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Farming

NFU’s NVZ challenge fails

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NFU Cymru’s judicial review of the Welsh Government’s decision to introduce new water quality regulations across the whole of Wales has been dismissed, following a judgment handed down last week.


The Judge, Sir Wynn Williams, found that the Welsh Government had not acted unlawfully in making the water quality regulations, having heard the parties’ arguments during a virtual hearing spread over three days towards the end of last year. In particular, the Judge concluded that farmers did not have a ‘legitimate expectation’ that an 80% grassland derogation that applies in England and Northern Ireland would be available to them under the regulations.


NFU-Cymru described the outcome as an “incredibly disappointing result for Welsh farmers as it means that the new water quality regulations, which came into force across Wales on 1st April 2021, will remain in place in their current form.” NFU Cymru believes that these regulations are unworkable and pose a significant threat to the economic viability of Welsh farming, the overall impact of which cannot be underestimated. NFU argue the regulations make the whole of Wales an NVZ, attracting disproportionate requirements which will be detrimental to the whole farming sector.


NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “I am obviously very disappointed with today’s judgment, but I am proud that NFU Cymru has been able to stand up for all farmers across Wales to hold Welsh Government to account in its decision-making.

This case was not about seeking to ignore agricultural pollution incidents or trying to reduce environmental protection; it was about ensuring that when the government makes decisions that impact the Welsh farming industry, it does so based on a proper assessment and understanding of those impacts. 

“I hope that the arguments raised during this case will have made the Welsh Government take notice of the impact these regulations will have on Welsh farmers, and we will continue to look for opportunities to find ways to reduce the burden on farmers.


“A good starting point would be for Welsh Government to increase the support offered to farmers in order to be able to comply with these regulations. Welsh farmers face having to find up-front costs of £360 million and ongoing yearly costs of £14 million a year. 

“The package of support to farmers to make these drastic changes is, in our view, woefully inadequate and I hope that Welsh Government will increase the existing funding available to support farmers in complying with the regulations. “Unfortunately, we are already aware of farming families leaving the industry as a direct consequence of the regulations.


“Despite the ultimate outcome of the case, I am extremely proud of the leadership NFU Cymru has shown in being the organisation to take on this legal challenge on behalf of the whole Welsh agricultural industry. “I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and expertise of NFU Cymru staff, the union’s in-house legal team, our legal panel firm JCP, Counsel at Essex Court Chambers and the NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme in ensuring that the voice of Welsh farming was heard in the High Court.

”Although the Welsh Government promised to review the regulations following a series of knife-edge votes in the Senedd, it also kicked the review into the long grass by placing it way down its list of priorities for examination by Senedd Committees.Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for agriculture and rural affairs, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “This is a disappointing result for farmers in Wales. “But it doesn’t detract from the fact that questions have been rightly asked of these regulations. 

“Everybody wants to see water quality improve, and where people or businesses are found to be polluting water bodies then they should pay the price. “However, we believe that a blanket approach is not proportionate and will be counterproductive.

“It’s also a shame that the calls for derogation were dismissed, therefore putting farmers in Wales at a disadvantage to other farmers in the United Kingdom. “We’ll continue to work to try and find a more targeted approach to ensure that water pollution by the agricultural sector is tackled, and the sector as a whole is not penalised as a consequence of the actions of a few in certain areas.”

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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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