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Farming

No badger cull but bTB strategy change on cards

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has ruled out controlling the spread of bovine TB through a targeted cull in areas where the disease is endemic.

A spokesperson confirmed the Welsh Government’s position ahead of the publication of a significant review of its TB eradication strategy.

The review, led by Professor Glyn Hewinson of Aberystwyth University, is likely to focus on cattle vaccination and the use of improved tests for TB bacteria in cattle.

False positives for BTB can only be detected after death by a post-mortem.

BOVINE TB DEVASTATES PEMBROKESHIRE FARMS

The persistence of the BTB bacteria in the soil and in the protected wild mammal population, particularly badgers, creates a perfect storm for farmers in our county.

The area around the shared borders of North Pembrokeshire, the Teifi Valley, and North West Carmarthen is a long-standing hotspot for the disease.

Farmers in that area have suffered disproportionate and repeated losses throughout the Welsh Government’s different approaches to eradicating BTB.

When the disease is detected in a herd, it is standard practice for all of it to be slaughtered. Although farmers are partly compensated for their loss, the loss of their stock leaves farmers with long-term problems for their business’s recovery.Herds’ loss and slaughter are linked closely to mental health problems among farmers and farming families. The cost of BTB is much greater than balancing profit and loss.

CURRENT PROGRAMME ISN’T WORKING

Local MS Sam Kurtz, who comes from a farming family, told The Herald: “Since the 1970s, bovine TB has been a dark cloud hanging over our agricultural industry

“While it may not have had the impact on the public’s psyche as the Foot and Mouth crisis had in the early 2000s, bovine TB has been a long and heavy burden on Welsh farmers, with over 20,000 cattle killed in the last 2 years.
“What the Welsh Government have in terms of a policy is the repetition of an outdated and inaccurate testing regime followed by stringent and debilitating restrictions on farmers.

“It is clear, from the latest data showing new bovine TB cases in Wales have risen by 3%, that the Welsh Government’s current eradication programme is simply not working.

“Throughout the pandemic, our farmers have worked 24/7 to keep food on our tables, despite being laboured with the stresses and concerns of routine TB testing.  

“The industry is now desperate for some urgency and a change in strategy.

“A new testing regime, Enferplex, delivers superior accuracy than the current test.

“While it is being undertaken in small pockets of Wales, a dedicated pilot scheme of this new test to collect hard data must be a priority for this Welsh Government.”

The Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test identifies the presence of bovine tuberculosis. Used in conjunction with existing tests, it is far more accurate than current tests in validating positive diagnoses.

EFFECTIVE PROGRAMME MUST TACKLE ALL ASPECTS OF DISEASE

The FUW believes that any future changes to the bTB eradication programme should closely follow the science to develop an effective eradication programme covering all aspects of the disease in Wales.

An FUW spokesperson told us: “Bovine TB continues to suffocate businesses in the high and intermediate areas of infection in Wales and continues to have a significant detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of our farmers and their families.

“September’s Quarterly Publication of National Statistics on the incidence and prevalence of tuberculosis in Cattle in Great Britain shows variable results, with no year-on-year change in the number of herds that are not TB free in the High West Area of Wales, and a 26% rise in the number of herds not TB free in the Intermediate North Area.
“Such results continue to devastate businesses that have made massive sacrifices

to comply with the Welsh Government’s costly and burdensome bovine TB eradication programme.  
“The FUW welcomes further research on this devastating disease as part of a science led and pragmatic approach to TB control in Wales. We look forward to the publication of the next TB review and will be discussing the findings of the review at all relevant political and policy levels.”

NFU CYMRU: WELCOME REVIEW BUT URGE OPEN MIND ON CULL

NFU Cymru County Adviser for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, Peter Howells, said: “It is concerning to see the latest bovine TB statistics published by Defra that show a rise in bovine TB incidents and the loss of 10,775 animals in Wales to this dreadful disease in the year ending June 21. This once again highlights that bovine TB continues to wreak havoc on the cattle industry in Wales.
“In October 2017, we saw the Welsh Government introduce a regionalised approach to tackling the disease in Wales.

NFU Cymru is supportive of an approach that allows for the appropriate measures to be introduced depending on the circumstances.

In Low TB areas of Wales, we must do all we can to keep the disease out.  In areas of the country, such as South West Wales, where the evidence suggests that both cattle and badgers suffer from this disease, we believe that the disease will only be brought under control through a comprehensive package of measures that tackles the infection in both populations.
“We continue to urge Welsh Government to take note of the evidence published from England. A peer-reviewed scientific report examining the effectiveness of badger culling in reducing outbreaks of TB in cattle has shown positive results in England.

“The Defra-commissioned report revealed an average reduction in the incidence of bovine TB of at least 40% in areas of England that have completed at least four years of culling.
“Just across the border in Gloucestershire, the report has shown a 66% decline in new TB breakdowns.
“NFU Cymru continues to use every opportunity to raise with the Minister for Rural Affairs our concerns for the emotional and financial impact this disease causes to farming families. Earlier this summer, we wrote directly to the First Minister on this matter.

“We are aware that the Minister has said she will make a statement on the TB programme later this autumn and that Professor Hewinson is currently carrying out an internal review of the programme. We are pleased that the Minister has asked someone of Professor Hewinson’s experience and expertise to carry out the review and we await with interest the publication of the review.”

WG: EVIDENCE OF CULL’S EFFECTIVENESS INCONCLUSIVE

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “TB in cattle is a huge challenge for all concerned and distressing for farmers who have to deal with it in their herds. Part of the solution to the problem is people’s willingness to work together, both in Government and the industry.  

“The Wales TB Eradication programme is built on co-operation, with three regional eradication boards working at a local level to ensure policies are developed collaboratively and communicated effectively.
“We have outlined in our Programme for Government we will not permit the culling of badgers as part of measures to deal with bovine TB.  

“Recent scientific studies did not provide conclusive evidence that culling badgers alone would reduce incidence levels in cattle herds.

“It has been proven that more infection is transmitted within species than between species, which suggests that controlling transmission among cattle is a priority in the strategy for eliminating TB.

“When the Intensive Action Area (IAA) was established in 2010 with additional measures introduced into the High West TB area, 27.1% of herds were restricted due to TB control. At the end of June 2021, 14.5% of herds were restricted, constituting a decrease in herd prevalence between then and now of 46%.

“We are committed to undertaking a review of the current TB eradication programme, and we will announce a refreshed approach later this year.

“All aspects of the programme will be considered, and we will undertake a consultation in the Autumn to inform future policy.”

VACCINATION AND THE FUTURE

The irony is that a largely effective vaccine already exists.

The BCG vaccination given to humans is 70% effective when used to immunise cattle. The vaccine uses the TB bacteria to provoke an immune response. Once it’s used, however, tests cannot detect the difference between cattle successfully inoculated and infected cattle.

Therefore, vaccinating cows with BCG is banned in most countries, enabling vets to continue to use the PPD skin test to diagnose the disease in cattle.

Scientists at the University of Surrey believe they could have a solution to that problem.

By manipulating the disease’s genetic make-up, the scientists created a BCG-minus strain. They then developed a new synthetic skin test that, like existing tests, will be positive for animals that have been exposed to TB. Unlike those tests, however, the new test will show a negative result for animals that have been vaccinated with the BCG-minus strain.

Johnjoe McFadden, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey, said: “To control the spread of bovine TB, effective vaccination and accurate early diagnosis of the disease are critical. This new vaccine provides protection against bovine TB. It will help fight against this deadly disease that infects over 50 million cattle worldwide and is economically devastating to farmers.

“The next stage of our work will be to demonstrate that both synthetic skin test and BCG-minus vaccine works in cattle herds. If they do, then it will be possible to vaccinate cattle against TB yet retain the value of skin test for diagnosis.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire producer celebrating Porc from Wales Week

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PORC from Wales Week (24 – 30 January) is an annual celebration of artisan producers and retailers that specialise in breeding and supplying high quality porc and porc products, from traditional Welsh sausages to Italian style charcuterie.

With a ‘How far is your fork from our porc’ theme this year, leading figures from Welsh food such as broadcasters Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn of Hang Fire Southern Kitchen fame, and a host of food bloggers from Wales, will be showcasing the very best of locally sourced porc and where consumers can buy it from.

Experts in their field

Wales is home to small-scale and artisan porc producers specialising in creating a unique, hand-reared product; a consequence of this is that it is often only available to buy directly from the producer or local independent shops, like butchers.

How food is produced and the impact it has on the environment have increasingly become important factors for consumers in recent years. For generations, Welsh farmers have played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining the rural landscapes that we know and love, both physically and culturally.

The industry is currently a growing one in Wales with an increasing number of producers starting a new business and research has shown that 2021 sales of pork products UK-wide (fresh and frozen, cuts and processed) were 15% higher than in 2019.

Aled Harper of Snipes Bay Meats, near Haverfordwest, said: “We are small scale farmers in the heart of Pembrokeshire, breeding and rearing pigs to produce quality porc, dry cured bacon and handmade sausages.

“I believe that quality comes not only with skill and attention to detail, but also with dedication and passion. The trick is not to become complacent. That’s when your product will become just another product and not the unique, artisan end product that we aspire to.

“The bonus of buying porc from your local producer is that you know where your meat is coming from. Buying local helps keep everything moving along nicely in our small supply chain. There’s a certain satisfaction when you buy local – its benefits go way beyond the actual product you buy. The effects will be seen on a community level, an economic level and of course on a more holistic, environmental level.”

When Hang Fire met Scott Quinnell

To celebrate Porc from Wales Week, Sam and Shauna will be showing rugby legend Scott Quinnell how to cook porc ‘tomahawks’ with West Indian salsa verde, sweet potato steaks and jerk porc bonbons. 

Sam Evans of the Hang Fire duo said: “We’re delighted to be part of this year’s Porc from Wales Week. We’re all about cooking fresh, local, quality ingredients, with excellent sustainability credentials, so really, porc ticks all our boxes!

“We’ve created this amazing dish of porc tomahawks with a West Indian salsa verde and Scott Quinnell is going to help us make the dish in an exclusive masterclass. We’ll show you (and Scott!) how easy it is to prepare and cook porc and introduce you to some exciting flavours.

“What makes porc so special is that it’s so easy to cook with. We love cooking porc on the BBQ, but we’re excited to show you (and Scott) how you get the best from this fantastic produce in your own kitchen. You can get some cracking results from porc, and people shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with flavours. And it’s not just about bangers on the barbie; porc is great for roasting, frying, stir-frying and slow cooking. So, why not pop to your local butcher’s shop or your local pork producer and ask your butcher for some delicious porc. You won’t be disappointed!”

You can find Hang Fire’s recipe and more information on Porc from Wales Week at www.porcweek.wales

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Farming

WG won’t act to help tenant farmers

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UNSCRUPULOUS landowners are attempting to evict farm tenants to regain possession of land let under Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies for tree planting purposes.


TFA Cymru reports that some landowners, in an effort to cash in on Welsh Government subsidies are trying to use a procedural trick to force tenants off productive farmland.


And it looks like the Welsh Government proposes to do nothing to stop them.


The Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 allows a landlord to use what is called a Case B notice to quit on a tenant if the landlord has gained planning permission for non-agricultural use of the land.


However, tree planting does not require planning permission and therefore a Case B notice to quit cannot be validly served by a landlord who intends to plant trees on the land which is subject to the notice.


TFA Rural Surveyor, Caroline Squire, said “We are seeing a lot of instances where landlords are attempting to resume land for tree planting by using Case B notices. Tenants are not able to contest these notices, so they are quite frightening when they arrive.


“However, tenants can ask for the notice to quit to be referred to arbitration to determine that it is an ineligible notice.


“It is critically important that the notice demanding arbitration is served by the tenant within one month of the date of the landlord’s notice to quit. Failure to respond within the deadline will render the landlords notice valid.


“The only circumstance in which a Case B notice to quit for tree planting might be valid is if the tree planting was ancillary to a development which had planning permission – for example, if there was planning permission for a timber processing facility and the land around it was required to grow timber to be used within that facility.


“Similarly, a landscaping requirement for a housing development might also fall within scope. However, straight tree planting without a co

nnected change of use confirmed by a planning consent will always be out of scope for case B,” said Caroline.


We asked the Welsh Government what steps it was taking NOW to protect tenant farmers’ rights and prevent the abuse of the notice system by rogue landlords.


We also ask what further steps, if any, it proposes to ensure tenants have increased security, tenant farms remain viable, and productive farmland is not destroyed in the pursuit of a subsidy.


And the answer to those questions was “not much”.


A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We encourage tenants in receipt of Case B notices to seek immediate advice from a relevant professional, such as the Tenant Farmers Association, and act within the statutory deadlines.”


They continued to offer even less than “not much”: “We need to plant 86 million trees by the end of this decade if we are to meet NetZero carbon emissions by 2050.


“Properly managed, this also offers a considerable opportunity to the rural economy to create green jobs and skills in harvesting timber for high-value goods.


“We want to work with Welsh farmers and landowners to achieve this.”


In short, the Welsh Government will do nothing to address any current problems and prefers planting trees to food production.


Local MS Sam Kurtz, the Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “This is an alarming situation and one that deserves serious action from the Welsh Government.


 “We already know that Welsh farmers are facing unprecedented pressure from foreign investors to sell off their land for tree planting. If that wasn’t enough, it now appears their attention has shifted to landlords – and so, putting further stress and strain on our tenant farmers.


“The Welsh Government must take serious and immediate action, and not wait for the introduction of the new farming support schemes. It is they who have created the lucrative woodland creation project. Except, it’s not Wales’s farming community who are benefitting from these projects, neither are the people of Wales.


“If we see the landscape of Welsh farms cut up, sold off, and diminished in favour of mass afforestation, then so too we will see the demise of Wales’s rural communities and economies.”

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Farming

Home Office accused over labour shortages

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WESTMINSTER’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee questioned the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration at the Home Office, Kevin Foster MP last week.

Following this meeting, the Chair of the Committee, Neil Parish MP, said: “Labour shortages in the food and farming sector have caused a human and animal welfare crisis. But the Home Office is simply not listening. It is not supplying enough visas for foreign workers in a timely, efficient manner.

“Employers need workers and cannot get them in time. Pigs are being culled and wasted because there are not enough butchers in the abattoirs. Fruit is rotting on trees and crops are not being planted.

“There appears to be a disconnect between this reality and what Mr Foster says.

“Again and again during our evidence session, he said visa systems were in place to resolve the labour shortages.

“The food and farming sector tells us this is not the case.

“We need the Home Office to respond to what farmers and businesses are saying and to stop blaming the sector for being at fault.

“We need an effective cross-Government food and farming labour strategy that deals with immigration and other issues – and we need it fast.

“We have a world-class food production capacity in the UK, but the shortage of workers means we are in real danger of exporting our industry – which means we’ll be importing more of our food

“We were pleased to learn from the Minister that a temporary visa scheme is to be extended to cover the ornamental horticulture sector.

“That’s good news for the daffodil growers of Cornwall – and we thank Mr Foster for that.

“But much of the rest of the farming and food sector is in crisis and we ask the Minister to please listen to its entirely justified cries for help.”

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