FARM SAFETY WEEK is an initiative which launched in 2013 aiming to cut the toll of accidents which give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland. This year’s Farm Safety Week was supported by a greater number of organisations than ever including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland. From falls and transport to child safety – Farm Safety Week (July 6-10) offered five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers and comes just after the HSE released the annual workplace fatality statistics for Great Britain in 2014/15.
In 2014/15, 33 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded – a rate 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers, the same as the average of 33 deaths in the past five years and, unfortunately, an increase from the 27 deaths recorded in 2013/14. According to Iwan Meirion Chairman Wales YFC and Chairman of the Wales Farm Safety Partnership: “While our farmers are among the best in the world, farming continues to have one of the poorest records of any occupation in the UK and Ireland and while all farm accidents are shocking and dreadfully sad, the saddest thing is that they can often be prevented. A fall can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming.
Most Falls from Height accidents occur either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly. Often people about to undertake a job believe it will ‘only take a few minutes’, and take a risk in the hope that simply being very careful will be enough.” Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, added: “We are committed to working together with the sector for a safer farming industry in Wales.
By working with the industry we can do much more to ensure that farmers are equipped with the information and training they need to be able to make that promise to themselves and to their families to come home safe. We want to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries caused to farmers, their families, farm employees and others who come into contact with farm activities and I hope this year’s Farm Safety Week will help bring these numbers down.” Even the most safety conscious farmers can experience the effects of a serious injury. In a recent case, a young farmer from the Dysynni Valley was carrying out routine pruning on fieldside boundaries on the family farm when he was hit by a falling tree crushing his spine. 25-year-old Machynlleth rugby club player Rhys Lewis had graduated from Aberystwyth University and was enjoying a promising rugby career when a falling tree changed his life forever… Rhys had been pruning fieldside boundaries with his father Gwyn when a tree he was felling split in two. Rhys tried to run, but it was too late. “What made it crack, I have no idea,” Rhys explained.
“I tried to run away but the tree hit me. I couldn’t stand up. I shouted for my dad but he couldn’t hear me as he was still using his chainsaw on another tree. It was then that I passed out, for about 60 seconds. When I came to, my dad had realised what had happened.” Rhys tried to move his legs but found he was unable to: “I thought I was in a bad dream and that I was going to wake up any moment,” he continued. On the flight to North Staffordshire Hospital, Rhys was already starting to rationalise the accident and work out his future. After a transfer to Gobowen Orthopaedic Hospital, Rhys was already coming to terms with his new life.
The most important thing, he concluded, was not to mope: although he remained in hospital for eight weeks, one day after his release, he made sure he was at the Royal Welsh Show, surrounded by friends enjoying Wales’ premier farming event. “Nothing’s changed from a social point of view,” he smiled. Rather than dwell on his misfortunes, Rhys’ positive approach has won him many admirers including Lisa Markham, an equine enthusiast and family friend who has set up the Apel Rhys Appeal so Rhys can pursue his dreams of a para-sporting career.
But the inspirational young farmer won’t stop there, his long-term goal is to one day walk again! Rhys’ story reinforces that fact that farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls or falling objects. Iwan added: “Falling objects can be a frequent danger on farms. Falls are one of the most common causes of death and serious injury, especially among older farmers who are less flexible. However farmers and farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from Falls. It is vital that the farming community take the time to think about what they are doing and what might go wrong. Don’t learn safety by accident!” #FarmSafetyWeek
FUW welcomes new minister
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.”
Commitment on funding welcomed
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.”
Family farms on the brink
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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