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Farming

Welsh Government must balance farming priorities

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IN EARLY July, the Welsh Government published its proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

Robert Dangerfield, Communications Manager for the Country Land Owners and Business Association Cymru, responds.

We are pleased to see the ambition shown within the document to support sustainable and profitable food production alongside addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies.

The proposals arise after three consultations over five years and reflect the work our members and the CLA team have done with Welsh Government.

We are happy to see considerable detail on what the scheme will pay for, the process for how farmers and landowners can apply, and how the transition from the current landscape of the Basic Payment Scheme and Glastir to the Sustainable Farming Scheme will work.

We do, however, have some specific concerns.

Firstly, the requirements for 10% woodland/forestry cover and a 10% requirement for habitat creation and maintenance may not be suitable for all holdings. The need to balance sustainable food production must be considered further.

Secondly, there are no specific payment rates for the scheme. Welsh Government have explained that this is because the current funding settlement with the UK Government only goes to 2024, so they cannot commit to specific rates. This is disappointing, and we will continue to lobby to ensure future funding matches the commitments within the proposals.

WHAT HAS BEEN PROPOSED?

Despite the concerns highlighted above, there is a fair amount of detail within the document. To summarise, the scheme includes a farm sustainability review that will include farm details (size, sector, livestock), a carbon assessment and a baseline habitat survey.

The review will be digital, where possible, to reduce cost and concentrate resources on scheme delivery.

It will provide entry to the scheme and identify the actions Welsh Government will pay for. These will consist of a mixture of universal activities that all applicants must undertake – for which they will receive a baseline payment via a five-year contract and optional and collaborative actions which will attract additional payments.

The universal actions include:

·        Record of key performance indicators;

·        10% of land for woodland/forestry and 10% for habitat creation/maintenance;

·        Undertake animal health and welfare plan;

·        Undertake a biosecurity plan;

·        Manage areas of cultural/heritage significance;

·        Undertake a five-yearly soil analysis.

The optional and collaborative actions are very wide-ranging and will be able to be tailored for the plethora of different farm types across Wales. One particular area of importance for our membership is access.

The proposal outline that any options relating to access are optional and include:

·        upgrading footpaths to multi-use paths;

·        enhancing existing paths to make them more accessible;

·        establishing joined-up and new access routes and trails;

·        establishing new access;

·        hosting educational and care farm visits.

We will continue to work with the various access fora and the Welsh Government to ensure that any new access is voluntary, incentivised, and permissive.

INITIAL VIEWS

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show took place a week after the publication of the proposals, providing an ideal opportunity for discussion with lots of different organisations and our members.

Not surprisingly, the “10 and 10 requirements” dominated many meetings and conversations I had.

Some farmers were not concerned as they had already reached these percentages on their holding but were worried about land held under Farm Business Tenancies that often did not include the woodland.

In the short term, there are no quick answers; but the CLA Cymru team will be part of a Welsh Government-organised tenancy working group to discuss the impact of the proposals on landowners and tenants.

Other members outlined their worries that they needed all the productive land they had to go towards feeding their stock or growing their crops. This is a real concern.

For some, the solution will be to sustainably intensify other parts of their farm and become more efficient.

Where this is not possible, the role of exemptions for some farms must be considered by Welsh Government.

AGRICULTURE (WALES) BILL

The Agriculture (Wales) Bill will be published this Autumn.

It will be the legislative mechanism by which Welsh Government can administer the new scheme.

Ministers are confident it will receive Royal Assent by summer 2023, ready to begin testing, trialling, and introducing the new scheme.

We will be working with Members of the Senedd to ensure scrutiny of the Bill and to propose amendments if we see fit.

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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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