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Farming

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

Farmers warned to not cut corners as pressure mounts to get work done

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FARMERS will be under more pressure than ever during cultivation and harvesting this season, after challenging weather delayed operations, but the Wales Farm Safety Partnership (WFSP) warns that health and safety must not be compromised.

From the maintenance of machines before they are used to being aware of the height of overhead electricity cables, there are multiple considerations for farmers at what can be their busiest few months.

Brian Rees, a farmer who is also a trainer and mentor in health and safety at Farming Connect, gives advice on some of the key areas that must not be overlooked.

1.     Maintenance

It will often be the first time in months that some machines have been put to work so important maintenance assessments need to be done before they are operated.

Check brakes on tractors and implements and tyre pressures too.

Grease moving parts such as hitching systems.

Ensure that oil levels are high so that oil pressure isn’t lost when the machine is operating.

2.     Safe stop

When parking a vehicle, always apply the handbrake, engage the gear system in neutral, turn off the engine and remove the key.

If there is a loader or other implement on the front, always lower this before turning the engine off.

3.     Check stocks of in-cab items

Every farm vehicle, from tractors to combine harvesters, should have a first aid kit in its cab and also plenty of drinking water.

Most people now have a mobile phone and it is most important than ever to carry this during field work.

4.     Lone working

Technology has provided some important tracking tools for farmers working in isolated locations.

Apps such as Find My Friends and Life 360 provide live updates on where the phone – and farmer – are located.

Farmers should always let someone know where they are working and the approximate time they expect to return.

5.     Working on slopes

Keep vehicles in four-wheel drive and ensure the weight of the vehicle is on the gripping wheels – that means on the lower side of how the vehicle is positioned on the slope.

Having the correct tyre pressure is more important than ever when operating machines on more challenging terrain.

Always wear a seatbelt when in the cab.

6.     Using the road safely

Larger machines can straddle the highway on double carriageways so appropriate safety measures need to be taken, including having convoy vehicles to warn other motorists.

This is sensible on smaller country roads to, to avoid congestion or meeting oncoming vehicles when there is no room to pass, and to check the road ahead for potential obstructions.

Although there is no law dictating when slow-moving vehicles should pull over to allow other road users to pass, the guidance is to do so at the next appropriate spot when there are six vehicles behind.

7.     Beware of overhead power cables

Lines that have up to 32 kV of power must have a minimum ground clearance of at least 5.2m, and lines with up to 132 kV should be 6.7m or more from the ground.

What many farmers might not take into account though is that power cables can drop during hot weather, sometimes by half a metre, so this needs to be considered when working near them.

8.     Be seen on the highway

By law, farm vehicles must be fitted with a flashing beacon when they are travelling along an unrestricted dual carriageway but it is sensible to have this on a country road too, to warn other road users of a slow moving vehicle.

A second beacon might be needed if a tractor is towing a high-sided trailer or machine as the beacon, which must be seen from 360 degrees, could be obscured.

Never use a tractor’s working lights on the highway at night as the glare of these will cause dazzle for motorists travelling in front or behind.

9.     Keep children safe

Children should only ever be in a working area on a farm when they are 100% supervised by a responsible person who is not part of the working team.

Children under 13 should never ride in the cab of any agricultural machine.

10.  Fire prevention

Any dust or chaff on harvesting equipment presents a fire hazard so ensure that any these are blown off regularly to prevent build-up.

11.  Fatigue

The hours can be long during cultivation and harvesting so it is important to be aware of the signs of fatigue and to take a break when these start to set in.

It can be sensible to have changeovers of staff operating machines – for example in a harvesting situation, the combine or forage harvester operator will be working continuously while the tractor drivers might have the opportunity of a short break between loads. Switch between the two if the drivers have the relevant expertise.

12.  Protect against heat and sun

Harvesting ideally takes place when the weather is warm and sunny but with heat and sun come the need for frequent hydration and sun protection.

Drink plenty of water, wear sun cream and a hat, and keep arms and legs covered during the hottest part of the day.

13.  Be visible in the yards

Ensure that any pedestrians who are, for example directing drivers into pits, are wearing hi-vis clothing so that they can be clearly seen.

Minimise reversing manoeuvres; while these can’t be eliminated entirely they can be reduced and this is important as the biggest killer on farms is people being run over or crushed by a moving vehicle.

Some new models of tractors and trailers are now fitted with reversing alarms.

For more advice, come and see us at the RWAS Sustainable Grassland and Muck event at Trawscoed Farm on the 30th May 2024.

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Farming

Simon Hart calls for a Sustainable Farming Scheme that delivers

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FURTHER delays to the introduction of new farming subsidies in Wales have met with a cautious welcome.

Following widespread protests from farmers, Welsh Labour Rural Affairs Secretary, Huw Irranca-Davies, has announced the Sustainable Farming Scheme will now be put on hold until 2026.

The decision has been welcomed by former Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart MP. The candidate for Caerfyrddin says the Welsh government must now work closely with farmers – and not against them.

He said: “We are told this decision shows the Plaid Cymru / Welsh Labour Cooperation administration is listening to farmers concerns. In my opinion, they should have been listening to them from the get-go and these proposals should never have been included by Plaid Cymru as part of their co-operation agreement.

“Whilst I appreciate this pause gives the Welsh government more time to get this vital scheme right, it also prolongs uncertainty in an industry that is at the very heart of our economy.

“We now need to see real progress, with the Plaid Cymru / Welsh Labour cooperators working at pace, alongside people who know the industry, to deliver a scheme that brings real benefits to our farmers.”

After a series of delays, the Sustainable Farming System was meant to come into operation in April 2025.

Rules that meant 10% of land needed to be covered by woodland and 10% earmarked for wildlife habitat caused widespread protests and led to claims that 5,000 jobs could be lost from the industry.

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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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