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Farming

FUW in fair funding call

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UK Government must ensure level playing field: Glyn Roberts, FUW President

FUW PRESIDENT Glyn Roberts has raised concerns over the stark contrast between discussions taking place within the UK on the future of agriculture and equivalent EU discussions on the continent – highlighting worrying differences between recognition of the importance of common standards and support for farming.

Speaking shortly before Wales’ First Minister, Carwyn Jones delivered his keynote address at the FUW’s Annual General Meeting in Aberystwyth, Mr Roberts told delegates that the principles of providing a fair standard of living for farmers and securing a stable supply of affordable food had been key elements of both Labours 1947 Agriculture Act and the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

“The latest Euro Barometer survey reveals that providing a fair standard of living for farmers and securing a stable supply of safe, healthy high quality food are still considered priorities by the public, not only across the EU, but also here in the UK,” said Mr Roberts.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has made it clear that the same principles will continue to be at the heart of the 2021-2027 EU Common Agricultural Policy, initial proposals for which were revealed in early June.

By contrast, many fear that food production and the economic viability of farms and rural communities are taking second place or being left out of post-Brexit policies being devised in the UK.

Mr Roberts also underlined the FUW’s major concerns about the liberalisation of financial and legislative frameworks once the UK leaves the EU.

“From Lithuania to Latvia, from Italy to Ireland, huge debates over the future of the Common Agricultural Policy are taking place, with the introduction of greater flexibility to the CAP framework highlighted as a major concern across the 27 member states,” he said.

However, Mr Roberts said similar concerns about the impact of liberal frameworks were not reflected in discussions within or between the UK nations.

“As one of the first organisations to call for our nations to agree on UK frameworks which respect devolution but also prevent fragmentation, unfair competition and market distortion, we of course welcome the fact that our calls for discussions on the issue have been heeded.

“But at the same time, we have become increasingly concerned at the apparent indifference to the importance of having frameworks which are meaningful, – and that some actually welcome the prospect of a carte blanche without a thought for what others might do outside the constraints of the CAP.”

Mr Roberts said the post-Brexit UK frameworks currently being discussed in the UK would be rejected without a second thought across the EU, and basically represented what Commissioner Phil Hogan has indicated would be an unacceptable carte blanche on the continent.

“For this reason the FUW will shortly be publishing a discussion document which for the first time offers up what proper UK frameworks might look like, including in terms of overarching principles, financial limits and key policy instruments that should be honoured in each of our four nations in order to ensure a level playing field while also fully respecting devolution.”

Mr Roberts said the document will highlight the need for a fair funding formula for Wales and the other devolved nations, as well as a multiannual financial framework which takes away the risks of annual budgetary fluctuations, while outlining how key areas of funding should exist within financial limits in order to provide a level playing field while also allowing each of our nations the flexibility to address national needs.

“Brexit brings with it many dangers; allowing imbalances to develop within our internal markets will not only add to those dangers, but it will also undermine what opportunities do exist as a result of Brexit.

“Without such frameworks we risk seeing distortions which will distract us and undermine efforts to tackle all the other challenges facing us – be it bovine TB, farm productivity and profitability, or the successful succession of the next generation,” he added.

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Farming

Wales can lead on net-zero farming

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NFU CYMRU hosted a farm visit for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma MP, to demonstrate that Welsh farmers are well-placed to deliver on the industry’s net zero ambitions.

The event saw NFU Cymru launch its new document, which sets out that Welsh farmers are part of the solution to climate change.

NFU Cymru President John Davies presented the report to the Secretary of State, who also holds the role of nominated President for COP26, as part of the on farm meeting.

The visit was hosted by NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones, whose 1,600-acre sheep, beef and egg farm near Corwen also produces renewable energy to satisfy the farm’s energy needs, exporting the surplus power to the grid.

As part of his visit to Derwydd Farm, Mr Sharma was also able to learn about the scale of work carried out on the farm as part of Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme, including creating habitats for wildlife, tree planting, protecting some 30 acres of peatland, hedgerow management and soil and grassland management.

During his visit, the BEIS Secretary planted an apple tree as an example of the environmental work the agricultural sector carries out to sequester carbon, while also providing food and aiding biodiversity.

Speaking after the visit, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “By focussing on improving farming’s productive efficiency; improving land management and enhancing land use to capture more carbon; and boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy, Wales’ farmers will be able to play their part in addressing the issues brought about by climate change. By reducing carbon emissions in these ways farmers are in a strong position to achieve the industry’s goal of achieving net zero by 2040.

“I am thrilled that we were able to welcome the BEIS Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, on farm today to see Llŷr Jones’ exciting and impressive farming enterprise, which has carbon capture and renewable energy at its heart. Llŷr’s farm is just one of a wide network of farms across Wales who are harnessing innovation to reduce emissions and produce climate friendly food. These businesses are net zero leaders not just in the respect of farming, but in a wider business context.”

Alok Sharma, COP26 President and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “I was very pleased to visit Llŷr Jones’ farm and see first-hand the actions being taken to mitigate climate change and support nature on their land.

“I welcome the NFU’s ambitious commitment to reach net zero by 2040, and I look forward to working across governments, business and civil society in the run up to COP26 to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.”

NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones added: “I take great pride in the work we do to maintain and enhance the environment, encourage biodiversity and support the local community alongside my core role as a food producer.

“I was pleased to be able welcome the Secretary of State on farm today to show him how we’re always striving to positively influence the carbon impact of our business. I hope Mr Sharma enjoyed his visit to my north Wales hill farm and that what he has seen shows him that our industry has a vital role to play in the climate change challenge now and in the future.”

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Farming

Broadband must reach rural communities

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THE FUW has responded positively to news that there are plans to bring full fibre broadband to an additional three million homes and businesses in some of the UK’s most isolated rural communities, but stresses it must really reach them.

The connection to 3.2 million UK premises, which was given the go-ahead after an Ofcom consultation, is reported to be part of a £12bn investment by Openreach to build full fibre infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the end of this decade.

Places set to benefit include Aberystwyth in west Wales, Millom in Cumbria, Thurso in north-east Scotland, and Ballycastle in County Antrim. Openreach is due to publish the full list of the 251 locations, referred to as Area 3, where it will build the new network. Ofcom has estimated there are 9.6 million homes and businesses situated in this final third of the UK.

Responding to the announcement, FUW Ceredigion county chairman Morys Ioan said: “The last few months have served as a stark example of how vital connectivity is. Our own Union staff, many of whom live in rural areas, have been working from home and we have continued to assist members with digital paperwork for their farm businesses. Without an internet connection this would not have been possible.

“It is really good news that this extra funding is being directed at rural communities but we must make sure that it really does go to those premises who currently are not benefitting from full fibre broadband.

“Our rural towns and villages have been left behind in the race for better and faster connectivity and it is critical for the competitiveness and viability of rural businesses, and the economy, that tangible improvements are made now.

“The FUW has stressed on many occasions that those without a connection cannot diversify their businesses, that they cannot support their children’s education and that they cannot connect readily with Government programmes for advice and support payments as they are mandated to do.”

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Farming

Farmers and Police cooperate on modern slavery

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POLICE has worked in partnership with rural and farming unions to support a national campaign, aiming to create a picture of the nature and scale of modern slavery and human trafficking in communities.

Dyfed-Powys Police in Project Aidant, led by the National Crime Agency, also looked at the impact COVID-19 legislation and restrictions on travel has had on the availability of labour in the agricultural industry.

Detective Chief Inspector Anthony Evans said: “Dyfed-Powys Police, and our rural teams in particular, engaged with the agricultural industry and raise awareness of the ethical use of labour and avoidance of labour exploitation, as well as asking for any concerns to be raised with us or the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

“We also worked with branches of the National Farmers’ Union and Farmers’ Union of Wales to circulate information about modern slavery and how to spot the signs to their members.
“Forced and compulsory labour is very often a harmful and hidden crime and its victims may be especially isolated and hidden from view during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, help and support is available.”

Although the true scale of modern slavery and human trafficking is difficult to measure, it is understood that the number of identified victims is increasing. Many victims work in the construction industry, in agriculture, in the sex industry, and in places like nail bars or car washes, while a growing number are forced into criminality by their exploiters. Children are found working in these situations, as well as in sexual slavery.

Many victims have been trafficked from overseas – frequently from Eastern Europe, South East Asia, and Africa – and their exploitation often begins en route. However, the latest figures show British nationals make up the largest single group of those victimised.

The current Project Aidant aimed to identify and respond to the changing threat picture as a result of COVID-19.

DCI Evans said: “It is almost certain that restrictions on movement and activities are having a notable impact on the modern slavery and human trafficking threat in the UK.

“There have been anecdotal reports of displacement from public-facing sectors that have been closed as a result of government measures, such as car washes and nail bars, to high-risk sectors of agriculture and the wider food supply chain.

“We hope to gain a better understanding of the threat, and ultimately to protect vulnerable victims of slavery and human trafficking, who are often hidden in plain sight.”

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