Agricultural Policy

Farming in Wales is Solution to Climate Change says FUW

Farming in Wales has a big part to play in addressing the climate change crisis and farmers are geared up to do just that, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has said.

But addressing the key findings in the latest ‘Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK’ by the Committee on Climate change, the union warned of the dangers of focusing on livestock production or inappropriate tree planting.

The report highlights some critical issues, including the need for a strong UK food production sector and the dangers of delivering UK emissions reductions at the expense of increasing our reliance on food imported from countries with far greater carbon footprints. Agriculture is currently responsible for around 10 percent of UK emissions, with methane from livestock production making up just over half of this figure. By comparison, transport and energy make up around a half of all UK emissions.

This means that if we stopped producing food completely in the UK, 90 percent of the problem would still be there. Indeed, the Committee recognised that switching away from Welsh and UK produced red meat would increase the nation’s carbon footprint because we have some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of meat reared anywhere in the world.

Direct Payments To Farmers Bill Introduced To House of Commons

The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on the 9th of January to ensure farmers participating in the Basic Payment Scheme in 2020 can be paid as normal from the beginning of December 2020.

The Withdrawal Agreement effectively means the UK remains subject to the bulk of EU schemes and rules during the 11 month transition period, because BPS payments made from the beginning of December onwards would normally come from the following year's EU budget (these budgetary years are calendar years). However, this facility was excluded from the Withdrawal Agreement since the UK Government did not want to draw money from the 2021 EU budget in order to make BPS payments in December 2020 as this would mean becoming a contributor to the next (2021-2027) EU budget without being a Member State.

As such, the Bill allows BPS payments to come from domestic UK funds and is in a sense a housekeeping exercise. However, the FUW has queried whether it requires funding to be paid to farmers or whether devolved nations, for example, could divert the funds to other areas of spending (which the EU Regulations does not allow).

Cattle Slaughter Numbers Due To Bovine TB Are Unsustainable

The latest data relating to bovine TB in Wales has revealed an alarming and unsustainable number of cattle slaughtered due to this disease. According to recent data, the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales in the 12 months to October 2019 was 12,742.

Indeed, whilst the most recent data reveals a 12 percent fall in New Herd Incidents in the 12 months to October 2019, the number of cattle slaughtered over the same period was 24 percent higher than the previous year.

Although the data from TB Dashboard shows improvement in some areas, the number of cattle slaughtered remains unsustainably high. Just 917 cattle were culled in 1996 due to this disease and it is a sad and disturbing fact that the Welsh cattle sector has now become somewhat used to cattle slaughterings reaching many thousands each year.

Losing TB-free status is devastating to farming families and their businesses. The loss of precious stock and the restrictions on a farm business can be incredibly destructive and it is extremely distressing for our members who have worked hard to gain TB-free status, only to lose it again in the subsequent years.

A TB breakdown is not only financially crippling for the farm, but also impacts more widely as struggling farm businesses are less able to contribute to both the local economy and further afield.

High sensitivity testing, such as gamma testing and the removal of inconclusive reactors at severe interpretation, is blamed for some of this rise. However, this will be of little comfort to FUW members, many of whom have seen a huge number of cattle removed from their farm.

Despite a wealth of evidence on the important contribution of wildlife control to TB eradication in some places, the current TB programme continues to focus almost entirely on cattle controls. The FUW has continued to reiterate members concerns regarding the implementation of measures such as high sensitivity testing, without significant measures to tackle the disease in wildlife.

The number of cattle herds registered in Wales has declined by 43 per cent since 1996. Bovine TB is one of the most serious issues facing Welsh cattle farmers and a more holistic approach, which seriously tackles the wildlife reservoir, is required urgently.


FUW Concerned Following National Trust Plans To Plant Trees

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has expressed concerns regarding the possible implications for FUW members who are tenants of the National Trust, following their announcement to plant more trees.

On January 9th, the General Director of the National Trust announced plans to grow 20 million trees over the next decade by either planting saplings or removing livestock to allow self-seeding. This means that many farm business tenancy agreements could be altered as they come up for renewal in order to cut sheep and cattle numbers.

To achieve this, the Trust is hoping to spend around £90 million to create 18,000 hectares of woodland in total; increasing the proportion of Trust land that is forest from 10 percent to 17 percent by 2030. However, it is important to remember that, within the past century, the area of woodland in Wales increased threefold; from 5 percent in 1919 to around 15 percent in 2016, with mainly deciduous farm woodlands making up 30 percent of the area.

Agriculture is responsible for just 10 percent of UK greenhouse gas emissions whilst UK beef and lamb carbon emissions are 35 percent below the current global average. Transport is the third highest polluter and the Trust should therefore be looking at public transport options for their 25 million or so annual visitors.

The FUW is fully supportive of appropriate tree planting where it does not undermine farm productivity or the environment. However, the removal of agriculture has been directly associated with habitat and species loss. The charity ‘Plantlife’ have stated that more than half of all wild plants need regular management or disturbance to thrive - around 40 percent of species will decline within a decade if the land on which they grow is abandoned.

The FUW has written to the Trust highlighting such concerns and to ask them to clarify their plans.

News in Brief

i) New UK Wide Disease Group Established

A UK wide group has been established to ‘speed up progress’ on costly endemic livestock diseases. This includes liver fluke, mastitis and lameness.

The new ‘Ruminant Health and Welfare’ group will begin on the 1st of April 2020 and the FUW has a place on the group.

ii) PGI Lamb Exports to the Middle East Sees Major Boost Says HCC

According to HCC, HMRC trade figures for January to October 2019 show an increase of 608 percent in the exports of lamb from the UK to the Middle East compared to the same 10 month period in 2018.

However the sheep meat trade to this region was still only estimated to be worth around £2 million during the 10 month period and the EU therefore remains the staple destination for the majority of Welsh lamb exports.

iii) Welsh Government Supports The Expansion Of KK Fine Foods

The Welsh Government has provided £550,000 via the Welsh Government Economy Futures Fund to aid a £5.5 million expansion of KK Fine Foods which is based in Deeside, North Wales.

KK Fine foods currently employs 525 people and specialises in supplying food produce to the pub and restaurant sectors.