Agricultural Policy

British Wool launches traceable wool scheme

In an attempt to offer a premium payment for UK wool producers, British Wool has recently launched an initiative which aims to trace wool from the farm gate through to the end product.

The closure of global wool markets due to the Covid-19 pandemic left British Wool with around 7 million kilograms (kgs) of unsold stock from a total 2019/20 clip of 27 million kgs. This meant that producers were paid an average of 17 pence per kg for the 2019/20 season clip, around 70% lower than the payment received in 2019.

While British Wool has managed to clear the stockpile from last year and prices have therefore started to recover, prices aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022.

The new traceable wool scheme will allow consumers to understand the process wool must go through before reaching the shelf but also generate a premium price for eligible producers and aid the recovery of wool prices following the Covid-19 pandemic.

News in brief August 2021

i) Environment Agency publish new guidance on organic manure in England

In an attempt to allow farmers in England more time to adjust to the Farming Rules for Water being introduced in 2022, the Environment Agency has published its Regulatory Position Statement (PRS) 252 which sets out strict guidelines for the spreading of organic manure.

While farmers will be allowed to spread organic manure beyond the immediate needs of the crop but not exceeding the needs for the entire crop cycle, they will be required to demonstrate that spreading is the only option available for disposal.

From 1st March 2022, these exemptions will expire and the spreading of manure will be banned if it exceeds the crop needs or risks serious water pollution.

ii) New Woodland Creation Scheme in England untrusted by farmers

The new England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) has received around £16 million in funding to encourage farmers and land managers to plant more trees and meet the UK Government targets.

However, a poll carried out by The Farming Forum revealed that 59% of respondents would not trust any Government tree planting scheme. The scheme, it seems, aims to create large forestry plantations without taking into account changes in land value, restrictions on reverting land back to grassland or other tree planting initiatives such as agroforestry.

iii) Gower Salt Marsh Lamb receives GI status

Gower Salt Marsh Lamb has become the first UK food product to receive protected status through the new Geographical Indication (GI) scheme which was introduced after the end of the Brexit Transition Period.

Recognition as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product will allow producers of lamb on the Gower Peninsula to demonstrate and protect traditional agricultural practices and unique characteristics of the meat.

There are now a total of 17 GI protected products in Wales.

Update on BPS Entitlement values and Glastir Contracts

The BPS entitlement value for 2021 is £116.86 which appears to be around 4% (£5.30) less than the combined total of the BPS and greening payment values for 2020 which was £122.16.

Following previous assurances that the BPS budget for 2021 would provide the same level of direct payments to farmers in 2021, as was provided in 2020, the FUW requested clarification from RPW as to why the entitlement value is lower than expected.

In response, RPW has clarified that "In previous years the Greening payment allocated to each eligible claimant was calculated based on the activated entitlements in a particular scheme year. For 2021 the previous Greening budget has been incorporated in full into the BPS entitlement budget, however, the value of the Greening budget has currently been distributed across all entitlements held in our register and not just those that have been activated.”

“Prior to making BPS 2021 payments we will take account of all the entitlements held that are not claimed, together with the value of unclaimed National Reserve and will increase the value of the entitlements activated. BPS 2021 claimants will then see their entitlement value increase and a BPS payment in line with what was received for 2020."

These figures do not include the redistributive payment which is paid on the first 54 hectares of any claim.

We understand that the issue of Glastir contract extensions has been included in a policy proposals paper which is currently under consideration by the Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths in relation to a domestically funded Rural Development Plan for Wales.

Revisions made to Red Tractor Version 5 Standards

Following consultation earlier this year, Red Tractor has made amendments to its Version 5 Standards for the five different sectors.

The majority of the proposed environmental standards have been put on hold until legislation on environmental protection in Wales and England has been finalised.

Nitrogen fertiliser will need to be stored safely and out of sight, rather than locked indoors as originally proposed, and producers will be required to document up to date slurry storage calculations.

In terms of personnel, new staff will be required to receive an induction, which will have to be documented, including an explanation of health and safety policies and management reporting lines. All farms must also need a written health and safety policy.

The personnel and environmental standards which have not been included in the revised Version 5 standards have become ‘modular’ standards which will allow for the producer and processor or milk buyer to agree on which ones they wish to include as part of their farm assurance.

NAAC Code of Practice for mobile sheep dipping launched

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has supported the National Association of Agricultural Contractors’ (NAAC) work, in collaboration with the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS), to produce a new Code of Practice for the mobile dipping of sheep.

Sheep scab is prevalent in around a quarter of Welsh sheep flocks and costs the industry around £12 million every year.

The FUW worked with the Sheep Scab Industry Group to submit an industry-led sheep scab report to Welsh Government in 2018 which recognised the need for coordinated treatment across contiguous premises and outlined a sheep scab control programme which would increase the likelihood of neighbouring farms working together to eradicate scab through a more holistic and workable approach.

Despite a free pilot scheme for the testing of skin scrape samples, the industry is yet to receive the promised £5.1 million for an eradication programme from more than 2 years ago.