Agricultural Policy

NZ deal shows UK Government willingness to sacrifice farming and food security

The agreement in principle of a trade deal with New Zealand has shown a willingness by the UK Government to undermine UK farming and food security in return for negligible benefits to the economy.

The UK Government’s own figures show that the deal will generate just £112 million in additional exports for UK firms compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The deal will allow New Zealand to increase their exports of food to the UK, representing a major threat to Welsh and GB farmers as well to UK food security.

In the first year, the deal would allow a 30% increase in the amount of New Zealand lamb that can be imported to the UK duty free (i.e. without tariffs), with this figure rising to 44% after five years, followed by further increases and ultimately the removal of all limits after 15 years.

Trade relations breakdown must be avoided at all costs in NI protocol talks says FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has urged the UK Government to work within the Northern Ireland (NI) protocol and to carefully consider the benefits of the concessions put forward by the European Union - or risk severe adverse impacts for UK businesses from a breakdown in trade relations between the UK and EU.

Following a meeting of the FUW’s Presidential Policy Team (PPT) on 13th October, members discussed the problems caused by the protocol, the EU’s proposals to allay these within the terms of what the UK agreed and signed up to, and the threat for Welsh agriculture and UK businesses of a breakdown in trade relations between the UK and EU.

It was concluded that the most pragmatic way forward was for the UK to consider the significant improvements put forward by the EU in a positive light, and that Welsh and UK businesses already facing major disruption due to issues such as worker shortages should not be placed at greater risk through the UK seeking to renegotiate an international agreement.

Attempts by the UK at a wholesale renegotiation of the protocol and its fundamental principles so soon after agreeing it have already brought the UK into disrepute on the international stage and in recent weeks led to stern warnings by US President Joe Biden.

The protocol, negotiated by the UK and EU in 2019 and finalised in December 2020, is designed to avoid the severe repercussions of the creation of an EU-UK hard border on the Island of Ireland by keeping NI in the EU Single Market and creating an effective GB-EU customs border in the Irish Sea.

FUW discusses tree planting and carbon trading with Minister for Climate Change

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) recently had positive talks with Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, with tree planting and the purchase of Welsh land for the purpose of carbon offsetting by businesses from outside of Wales taking centre stage.

The FUW has received reports from members on almost a weekly basis of whole farms or parcels of land being bought up by individuals and businesses from outside of Wales for the purpose of tree planting in order to invest in the growing carbon market or offset their own emissions rather than seeking to reduce their carbon footprint in the first instance.

The Presidential Policy Team discussed the Union’s policy on carbon trading and was more recently agreed in a meeting of the FUW Council:

‘Whilst it is recognised that carbon credits could potentially become important income for some farms in the future, given:

  1. The sale of carbon credits from Welsh farmland risks undermining the ability of farms, Welsh agriculture or Wales as a whole to become carbon neutral
  2. The concerning rise in the sale of Welsh farmland to individuals and companies from outside Wales in order to create carbon for sale outside Wales or offset their own footprints
  3. The fact that in at least some instances such non-Welsh entities and individuals are being funded by Welsh Government to plant such areas

The Welsh Government and Senedd should take urgent action to tackle this issue through some form of control mechanism, and that while carbon quotas may not be the best way forward it is among a range of measures that should be considered in order to prevent growing adverse impacts for Welsh family farms, Welsh communities and Wales as a whole’

The current method of selling carbon risks undermining the ability of farms, Welsh agriculture or Wales as a whole in becoming carbon neutral if urgent action isn’t taken by the Welsh Government.

FUW Diversification Committee Highlights Housing Emergency

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ (FUW) Diversification Committee has highlighted the need for the Welsh Government to take robust action to protect rural communities from the impacts of second home ownership and other factors that are depleting local housing.

During a FUW Diversification Committee meeting held on Thursday 14th October during which the Welsh Government consultation on local taxes for second homes and self-catering accommodation was discussed, delegates expressed acute concerns regarding the impact second home ownership and similar factors are having on the affordability and availability of homes for local people, and how this is threatening the rural communities of Wales.

Around 60% of residents are currently priced out of the housing market in Gwynedd and around 11% of the county's entire stock is being used as second homes. However, the problem is one that impacts areas across Wales and is continuing to grow.

The massive rise in second home ownership and houses purchased by outside investors as AirBnB type accommodation since the beginning of the pandemic has added to existing problems.

The Committee recognises the importance of tourism and self catering accommodation to the economy, but many coastal and rural villages in Wales are seeing their communities devastated, with serious implications for Wales’ heritage and culture.

In considering the Welsh Government’s consultation, the Committee highlighted a number of moves that the Welsh Government and other authorities should take to stem the impact.

UK food supply chains face major disruption

New Brexit export controls coupled with impacts of the pandemic, veterinary and slaughterhouse worker shortages, the loss of the Chinese market and CO2 shortages has resulted in a backlog of more than 100,000 pigs on UK farms.

The UK Government announced on 15th October that measures such as a private storage aid scheme will enable meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for three to six months and process them at a later date.

They are also allowing up to 800 new temporary pork butcher visas for a period of six months as part of the Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is working to identify new domestic and export markets for pork.

Despite the UK Government’s three week support package for the reopening of the CF Industries plant which produces 60% of the UK’s CO2 demand, the impact of the short term closure is already having an impact with the FUW receiving reports of fertiliser prices having increased to beyond £700 per tonne.

It is also understood that the loss of foreign workers has resulted in reductions of staffing levels in processing plants from between 12 and 25% while butcher numbers are down by around 16%.