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Farming

Pembrokeshire farmers put spotlight on trade deals and climate change in discussions with local MP

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(left to right): FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams

FARMERS from Pembrokeshire have put the spotlight on industry concerns around the free trade deal with Australia and climate change when they met with local MP Stephen Crabb. Hosting the visit was Farmers’ Union of Wales Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams, who farms at Upper Swmbarch, Letterston near Haverfordwest.

The farm extends to approximately 94 acres, with the majority of the land rented from Pembrokeshire County Council, and 3.5 acres owned. Upper Swmbarch is home to a 50 Suckler cow herd, made up of Limousin and British Blue cows. The calves are reared with some sold as stores, some fattened and some kept as replacements. Gerwyn Williams keeps a closed herd and uses AI. Tack sheep are kept on the land in the winter.  The land is mainly down to grass, but around 3 hectares of arable silage and 3 hectares of forage rape are grown each year to feed the livestock.

The farm has participated in the Glastir Small Grants scheme, which included planting new hedgerows in a number of locations across the farm and the holding has also previously participated in the Preseli ESA scheme, Tir Gofal and Glastir Entry.

Leading the discussions on the farm walk, Mr Williams said: “We are very concerned about the free trade deal with Australia. There will be major negative impacts for our farmers in Wales. It is absolutely essential that the UK Government ensures there are break clauses in the deal to allow for it to be reviewed. We need the UK Government to stand with the farming sector and help develop export opportunities for our farmers here at home.”

Union officials further highlighted concerns around beef prices and uncertainty within the industry as to what would happen as covid restrictions continue to be lifted and more people begin to eat out. Farmgate prices declined significantly during the early stages of the pandemic given the loss of demand from the UK foodservice sector for premium products such as steaks and cheese, and yet 12 months on, the sector is witnessing soaring lamb and beef prices following a shift in reliance on local food producers and UK sourcing.

(left to right):  FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams and FUW Deputy President ian Rickman

“While the domestic foodservice sector is evidently an essential outlet for Welsh produce, it is equally a particularly price sensitive outlet through which large volumes of foreign imports are sold. The FUW is concerned that if trade policies allow for cheap food that undermines our world-leading standards to be imported into the UK, the foodservice sector could become an even larger outlet for such food given that the transparency and pressure to source domestic produce is not applied to the same extent as it is with retailers,” added Gerwyn Williams. 

Mr Williams added that whilst the proportion of local produce procured by some public bodies has increased over recent years, there remain significant numbers of administrations which fail to support Welsh agriculture, choosing instead to accept produce from countries which often fail to meet the high production standards which are a requirement in Wales. 

“The nature of some procurement contracts means that what appears to be a commitment to procuring Welsh and British produce within procurement rules can be circumvented by carefully worded clauses.

“The impact of Covid-19 on food supply chains in many parts of the world has served as a stark reminder of the dangers of relying on food imports. Domestic policies and trade deals which undermine sustainable food produced by family farms in Wales subsequently place food security, food standards and therefore farmgate prices at risk. Governments must recognise the sheer importance of maintaining and supporting food production, security and standards,” he said.

Addressing concerns around climate change, Union officials  discussed how targets are set by the Government and how the UK and Welsh industry is portrayed negatively in the climate change debate. FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Many of the facts and figures used in the conversation around climate change relate to non-UK systems of production. 

“Here in Pembrokeshire ,and across Wales, farmers are adopting climate friendly systems of producing food and looking after the land for example through minimal or no till cropping, grass based production systems, planting of hedgerows, and habitat management. We can’t just get rid of the livestock, or drastically reduce it. Livestock play an essential role in looking after the land. Many habitats have to be grazed in order for them to flourish. 

“Our dairy industry is also doing their bit and many dairy farmers are already undertaking carbon footprint calculations and producing nutrient and biodiversity plans as part of their milk contracts. Farming must be seen as the solution to the climate problem and not its root cause.”

Given the many obstacles farmers now face, including the NVZ regulations and bovine TB, Union officials further stressed that recruiting young people into the agriculture sector and sourcing labour was becoming increasingly difficult.

FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz added: “Recruitment seems to be a common problem in relation to vocational occupations that needs to be addressed. 

“I would like to thank Stephen Crabb for meeting with us again and discussing so many issues that trouble the industry. We will continue to work with the UK and Welsh Government to ensure we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales for generations to come.”

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Farming

Welsh Conservatives mark Welsh Food and Farming Week

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A FOOD SUMMIT and support for an innovative piece of legislation to precision-breed plants and animals to boost food production is top of Conservative calls on Welsh Food and Farming Week.

The NFU’s annual showcase of the best of Welsh agriculture has seen the Official Opposition in the Senedd call on the Labour Government to deliver on the summit that would bring together farmers, food processors, and retailers.

The meeting would aim to make Wales more resilient to the supply chain disruption caused by the war in Ukraine, currently contributing to the rising cost of living, including food prices.

The Labour Government is currently resisting the Welsh Conservative-proposed summit. The Rural Affairs Minister appeared to ignore Mark Drakeford’s instructions after she dismissed the idea of a Food Summit 24 hours after he said he would instruct her to ask industry leaders if one was needed.

A few weeks later, Mark Drakeford struggled to justify previous comments he made when he said “there is no crisis in the food sector” after the Governor of the Bank of England said families will face apocalyptic food price rises due to supply chain problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz MS is also calling on Labour ministers to back the UK Conservative Government’s Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill. The legislation will remove unnecessary barriers to research into new gene editing technology, long held back by EU’s rules.

The Bill will make the UK the best place in the world to invest in agri-food research and innovation; use technology to develop precision-bred plants and animals to bolster food production, resistance to pests and diseases, and resilience to climate change; and reduce pesticide usage to lower costs to farmers and protect the environment.

Mr Kurtz will be participating in this week’s activities with a farm visit, attending the NFU’s Senedd event, and being one of the speakers at a headline event in Pembrokeshire.

Commenting, Samuel Kurtz, Welsh Conservative MS and Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, said:

“I am delighted that NFU Cymru’s Welsh Food and Farming Week is back. With a host of events planned, it is yet another opportunity for us all to promote the fantastic agricultural sector we have in Wales.

“With food shortages a real possibility due to the war in Ukraine, we need all parts of the supply chain to get together, from producer to retailer, supported by the Welsh Government, to develop a plan to ensure our high-quality Welsh produce continues to find its way onto the tables of the people of Wales.

“Indeed, one way to bolster food production and protect ourselves from hostile actors in future is the passage UK legislation to open up innovation in precision-bred plants and animals. But we need this to apply in Wales too and hope Cardiff Bay ministers back this new law.

“But together, we can all back British and Welsh farming by buying local products, supporting our local farmers markets, butchers, and greengrocers. As the old saying goes: ‘If you ate today, thank a farmer.’”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS added:

“Welsh Food and Farming Week is a great opportunity to talk about the benefits farmers and producers bring to Welsh society and the economy, but we must also highlight areas where the Labour Government need to act.

“The Food Summit that we have been calling for to ensure that the supply chain is resilient to global shocks is essential and the First Minister’s reluctance to act is troubling.

“I hope he uses this week, of all weeks, to change that and bring together all facets of the food sector to ensure food in Wales is stable in price and provision.

“Over the last 30 years the country has gone from being 75% self-sufficient in the food we grow to under 60%. Given what is happening in the Ukraine and the desperate pressure the war is having on food supplies and household budgets. It is vital the Labour Government reverse the decline in domestic food production and use the long-delayed Agriculture Bill to single a renaissance in Welsh agriculture.”

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Roy Noble joins campaign to stop mass tree-planting on agricultural land

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ONE of Wales’ best-loved broadcasters has joined countryside campaigners in calling on the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to stop mass tree-planting on prime agricultural land, while also urging them to curtail ‘outside interests’ and ‘juggernaut companies’ from doing the same.

Roy Noble, who has been a constant feature on Welsh radio and TV for decades, said in a ‘personal plea to high officialdom’ that he had “real empathy” with farming families who “are out-bid” for land purchases by “financial combines”, who use it to offset their carbon emissions elsewhere by planting trees. He accused them of having “no empathy for, or real understanding of farming or the countryside”.

Appealing to the Welsh public, the OBE recipient argued that taking away agricultural land for tree planting risked limiting Wales’ ability to be self-sufficient and threatened food security.

He said: “The tragic and awful events unfolding in Ukraine and the world’s extreme financial strain currently impacting on our country should focus the mind and underline priorities, one being self-sufficiency. It stands at around 60% in Wales at present I believe, but experts agree, from the farming world and beyond that it could be vastly improved with official support. Of course, we cannot produce everything, but a greater percentage is a realistic goal.”

Mr Noble, who worked as a teacher before embarking on a career in broadcast, argued that tree planting has benefits when done in the ‘right place with the right trees’ stating: “Without a doubt, planting trees is regarded and accepted as a way to combat the climate emergency and global warming, but ‘right trees, right place, right effect’ is, I feel, an acceptable mantra in that process. Planting on productive, rich arable land, surely is not, and, if done, the implication and effect will last generations.”

He pointed at rural communities in the Cothi Valley, Carmarthenshire, where his ‘maternal lineage lived for many generations’ saying: “Many of the farming families, in all areas of Wales affected, are rooted in their land, their hallowed ground attached as it is to their soul and their very being. Many likely go back to the very early farmers. That heritage deserves recognition and respect, for all they have contributed and will continue to do, feeding a need, in food production, co-operating in climate crisis initiatives, and working with government and agricultural bodies on sensible paths.”

The broadcaster’s intervention comes as a petition, launched by Countryside Alliance Wales and now in its third week, continues to collect hundreds of signatures by the day. The petition, which is online, calls on the Welsh Government and NRW to ‘stop purchasing productive farmland to plant trees which threatens our fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language’.

It further adds: ‘We are deeply concerned about the number of companies purchasing productive farmland for tree planting to offset their carbon emissions and feel that the Welsh Government should further protect our communities from this practice’.

The petition was launched after a Countryside Alliance Freedom of Information request revealed the Welsh Government has spent a staggering £6million buying land with taxpayers’ money.

In February, the Welsh Government announced that new memorial woodlands would be created at three separate sites, including a section of farmland at Brownhill in Carmarthenshire’s Tywi Valley. The plans involve planting at least 60,000 trees, sparking fears that valuable agricultural land will be lost.

In the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier last year to Foresight Group – a multi-billion pound private equity firm based in The Shard. It plans to plant thousands of trees across the valley, prompting locals to launch a fightback, arguing that the afforestation will be largely made up of conifers that could damage soil and have a negative impact on the landscape.

There are also multiple reports of farmers being targeted through cold-calls made by agents working for investors wanting to buy farmland to plant trees.

Rachel Evans, Director of Countryside Alliance Wales said: “It is truly a great honour to receive the support of Roy Noble in what is an incredibly important campaign. We cannot stand by and watch productive agricultural land get swallowed up for tree planting initiatives that while well intentioned, have long term, negative, irreversible consequences for farming families in Wales and threaten our ability to produce our own food. Every signature represents a voice and alongside Roy Noble, we urge the Welsh public to ensure their voices are heard by signing our petition today.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire County Show returns to Haverfordwest in August

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WALES’ largest agricultural show, which attracts around 100,000 visitors and competitors to the county town of Haverfordwest is back this year after a two-year Covid enforced break.

Pembrokeshire County Show will take place on August 17 and 18, the first open to the public since 2019 it promises to be a celebration of rural life in the county.

The last full-scale show, which would normally attract around 100,000 visitors and competitors, was held in August 2019 followed by a virtual event in 2020 and a scaled down version in 2021 for animals and members only.

Mansel Raymond, Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society president said, “We are very excited about the prospect of seeing our wonderful members, competitors, trade stands, sponsors and community coming together once again this August.

“Whether you’re a Pembrokeshire local or just visiting we’re sure you’ll have a fantastic day out.”

There will be some changes this year to the layout of the County Show to make it a better experience for everyone including the trade stands and visitors.

There will be several smaller rings as was the case in the 2021 members only show.

To enable a much larger public viewing area it has also been decided to remove all marquees and trade stands from the immediate main ringside.

This year there will also be a new open air ‘street food’ area. To enable a smooth transition, it is recommended that all trade and catering stands secure their pitches as soon as possible by visiting www.pembsshow.org or ringing 01437 764 331.

Sponsorship and Pembrokeshire County Show have been a successful combination for the last 45 years.

Sponsors have enjoyed promoting their businesses through the varied mediums of banners, announcements, show rings, buildings, equine and livestock classes and championships over the years.

Anyone interested in sponsorship can contact Richard Cole on 01437 764 331 or complete the form on the society’s website.

Tickets for society members and the public will go on sale in the near future. Visit www.pembsshow.org for up-to-date details of this year’s event. You can also follow Pembrokeshire County Show on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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