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Farming

The Four Nations come together for Agri Expo 2024

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JUDGES from the four corners of the UK and Ireland will take on the challenge of tapping out the winners from the best of British livestock, at this year’s internationally recognised Borderway Agri Expo in Carlisle on Friday 1st November 2024, including Haverfordwest’s Brian Davies, taking on the Mule Judge role.

Widely recognised as the UK’s premier livestock event, and watched live online by thousands of people all over the world, Borderway Agri Expo attracts the fiercest competition for top honors from breeders and farmers who bring their award winning cattle and sheep to the Borderway show ring from across the British Isles.

Since the event’s inception in 2008, organisers Harrison & Hetherington have invited the very best judges every year to make the almost impossible distinctions between excellent and outstanding. For the 18th and emphatically the biggest Agri Expo, this year is no exception, and four internationally respected judges representing Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland have accepted the invitation to take on this toughest of tasks.

The Mule classes will be judged by Welsh sheep farmer and breeder Brian Davies; William Smith will be travelling from County Meath in Ireland to judge the cattle classes at Borderway; the Baby Beef Classes and Young Handlers will be judged by Scotland’s Craig Robertson; and representing England is Cumbrian based Steven Wilson, who will lead the sheep judging.

Harrison & Hetherington’s Agri Expo organiser, Laura Millar, underlines the weight of responsibility the judges are taking on their shoulders at Agri Expo. “This event has become one of the most important showcases for the best of British cattle and sheep in the annual calendar, and our classes take place under the scrutiny of expert breeders and farmers not only here at Borderway but online across Europe and the USA, and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

“It takes an exceptional judge to command the respect of an audience like that on such a big stage, and our four judges have the integrity, knowledge, and the authority to make decisions that everyone will accept. They have the highest of standards themselves, and that’s what they will be looking for in our show rings. We are immensely grateful to them and we’re looking forward to the biggest and best Agri Expo ever on the 1st of November at Borderway Carlisle.”

A full-time farmer and breeder, William Smith founded the famous pedigree Millbrook Limousin herd that produced the mother of Wilodge Posh Spice, who set a world record sale price in 2021. His judging credentials include the French National and Royal Welsh Limousin Shows amongst many others, but he accepts the invitation to judge at Borderway as a special honour. “I am very humbled to be asked to judge at Agri Expo. The quality of the stock is second to none and you get the very best cattle at Agri Expo of both show beef and presentation.”

In judging the sheep section Steven Wilson from Wigton, Cumbria, an experienced livestock professional and butcher, brings a wealth of knowledge in market demands. Steven established Steven Wilson Butchers in his twenties, and now has two shops, based in Corby Hill and Brampton. His philosophy is to buy sheep wholesale from local suppliers whenever possible, ensuring that his customers receive high-quality, locally sourced meat.

He knows that local sourcing not only supports the community but also meets the high standards his customers have come to expect, “my customers know, if they come into my butchers, they are going to get quality first and foremost, if they buy a lamb chop, they know that they are getting meat on the bone, that is what I look for when buying.”

Steven expressed both surprise and pleasure at being selected to judge at Agri Expo, and plans to focus on selecting robust lambs that exhibit both weight and length. “I will be looking for a good strong lamb, with a bit of weight and length. There will be a good line up of sheep without a doubt, and I will of course be looking for outstanding matching pairs.”

Welsh sheep farmer and breeder, Brian Davies who is judging the coveted Mule sheep, has dedicated his career to breeding pedigree sheep, focusing primarily on Bluefaced Leicesters and Dutch Spotted sheep, along with Welsh Mules.

Brian has been a regular presence in Cumbria and Borderway, and his stock has consistently excelled, with his Mules achieving top prices at notable sales in Builth Wells and Welshpool. Having judged sheep across Wales and at the prestigious Great Yorkshire Show, he will be bringing all his expertise and experience into the judging spotlight at Agri Expo. “It is an honour to be asked to judge here, and I am looking forward to what I know will be a tremendous line-up of stock.”

Perthshire farmer and a highly respected judge, Craig Robertson, will be bringing his own wealth of expertise to the Baby Beef and Young Handlers classes at Agri Expo 2024. His primary focus on the family farm is breeding top-tier show cattle and high-quality commercial calves, but he also manages a flock of nearly 700 ewes, and both his young sons are following their father into the sheep showing ring.

With over a century of family history at Newton of Logierait and his own successors already deeply involved in raising top quality livestock, Craig has an understandable passion for supporting the next generation of farmers. “It is great to see the next generation coming on and encouraging them and keeping them in the industry is crucial. I know from recent shows I have attended the huge amount of time, effort, and commitment these young people put into showing stock. It is a joy to see them.”

Borderway Agri Expo is one of the largest autumn livestock events in the UK Agri industry, showcasing the best quality beef cattle and sheep, and the latest developments in farming practice, breeding, genetics, machinery, equipment, technology, environmental issues, livestock marketing and export opportunities. It is a celebration of excellence in British Livestock, and the farmers, breeders and stockmen who look after them.

Further details will be updated regularly on the event’s dedicated web site – www.borderwayagriexpo.uk

Farming

Conservatives challenge Welsh Government over farming scheme

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have announced a debate in the Senedd, scheduled for July 17, 2024, focusing on the importance of Welsh farming and challenging the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to agricultural policy. The debate comes in the wake of ongoing concerns over the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) and its impact on the farming community.

The motion, brought forward by the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, James Evans MS, aims to highlight the critical role of farming in Wales. Evans criticised the Welsh Labour Government’s handling of agricultural issues, stating that the current SFS does not adequately support farmers and overlooks the essential contributions of the farming sector to the Welsh economy and rural communities.

“Labour continues to take our farmers for granted,” Evans said. “Unlike Labour, the Welsh Conservatives would make sure we have a Sustainable Farming Scheme that works for our farmers, not against them, safeguarding the future of our crucial industry.”

The motion to be debated reads:

  1. Celebration of Economic Contribution: The Senedd is urged to celebrate the valuable economic contribution of Welsh farming to the economy.
  2. Support for Rural Events: The motion acknowledges the benefits of events like the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod in supporting rural communities and promoting Welsh culture and language.
  3. Opposition to Current SFS: It supports the strong opposition within the agricultural community against the current SFS, reinforcing the message “no farmers, no food.”
  4. Call for Government Action:
  • Ensure the new SFS has the support of the farming community, with food security and environmental protection at its core.
  • Work with the UK Government to expand on its minimal mention of farming in the general election manifesto and develop a comprehensive plan for farming across the UK.

The Welsh Labour Government has faced significant backlash over the SFS, particularly the requirements for farms to have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of land managed as semi-natural habitats. Farmers argue that these measures could take substantial portions of their land out of production, jeopardising their livelihoods.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, has acknowledged these concerns and announced revisions to the SFS. The revised scheme, set to commence in 2026 with a preparatory phase in 2025, aims to balance environmental sustainability with economic viability. However, the Welsh Conservatives argue that more needs to be done to ensure the scheme truly supports farmers.

The upcoming debate is expected to be a crucial platform for discussing these issues and pushing for a more farmer-friendly approach to agricultural policy in Wales.

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Farming

Welsh Government revises Sustainable Farming Scheme after protests

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WELSH Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, has announced that the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) will commence in 2026, following a preparatory phase in 2025. This phase is intended to provide advice and support to farmers in advance of the scheme’s full implementation.

The SFS, which aims to create a sustainable agricultural sector in Wales, has been the subject of intense debate and protests from the farming community. Protests have been held across Wales, with significant demonstrations in March and April 2024. Farmers have raised concerns over the feasibility and financial implications of the scheme, particularly the requirements for farms to have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of land managed as semi-natural habitats. Many fear that these rules could take up to 20% of their land out of production, impacting their livelihoods.

In response to these concerns, Irranca-Davies published the Welsh Government’s revised plan on July 11, 2024. The consultation titled ‘Sustainable Farming Scheme: Keeping Farmers Farming’ received extensive feedback, leading to several key revisions:

  1. Revised Tree Cover Requirements: The 10% tree cover requirement has been clarified to apply only to suitable land, excluding areas unfit for planting or beyond a farmer’s control. This adjustment aims to reduce the burden on farmers while still promoting environmental benefits.
  2. Extended Timeline: The full implementation of the SFS is now scheduled for 2026, with a preparatory phase in 2025. This phase will offer advice and support to farmers to help them transition to the new scheme.
  3. Collaborative Development: The Welsh Government has established a Ministerial Roundtable to further engage with the farming community and other stakeholders. This forum will help shape the final design and implementation of the SFS, ensuring that it reflects the needs and concerns of all parties involved.
  4. Support and Stability Payments: During the transition period, farmers will receive Stability Payments to maintain their income levels. This measure is intended to mitigate financial instability as they adapt to the new requirements.
  5. Ongoing Consultation: The Carbon Sequestration Evidence Panel will continue to review and consider alternative proposals to enhance carbon sequestration within the scheme. The Government will provide periodic updates on the progress of these consultations throughout the year.

Irranca-Davies acknowledged the concerns raised by farmers, stating, “I know that this has been an unsettling time for many farmers and their families. We will continue to work at pace to finalise the scheme so that we can provide certainty about future support as soon as possible. By working together, we can ensure a sustainable agriculture industry in Wales for generations to come.”

Environmental groups such as RSPB Cymru and the Nature Friendly Farming Network support the scheme, emphasising the necessity of sustainable practices in the face of climate change. They argue that the revised scheme balances environmental stewardship with agricultural productivity.

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Farming

FUW sends message to Starmer for a fair annual funding for Welsh agriculture

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THE Farmers’ Union of Wales will waste no time in sending a clear message to the incoming UK Labour Government at Westminster that Wales seeks a fair, annual funding settlement of £450 million in EU CAP legacy funding to support food production, the rural economy and the work farmers do for the environment.

Winning a landslide general election at a time when Welsh farming faces an important crossroads, the UK Labour Party now has the opportunity to influence the future of rural Wales for decades to come.

Speaking in response to the results, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Firstly, I would like to congratulate the newly elected Prime Minister and his party for a historic general election victory, and thank those MPs we have worked closely with over the past five years.

“This election has brought about considerable change to the political landscape of Wales, with a significant reduction in the number of constituencies, changes in boundaries, and now a new UK Labour Government holding a majority in Westminster.

“The FUW is not affiliated to any political party and is therefore prepared to engage and work with politicians from all parties to ensure the voices of Welsh farmers are heard.”

The FUW General Election Manifesto sets out the Union’s key priorities of the incoming government, focussing on securing a fair, multi-annual funding settlement of at least £450 million per year in EU CAP legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales. The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

It is essential that the newly elected UK Government ensures that any future deals with other countries and trading blocs take a far more robust approach that protects UK farmers and food security. With that, food imports and exports must be subject to the same custom and standard controls which provides a level playing field between UK and EU producers.

The Union’s Manifesto also calls on the UK Government to introduce procurement policies that prioritise public body support for Welsh and British businesses and promote a more transparent supply chain.

“Whilst the direction of farming in Wales heavily depends on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the incoming UK administration will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development. It will also rule the extent of which Welsh producers are expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“This is why we will waste no time in contacting the newly elected MPs in Wales and those that take on influential roles in parliament to ensure that we outline our key priorities at an early stage.

“Despite the challenge of navigating an ever changing political landscape, our role as the FUW in lobbying governments for the best possible outcomes for Welsh agriculture remains constant and relentless,” said Ian Rickman.

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