, the Welsh Government announced regulatory measures covering the whole of Wales to protect water quality from agricultural pollution coming into force in January 2020. From information provided by the Welsh Government in early 2019, it is clear the proposed new regulations are whole territory Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) with the NVZ Action Programme requirements applied across the whole of Wales.

The Minister, in December 2019, confirmed that she will be considering advice from officials in January on the introduction of agricultural regulations following further engagement. NFU Cymru categorically rejects any proposals which include the introduction of the Nitrates Directive and Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) across the whole of Wales. This is based on the evidence which shows an all-Wales approach simply cannot be justified; that the existing NVZs in Wales have had limited effectiveness. The great harm an all-Wales NVZ will do to farm businesses and our rural communities, which greatly outweigh any benefits to water quality, cannot be justified. We are clear, an all-Wales NVZ approach is not evidence-based, proportionate or targeted and we continue to work tirelessly to emphasise to Welsh Government the devastating impacts that an all-Wales NVZ approach will have. We urge the Minister to recognise that poor regulation serves no one – not government, not society, not the farming industry or the environment – and work with us to develop the framework to support farmers to take action to improve water quality where this is needed.

2019 has also been a year when the glare of the media on Welsh and British farming has not been as balanced as we would expect. I have long said that, as an industry, we are not immune from critique and we relish the opportunity to stand up and promote our values and leading standards. What we do not and will not accept, however, is unbalanced reporting and false news pedalled by those with an agenda against farming. This year NFU Cymru has shown we tackle such behaviour through robust complaints and other means. Please be assured that we are prepared to escalate our actions accordingly if required.

There will no doubt be huge challenges facing our industry in 2020 and beyond. As an industry, we should all be very proud of the role we play and we must remain steadfast in our ambitions to continue to deliver for the people and communities of Wales. As an organisation, NFU Cymru is ambitious for Welsh food and farming. Politicians in both Cardiff and Westminster must commit to working with us to deliver our ambition for a productive, progressive and profitable farming sector that delivers for the whole of Wales

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Politicians Tuck into a Farmers Breakfast

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PEMBROKESHIRE Senedd Members Paul Davies and Samuel Kurtz joined local farmers and farming representatives for a breakfast to celebrate the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW)’s Farmhouse Breakfast Week 2023. Mr Davies and Mr Kurtz attended the breakfast event in Crundale to champion the benefits of a healthy breakfast and meet with local farmers to discuss the challenges currently facing the sector.

Mr Davies said, “It’s always a pleasure to attend the annual Farmhouse Breakfast and this year was no exception. I’ve always proudly supported Pembrokeshire’s produce and today was another excellent showcase of what our local farmers have on offer. We had some very interesting discussions and I’ll certainly be doing all I can to push the Welsh Government to better support our farmers as its Agriculture Bill makes its way through the Senedd. I’d also like to encourage the people of Pembrokeshire to support Farmhouse Breakfast Week too by buying local produce and enjoying a healthy Pembrokeshire breakfast – there’s plenty of excellent produce on offer, please take advantage and help support our farmers.”

Samuel Kurtz MS, local Senedd Member for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, added:

“Farming is often an isolated industry, and so the FUW’s Farmhouse Breakfast morning in Crundale Hall presented the perfect opportunity to get everyone together, in one room, talking and socialising.

“From council farm tenants to fourth-generation cattle farmers, everyone was brought round the table to taste some fantastic locally sourced produce.

“It was great to be there supporting the FUW and the DPJ Foundation, a fantastic charity that operates across the country, supporting those in agriculture and rural communities with their mental health.”

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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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