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Farming

Christmas comes early for Brian

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Winners: Ffermio presenter Alun Elidyr (left) with Mrs Thomas and Llion Roberts from Ifor Williams Trailers

Winners: Ffermio presenter Alun Elidyr (left) with Mrs Thomas and Llion Roberts from Ifor Williams Trailers

A SEMI-RETIRED farmer whose ill-health means he now watches more TV is celebrating after winning a major prize. 73-year-old Brian Thomas is now the proud owner of a new trailer worth over £2,000 after entering a competition on the popular S4C programme Ffermio. Every year the programme runs the competition in partnership with Ifor Williams Trailers, Europe’s biggest trailer manufacturers, and the number of entries has increased over the years.

Viewers are asked to answer questions over a seven-week period and then, using the initial letters, give a seven-letter word. Brian, of Blaengilfach Uchaf, Cilrhedyn, Llanfyrnach, near Crymych in Pembrokeshire, has come up with the correct answers every year but until now has not been lucky enough to win. He has won this year’s second prize, an LM85G model, eight-feet long and with dropsides, a headboard and tailboard, which is worth £1,970 plus VAT.

Blaengilfach Uchaf is a 200-acre holding on which Brian, who also worked as an agricultural contractor, keeps store cattle and sheep. He is one of five siblings, four of whom farmed in the area. He is helped on the farm by his wife Mary and son-in-law Richard Davies, and over the past three years his deteriorating health has restricted his mobility.

“I now have more time to watch TV and read, and so I do enter more competitions,” he said. His only other success came when he won £500 in a competition on the S4C programme Rasus. There are already two Ifor Williams trailers at Blaengilfach Uchaf but the new model will prove very useful for different jobs.

“We always buy the company’s trailers because they are the best around,” said Brian. Unfortunately, due to his illhealth, he was unable to attend this year’s Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s Winter Fair at Llanelwedd, and so it was left to Mary and their daughter Elaine to collect their prize and take it home to Llanfyrnach. Gwawr Lewis, of the production company Telesgop, who make Ffermio, said that interest in the competition increased every year.

“Whether you’re a farmer or someone who loves the great outdoors an Ifor Williams trailer will always be a superb product to win,” she said , “It’s fantastic that the company has, once again, put up three of their best products as prizes, which helped to ensure that interest was again massive.

“The Ffermio competition is very valuable to us, with viewers far and wide tuning in, in the hope of getting their hands on the trailers. “The winners appreciate the quality of the trailers, be they farmers, small holders, or horse owners. It is a very special time for Telesgop’s Ffermio team, to see the excellent prizes going once more to very worthy winners. ”

Iorwerth Roberts, the company’s head of sales in North Wales, said Ifor Williams Trailers was proud to be associated with Ffermio and that the faith in their product was clearly demonstrated in the response to the competition. “We have had fantastic support from our loyal customers over many years and in return we feel it is vitally important to support the rural community,” he said.

“Ffermio provides us with a great way of giving something back.” Winner of the first prize, a TA5G 10-feet-long trailer with sheep decks, worth £4,105 plus VAT, was Myrddin Davies, of Ffordd Tan y Ysgol, Llanrwst, while the third prize of a Q5e model with hinged solid sides, roof rack and stock door, worth £1,110 plus VAT went to Morris Jones, of Tryal Farm, Llanrhystyd, near Aberystwyth.

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Farming

FUW welcomes new minister

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Minister for the Environment: Hannah Blythyn

THE FARMERS’ UNION OF WALES has welcomed the announcement in continuity in the Welsh Government, following the Cabinet reshuffle (Nov 3), which saw Lesley Griffiths continuing in her role as Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, with the addition of a deputy, Hannah Blythyn as Minister for Environment.

Responding to the news, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We welcome the continuity of keeping Lesley Griffiths as our Cabinet Secretary. Our working relationship has been a positive one and we look forward to continue working with her.

“With issues such as climate change and water management dominating agendas such as those listed in the Well-being of Future Generations Act, we are pleased to see Mrs Griffiths will be able to continue to fight for the interests of our rural communities – communities for which agriculture is a cornerstone.

“We are also pleased to see that Hannah Blythyn has joined the Cabinet. The addition of a new Minister recognises the complexity of the portfolio and we look forward to working with Hannah in the context of her remit.

“We met with Lesley Griffiths last week and will now seek a meeting with Hannah Blythyn at the earliest opportunity, to discuss those issues which are of concern to farmers and have an impact on all aspects of her portfolio.”

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Farming

Commitment on funding welcomed

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Addressing NFU Cymru conference: Lesley Griffiths

NFU CYMRU has welcomed the Welsh Government reaffirming its commitment to ring-fence funding for Welsh farming post-Brexit.

Last week NFU Cymru met with Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, and in a wide ranging discussion covering a range of topics, Brexit topped the agenda.

Following the meeting, NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “I am pleased that in our meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths AM, she reaffirmed the commitment from the First Minister that funding for Welsh agriculture from the UK Government to the Welsh Government will be ring-fenced for Welsh farmers post-Brexit.”

The Cabinet Secretary’s commitment follows on from a response that the First Minister gave to Plenary on October 24 and reaffirms the commitment in the Welsh Government / Plaid Cymru Securing Wales’ Future document which stated that it is ‘essential that equivalent or greater resources to those Wales would have received from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are provided from the UK to support Welsh farming’.

Stephen James continued: “NFU Cymru’s message on future funding arrangements has been clear and unequivocal. Governments in Cardiff and Westminster must maintain current levels of investment for farming in Wales, to ensure Welsh farmers remain competitive and can continue to produce food to the highest standards whilst maintaining and enhancing our environment and meeting our climate change obligations.

“At Plenary, the First Minister mentioned that he would consider looking at alternate ways of working and we would absolutely agree with that. This is an opportunity for us in Wales to work collectively to create a new agricultural policy framework that helps to achieve our vision of a productive, progressive and profitable farming industry that delivers jobs, growth and investment for Wales.

“We see the development of a new policy framework as an evolution over a period of time, with the timeframe for change very much determined by our future trading relationship with the EU.

“With the UK Government having committed to the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament, the next step is for the UK Government to clarify how these funds will be allocated amongst the home nations. This allocation should be based on the current formula for distributing CAP funds within the UK.

“Farming is a long term business and we need clarity and certainty on a range of issues including funding, trade and future agricultural policy. Developing agricultural policy and budgetary frameworks should be developed in partnership between the governments of the UK, so that a common policy framework can be agreed. A common policy, but a policy which allows flexibility for each country to take account of the pattern and practice of farming within their country.”

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Farming

Family farms on the brink

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Under threat: Over 80% of small farms are struggling

FEWER than one in five family farms are making a profit from their farming activity, according to research undertaken by the Andersons Centre on behalf of The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Analysis of data from 172 participants in the first year of The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme has shown that the average farm made more than £20,000 loss from farming activities, and instead is reliant on other income streams to make a profit.

The shortfall was made up by income from non-farming activity, such as tourism enterprises, renewables, direct selling of products to the consumer, or income from working off farm as well as farm payments.

According to the report, broadly speaking, farmers face two business choices in order to cope with declining economic fortunes: either to focus on a farming solution or to redeploy resources away from agricultural production. In reality, it may be a combination of the two or farmers may vacillate between the two courses of action with periods of off-farm work generating income interspersed with a focus on the farm.

There are, of course, two further options open to farmers. First, they may cease farming, either entirely through selling up the farm or by letting their land. Or secondly, they might tighten the belt and continue business as usual.

Worryingly, many operators of small farms, believe the near future will see them retiring or otherwise leaving agriculture altogether.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle, chairman of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “Although the initial figure is startling, the research from the Andersons Centre shows that farmers are increasingly looking at their farms as a business, and are proactively looking for how they can generate an income from diversified sources to remain profitable.

“This is more crucial now than ever. Farmers must develop their skills and improve their business confidence to survive. If they do not, the risk of extinction for the family farm is very real; farmers must act now to both strengthen their core farming business and to spread the risk.

“The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme is vital, because it equips farmers with the tools they need to remain financially stable. Maintaining diversity of farm size is essential to protect the British countryside and our rural communities.”

The Andersons Centre developed a bespoke and easy to use Business Health Check Tool for The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme, allowing farmers on the programme to benchmark their performance, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and make informed business decisions as a result. Data from this tool was analysed to identify trends and performance in the farm businesses involved in the initiative.

The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme aims to help 300 family farms, across 15 locations, each year. It brings together like minded family farm enterprises in local networks, to review their current activity and identify improvements and opportunities that can be made on-farm to build resilience, effectively helping farmers to take control of their businesses. Farmers who took part in the first year have confirmed they have higher levels of confidence in their business, better business management, and stronger communication within their family.

The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme directly addresses some of the issues raised in a report commissioned by the Fund from the University of Exeter, ‘Is there a future for the small family farm in the UK?’

The report detailed how the loss of small family farms would have devastating effects for the British countryside, leading to loss of employment, breakdown of rural communities, and potential negative environmental consequences. The report concluded that it was essential to maintain a diverse range of farm sizes, but that this was in significant jeopardy.

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