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Farming

Hogan outlines crisis measures

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Criticised over trade talks: EU Commissioner Phil Hogan

Criticised over trade talks: EU Commissioner Phil Hogan

SPEAKING in the European Parliament on Tuesday, Commissioner Phil Hogan unveiled details of the latest EU support package agreed last month.

The Commissioner acknowledged that the crisis facing dairy producers and pig farmers has been ‘Both deeper and longer lasting than any of us had anticipated.’

He said he was pleased to confirm that, on Monday, the Commission adopted three draft Regulations. The first, doubling the intervention ceilings for skimmed milk powder and butter (though this needs official approval from the European Council).

The Commission has also activated regulations that allow producer organisations to plan milk production for a period of six months, and extended the regulations’ scope to include co-ops and other organisations.

Hogan also said: “The Commission has and is continuing to make every effort to lift the protectionist ban imposed by Russia on pig products from the EU.”

Russia introduced a ban on imports of food and farming products from European and North American states in 2014, in response to sanctions imposed as tensions grew over war in the Ukraine.

He added, “Even though so far the Russian reaction has not been very positive, the dialogue remains open.”

Hogan said the Commission is also looking for new opportunities outside Europe; having returned from a trip to Colombia and Mexico (which he described as “encouraging”), the Commissioner will leave for Kazakhstan, China and Japan later this week.

However, though the Commissioner’s “diplomatic offensive” might be yielding promising results, talks with the Mercosur trade bloc have drawn criticism from farm groups and EU Farm Ministers.

At the EU Council meeting on Monday, a large number of EU farm ministers warned that a trade deal could see South American agricultural produce – beef, in particular – flooding the market and undercutting European farmers.

Speaking at the EU’s agriculture council meeting on Monday, Hogan said he remains committed to the trade talks, but promised that negotiators are “very sensitive” to the needs of EU farmers.

EU farm groups have claimed the sector risks losing in excess of 7 billion euros as a result of the Mercosur deal.

Farmers claim the South American trade group is already a major exporter of agri commodities to the EU (accounting for 86% of beef and 70% of poultry meat imports), and have questioned the environmental, traceability and quality standards of meat imports.

On Monday, Thomas Magnusson, president of EU farm group Cogeca, said, “The Commission also promised Ministers it would come up with an impact assessment before proceeding with an offer which it has failed to do.”

Discussing the EU’s support packages, the agriculture Commissioner continued, “Over the past two years, the Commission has mobilised more than €1 billion in additional funding to support farmers, which complements the €56 billion which farmers received last year.

As part of that and in response to a deteriorating situation last summer, you will recall that the Commission took swift and decisive action to provide a €500m support package last September, including €420m in direct targeted aid.”

At a meeting with the Dutch EU presidency on Monday, European farming leader Thomas Magnusson urged Ministers to adopt measures that they agreed on last month as soon as possible including loan/ debt relief for investments.

He warned of the difficult situation on the dairy market, with prices continuing to drop for 25 months and farmers being squeezed by high input costs, and said that the lack of money paid out by member states has seriously reduced the impact of the headline measures.

On Tuesday, Hogan said updated figures should be published later in the day, and added: “Before passing judgement on the effectiveness of either the September package or the proposals I made last month, I would urge you to give those measures the opportunity to work.

In particular, I would point to the fact that, at the end of February, only €162m of the €420m allocated to Member States in September had been spent in 14 Countries.”

Defending the Commission’s response to the crisis, Hogan added: “We have legislative and budgetary constraints within which we must operate, including the market orientation of the CAP and the functioning of the internal market.

“Within those parameters, I believe the Commission’s response has been swift and robust. We have now essentially deployed all of the instruments available to us.”

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Farming

First Minister to address FUW’s AGM

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Glyn Roberts: Welcomes First Minister to conference

THE FARMERS’ U​NION OF WALES is looking forward to welcome First Minister Carwyn Jones as the keynote speaker at its annual general meeting, which is taking place on Monday, June 18, at the William Davies Suite, IBERS in Aberystwyth.

The event is due to start at 1​:​30pm with a warm welcome from FUW President Glyn Roberts, which will be followed by a question and answer session on Brexit and #FarmingMatters.

Speaking ahead of the AGM, Glyn Roberts said: “We look forward to welcoming the First Minister to our AGM, which is likely to be his last engagement with the FUW in his current role.

“It promises to be a great afternoon of farming matters discussions, with a strong focus on agriculture in Wales post-Brexit, as well as #FairFarmFunding and I hope to see many of you there.

“And as is tradition we will also be revealing the winners of the FUW Owen Slaymaker Award, FUW New Members Award, and the FUW Long Service Award, in addition to a variety of FUW Insurance Services awards.”

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Farming

Manifesto sets Brexit agenda

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Industry presents united voice: Tariff-free trade a priority

LEADERS of over 100 organisations from across the nation’s food supply chain have put their names to a manifesto setting out the key principles that can help ensure Brexit is a success for the supply of food in the UK.

The UK Food Supply Chain Manifesto, has been drawn up by organisations representing farmers producing the raw ingredients and their suppliers, right through to manufacturers and retailers. It sets out the need for positive outcomes on trade, labour, regulation and domestic agricultural policy.

With little more than 10 months to go before Brexit, the manifesto emphasises the importance of ensuring our departure from the EU does not undermine the food production and supply sectors in the UK.

The manifesto has been sent to the Prime Minister by NFU President Minette Batters on behalf of the signatories, as well as other key cabinet ministers.

Mrs Batters said: “Today we are presenting a united voice as a food and farming sector worth at least £112bn to the UK economy and employing around 4 million people; a food and farming sector that meets 61% of the nation’s food needs with high-welfare, traceable and affordable food; a food and farming sector that cares for three-quarters of the iconic countryside, that, in turn, delivers over £21bn in tourism back to our economy.

“In the manifesto we warn, as a collective, that a Brexit that fails to champion UK food producers, and the businesses that rely on them, will be bad for the country’s landscape, the economy and critically our society. Conversely, if we get this right, we can all contribute to making Brexit a success for producers, food businesses and the British public, improving productivity, creating jobs and establishing a more sustainable food supply system.

“When it comes to the nation’s ability to produce food, we believe it is critical that the different elements of Brexit are carefully considered by all Government departments – including the Prime Minister who has herself spoken about the importance of supporting our sector through Brexit in recent days.

“As we enter this critical period in the Brexit negotiations, the signatories to this manifesto will be looking to Government to ensure its objectives are aligned with ours to ensure British food production – something of which every person in this country enjoys the benefits – gets the best possible deal post-Brexit.”

One key objective in the manifesto appears likely to run headlong into so-called ‘red lines’ set by the most enthusiastic of Parliamentary Brexiteers, who appear happy to countenance a future for food and farming in which small farms and the rural enterprises which depend on them are swept away in a torrent of chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef.

The report states: ‘The UK and the EU27 will continue to be each other’s most important trading markets in food and drink. In 2016, 60% of UK exports and 70% of UK imports in food, feed and drink were with countries in the EU.

‘Working towards a mutually beneficial trade agreement is a clear priority for the UK food supply chain, one which guarantees tariff-free trade and with as limited a number of non-tariff restrictions as possible. It is imperative that the EU and UK reach an agreement that maintains continuity in existing trade arrangements as far as possible, including the avoidance of a hard border in Northern Ireland’.

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Farming

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone ends

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Restrictions removed: Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary

CABINET S​ECRETARY​ for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has confirmed that the All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will be lifted with effect from Friday, May 25.

The Cabinet Secretary has taken this decision based on an updated veterinary risk assessment conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) which found the risk of incursion from wild birds has reduced from High to Low. Similarly, the risk to poultry is also Low.

The Prevention Zone was introduced on January​ 25​ to mitigate the risk of infection following three separate findings in England of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N6 in Wild Birds.

In Wales, there has been only one finding in a wild bird this year. There have been no cases of H5N6 avian influenza in poultry in the UK this year and the poultry sector retains its OIE disease free status.

Cabinet Secretary said: “In January, I took action and declared the whole of Wales an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N6 findings in England. This was a precautionary measure to minimise the risk of infection to poultry here in Wales.

“We have since been monitoring the situation closely and the latest risk assessment by APHA has concluded that the risk has reduced from High to Low for wild birds and the risk to poultry is also Low.

“Based on this evidence-based veterinary advice I am pleased to announce that the current All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will come to an end with immediate effect. Whilst this is welcome news it is important to remember avian influenza remains a constant and real threat to our poultry and other captive birds.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop added: “I cannot stress enough the need for all keepers of poultry and other captive birds to remain vigilant for signs of the disease and to continue to practice the very highest levels of biosecurity.

“If anyone suspects disease they should contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately. Also, we can all play a part in supporting the ongoing surveillance by reporting any findings of dead wild birds to the GB helpline.

“I would also like to remind all poultry keepers with 50 birds or more they must register their flocks on the Poultry Register and strongly encourage all poultry keepers, including those with fewer than 50 birds, to register. This will ensure they can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak, enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity and minimise the spread of infection.​”​

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