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Farming

Farm incomes fall for third straight year

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Agriculture must be fairly dealt with: Meurig Raymond

Agriculture must be fairly dealt with: Meurig Raymond

THE LATEST data on farm incomes, updated by Defra last week, shows overall farm incomes fell for the third consecutive year in 2015/16.

The strengthening pound (ahead of the Brexit vote) and falling prices compounded losses for some sectors.

However, within this there were some success stories. The figures – which give figures for the year to March 2016 – show that while cereal production, horticulture and general cropping performed better than expected, all other farm types performed poorly. Incomes from general cropping rose by over 20% on the year, to £62,900 and horticulture incomes rose by 11% to £35,100; cereal growers fared worse, with incomes falling to £35,600 (though this figure was better than expected).

All livestock sectors fared worse than expected, but pig producers took the biggest hit, with incomes more than halved, down to £22,000 due to increased input costs and oversupply. Dairy incomes were almost halved, too, down to £42,300, though some costs were also reduced, including purchased feed and forage.

Commenting on the figures, NFU President Meurig Raymond said they highlight the importance of the NFU’s lobbying ambitions in light of the Brexit vote.

The union president said: “The NFU is continuing to work with government to ensure they provide the right support for our members – from pushing for burdensome regulation to be removed that remains a major block to growing competitiveness for most farm businesses and policy decisions based on sound science.”

Discussing the prospects for environmental regulation post-Brexit at a meeting of the House of Lords’ Environment Sub-Committee on Friday (Oct 28), witnesses from conservation organisations noted that the UK Government’s own research aimed at identifying ‘red-tape’ (useless and constraining regulations) or ‘gold-plated’ regulation that went above the EU’s minimum standards had been hard pressed to identify any whatsoever. Lords who served on these red tape committees when the Coalition government came to power agreed with the witnesses and admitted that they had difficulty finding any such legislation.

Both groups’ observations rather invite the comment, ‘Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ and, in the case of conservation groups such as the RSPB and National Trust ignores their efforts to derail (successfully) those EU regulations which they felt were not in their own interests.

Nevertheless, on Friday, Mr Raymond continued: “These latest farm business income figures underline the need to ensure that British agriculture is dealt with fairly when Government starts its negotiations for a post-Brexit Britain. The most immediate issues confronting the farming sector are trade and access to labour – these must be at the heart of any discussions for the country’s future farm policy so that our industry is able to achieve its true potential.”

Commenting on some of the Union’s work to improve conditions for farmers in their supply chain, Mr Raymond added: “In recent weeks, we have focused on urging dairy processors to be open and honest in a bid to build better, fairer supply chain relationships and to ensure contracts that are fit for purpose. We regularly meet with retailers with recent successes on those signing our Fruit and Veg Pledge that will provide security for suppliers, fair terms and price certainty. We meet with banking leaders to ask for their continued support for the industry in these challenging times.”

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Farming

Beacons inspire army of Swiss chefs

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Top chefs from Switzerland enjoy visiting Newton Farm in the Brecon Beacons: With farmer Richard Roderick

A TRIP to Wales has helped some of Switzerland’s leading chefs and restaurateurs create tasty new dishes with the finest Welsh Lamb.

PGI Welsh Lamb has been growing in popularity in top Swiss restaurants and hotels. The tour was arranged by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), in conjunction with a major food importer who added Welsh meat to its premium listings last year, in order to boost demand.

To help raise awareness of the provenance, quality and versatility of the meat, the tour included a visit to a farm in the Brecon Beacons, a guide to how the lamb is processed and a cutting demonstration by a master butcher, and a cooking display.

The Swiss restaurateurs enjoyed seeing how Welsh Lamb is produced in its natural environment, according to sheep and beef farmer Richard Roderick of Talybont-on-Usk. “It gives such confidence for chefs to see the low-intensity and high-welfare way in which the animals are reared, and that they’re fully traceable from farm to fork” said Richard.

“Hopefully the visit will inspire the chefs and their colleagues to use more meat from Wales in their restaurants!”

HCC’s agent in Central Europe, Patricia Czerniak, said that since re-establishing a foothold in the Swiss market recently, demand for PGI Welsh Lamb had increased substantially.

“Hotels, restaurants and tourism is big business in Switzerland, with chefs looking for high-quality ingredients,” said Patricia.

“Since they started to list Welsh Lamb last year, business with one foodservice importer has already doubled, and they’re looking to triple sales by the end of 2017. Bringing their clients and prospective customers to Wales can only help to boost this market.”

Patricia was also encouraged to see the chefs picking up new ideas through their visit.

“After the butchery demonstration, many of the chefs asked for new cuts to be made available, including offal such as livers and sweetbreads,” she said.
“The visitors included some of Switzerland’s top chefs, so we hope that their new Welsh Lamb creations will set a trend in the country.”

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Farming

NFU-Cymru President’s New Year Message

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Stephen James: NFU Cymru President

I AM pleased that we end 2017 on a positive note, with UK and EU leaders agreeing to move on to Phase 2 of the UK Exit negotiations.

This phase, in which the transition deal and our future trading relationship with the EU is negotiated, is absolutely critical to the future prosperity of the food and farming sector in Wales.

I cannot stress highly enough the importance of maintaining continued free and frictionless access to our largest and most proximate market. We hear both UK and EU negotiators repeatedly use the words ‘clarity’ and ‘certainty’, and as farming businesses that is exactly what we want to see early in 2018 – clarity and certainty over the type of trading environment that we will be operating under come the end of March 2019.

In our view this should mean the UK remaining in the Customs Union until such time as a comprehensive free trade agreement can be agreed between the UK and EU.

I remain optimistic at the opportunity Brexit provides to develop, design and implement new policies that support our vision for a productive, progressive and profitable industry in Wales. This will ensure Welsh farming can continue to contribute to, and enhance, the economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being of Wales.

The speed of change to implement a new agricultural policy should be determined by our future relationship with the EU. Throughout this evolution to a new domestic agricultural policy, and thereafter, governments in Cardiff and Westminster must maintain current levels of investment in farming to ensure that Welsh farmers remain competitive whilst continuing to produce food to the highest standards.

The Nitrates Review and proposals to increase the areas of Wales designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) has been very high on our lobbying agenda for over two years now. I am pleased that Lesley Griffiths AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, has recently announced her intention to work with stakeholders to explore further options to safeguarding water quality in Wales. This means that no new NVZ designations will be introduced at this point in time – a huge relief to many farmers across Wales who have been highly concerned about the costs and burden of NVZ regulations.

I am very clear, however, that regulatory pressure still remains and the group charged with taking this task forward (the NRW Wales Land Management Forum Agri-Pollution Sub Group) will, over the coming months, consider the right balance of regulatory measures, voluntary initiatives and investment. As farmers, we recognise the role we have to play in contributing to further and sustained improvements in water quality in the years ahead and NFU Cymru remains fully committed to working with Welsh Government, the Regulator and other partners to deliver workable (non-regulatory) solutions.

The scale of this challenge must not be underestimated and I want to ensure that NFU Cymru has a robust structure in place to drive this forward. It is, therefore, my intention to establish an NFU Cymru Water Quality Task & Finish Group. The group will consist of members from across Wales, across all sectors and the wider supply chain, with the aim of shaping the NFU Cymru contribution to the work of the NRW Agri-Pollution Sub-Group and also working to secure the ‘buy-in’ and commitment of the wider farming community to a non-regulatory approach.

Last June the Cabinet Secretary announced a new TB programme for Wales, a programme that we see as a step forward given the recognition by Welsh Government of the transmission link between cattle and wildlife.

Bovine TB continues to be the subject that causes most frustration amongst our membership. The latest statistics show a year on year increase in herd incidence and herd prevalence in Wales and over 9,700 cattle slaughtered because of TB, so it is clear why cattle keepers believe this to be the biggest immediate threat to their farming businesses.

I am pleased that on these two vitally important issues to the agricultural sector in Wales in 2017 the Cabinet Secretary has made policy decisions based on scientific evidence. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Cabinet Secretary and the newly appointed Minister for the Environment, Hannah Blythyn AM.

Our work in 2017 has sought to highlight the unrivalled contribution of farmers and farming to Welsh society. Our campaigns have highlighted how we are ‘Proud to Produce’ across so many areas; food, environment, landscape, heritage, culture, language and to the economy of Wales and our NFU Cymru Community Champion, Wales Woman Farmer, Dairy and Livestock awards have showcased the individuals and farming families behind this good work.

I am immensely proud of our contribution to the well-being of Wales and it is something that we must never lose sight of at what is a pivotal time for Welsh farming.

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Farming

Pig keepers’ disease warning

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Swine fever: Avoid the risk

PIG KEEPERS are being reminded not to feed kitchen scraps to their animals to prevent outbreaks of animal disease.

The warning comes after the risk of African swine fever entering the UK was raised over the summer following spread of the infection in Eastern and Central Europe.

There has never been a case of African swine fever in the UK and it does not affect humans, but it is potentially fatal to pigs. If the disease were to reach the UK it could have a devastating effect on our export market and would also mean the humane culling of pigs on infected premises to prevent further spread.

Keepers are being reminded that it is illegal to feed catering waste of any description or domestic food waste to farm animals in the UK, including pigs kept as pets, as some of the outbreaks of African swine fever in Europe have been attributed to wild boar or domestic pigs consuming contaminated pork or pork products. This includes food from vegetarian kitchens, as there is still a risk of cross contamination in products of animal origin such as milk.

Strict hygiene measures are essential in preventing disease – people should not take meat or meat products into areas where pigs are kept and should only eat food in designated areas such as staff rooms or the farm kitchen. Pig keepers, farm staff and anyone in contact with pigs should wash their hands before and after eating or preparing food.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “The introduction of African swine fever would have an enormous impact on our pig industry. No matter how many pigs you keep, you need to be aware of the potential consequences of feeding waste food to your animals. Not only is it illegal, but you run the risk of spreading disease which could be fatal to your livestock.

“You can purchase a range of pig foods from your local agricultural merchant that can be safely fed to your pigs and which is the most reliable way of giving them a balanced diet. Good biosecurity is also essential for minimising disease risk, such as providing dedicated clothing and boots for workers and preventing vehicles which may be contaminated from entering pig premises.”

Wales’ Chief Veterinary Officer Christianne Glossop said: “African Swine Fever is a highly contagious disease. Pig keepers can help prevent the spread of infection by practising strict biosecurity on their premises. An important part of this is ensuring that your pigs do not have access to potentially infectious meat or meat products, including kitchen waste.”

The UK suffered the consequences of pigs being fed illegal waste food in the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001. That outbreak is thought to have originated from pigs being fed catering waste containing the virus, which came from outside the UK. The outbreak resulted in the destruction of more than 10 million cattle and sheep and cost the UK many millions of pounds.

Chief Executive of the National Pig Association, Dr Zoe Davies, said: “The health of our pigs is fundamentally important to our sector. A notifiable disease outbreak would not only needlessly result in the loss of many pigs and annihilate our burgeoning export market, but would significantly impact on countless families, their staff, local businesses and tourism for months. Feeding illegal food waste, however harmless it might seem at the time, is just not worth the risk.”

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