Agricultural Policy

UK - New Zealand free trade deal on the horizon

Over recent months, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has raised concerns regarding how the UK - Australia free trade agreement, which aims to liberalise the trading of agricultural goods, will set the precedent for trade deals with other major international countries.

UK - New Zealand free trade agreement negotiations are now ongoing and it is said to increase trade between the two nations beyond the total £2.3 billion in 2020.

It was originally mooted by the UK Government that the plan was to have an agreement in principle in place by the end of September, however, visas for workers, access to agricultural markets and financial services continue to be the key sticking points.

New Zealand has confirmed that they aim to achieve similar market access as the UK offered to Australia by providing access to the UK meat and dairy markets in exchange for New Zealand’s financial services.

It is positive however to note that the noise the agricultural industry made in response to the UK - Australia free trade deal has been recognised and has muddied the waters in negotiations with New Zealand.

FUW welcomes BPS and Glastir contract extensions

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths, that there will be a two year extension to the Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic scheme contracts and that, subject to sufficient funding being provided by the UK Government, farmers will continue to receive direct payments through the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) until 2023.

The Glastir contract extension represents a budget commitment of £66.79m over two years for Welsh farmers. All existing eligible contract holders will be offered an extension via their RPW on-line accounts.

This announcement is welcome news for the farming industry. With tremendous uncertainty surrounding future farm payments and international free trade agreements, this reassurance will provide some stability for the next two years.

Just days before the announcement, the FUW met with Cefin Campbell MS and emphasised the importance of support through Glastir schemes for the 3,000 or so contract holders in Wales who needed clarity on whether they would receive such funding from next year onwards.

FUW appoints new Parliamentary Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Officer

The FUW has recently appointed a Parliamentary Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Officer:

“Hello. I’m Libby Davies, the newly appointed Parliamentary Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Officer for the FUW. Originally from just outside Brecon, I have graduated this year from the University of Birmingham with a First Class Honours Degree in Political Science and International Relations. Although not a farmer myself, farming runs on both sides of my family and I am an active member of Sennybridge YFC. I am looking forward to combining my interests in politics and agriculture in my work for the FUW.

“In my role, I will be liaising with the Senedd and Westminster on behalf of the Union. This will include a responsibility to discuss issues such as Trade Deals, Climate Change and the new Sustainable Farming Scheme. I will also be supporting stakeholder engagement in the counties of Gwent and Glamorgan. If you think I can be of assistance in any way, please get in touch on Mae'r cyfeiriad e-bost hwn wedi'i warchod rhag robotiaid sbam. Rhaid i chi alluogi JavaScript i'w weld..”

Promising results from new Bovine TB test but still no holistic approach in Wales

Cattle herds in Wales and England have been involved in on-farm trials of the new Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test.

It has been designed to detect infected animals that the currently approved tuberculin skin test and gamma blood test have missed.

Early results are being reported as positive with 2,500 samples returning 23.4% Enferplex positive results. The test is believed to have a specificity of between 98.4 and 99.7% and a sensitivity of between 89.4 and 94.5%, meaning that it can detect up to 94.5% of confirmed infected animals within a herd when tested 5-30 days after a skin test.

While the Enferplex test has been approved by the World Organisation for Animal Health to be used as a TB test for cattle, it remains unapproved for regular testing in the UK.

The FUW continues to support a holistic approach which is guided by science to eradicate TB in Wales, however, there is the concern that introducing another test will further encourage the ‘reactive’ approach rather than shifting towards ‘preventative’ measures.

Major issues face UK food supply chains

Reports in the media over recent weeks have revealed major issues for UK food supply chains given shortages in HGV drivers and the lack of CO₂ for the slaughter of animals and food packaging.

The shortfall of around 100,000 HGV drivers has affected many major retailers and food service outlets including Iceland and McDonalds after around a quarter of these drivers returned to the EU due to Brexit and Covid-19.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has long maintained that issues such as this would come to light as a result of a Brexit outcome that meant barriers between the UK and EU.

The UK Government has since announced that a package of measures will be introduced to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including temporary visas for 5,000 fuel tanker and food delivery drivers to work in the UK in the lead up to Christmas and a streamlined process for new drivers to obtain their HGV licence.