Agricultural Policy

FUW remains extremely concerned over fast-approaching Brexit deadline

EU and UK negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost will today (29th June) resume negotiations over a UK-EU trade deal after a fortnight’s break, with the discussions including a series of face-to-face meetings on the areas of greatest concession - fisheries, the level-playing field and criminal justice cooperation.

The deadline to extend the Brexit transition period expires on Wednesday, but it is hoped that further time will be agreed and granted if needed given the dire economic repercussions of a hard Brexit for both the EU and the UK.

With just six months to go until the end of the transition period, the lack of any meaningful progress towards a deal has left the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) extremely concerned, not least given the impact of the coronavirus and possible further impacts of further spikes and lockdowns on the economy.

Lobbying on Agricultural Bill continues

During the third reading of the Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons on the 13th May 2020, an attempt by EFRA Committee Chairman Neil Parish to introduce a clause requiring that any agricultural or food product imported into the UK under a trade agreement be produced to animal health and welfare, plant health and environmental protection standards equivalent to those in the UK was opposed by the UK Government and defeated.

The FUW had recommended just such an addition, as well as highlighting a broad range of other concerns, in write and oral evidence during the Commons Committee Stage in February and March.

The rejection of Parish’s amendment has hugely angered farmers and consumers alike, not least given that the UK Government has committed to such a principle in numerous statements, and that maintaining UK standards and protecting consumers, farmers and food producers from sub-standard imports has cross-party support.

FUW calls for British Wool Coronavirus Support

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to Economy Minister, Ken Skates, following the news that British Wool (the new name for the British Wool Marketing Board) has been denied support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CIBLs).

The pandemic has led to a significant drop in demand for wool as the global market for crossbred wool has been shut since February this year. The busiest selling period for GB and Welsh wool is between February and May each year and the impact of the pandemic on wool sales has therefore been particularly acute.

In its letter, the FUW highlighted the impact that the closure of wool markets would have on the price received by sheep farmers for their wool and highlighted that sheep producers must still pay for this year's shearing costs.

Changes to legislation remain essential to combat dog attacks

Avoidable losses, such as those that occur when a dog chases or attacks livestock, remain a significant source of frustration for the livestock sector in Wales.

Industry initiatives, such as the FUW campaign “Your dog, Your responsibility” which widened the message to respecting the countryside, picking up after your dog, keeping dogs on a lead near livestock and making sure dogs don’t escape from home, have had some impact. The number of dog attacks on livestock has shown a decline in recent months; however whether this trend will continue in the longer term remains to be seen and localised reports of attacks continue.

There are currently 4 laws that can be used when examining dog attacks on livestock in England and Wales, however they are all out-of-date and completely unfit for purpose. For example, the 1953 Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act was introduced before DNA could be extracted from a sample and it therefore does not give police forces the power to obtain DNA samples from suspect dogs. Moreover, given that most dog attacks occur in fields with no witnesses, providing police with the power to investigate these crimes is imperative. It is also true that the current laws do not allow for penalties which fit the seriousness of the crime; nor do they allow for adequate compensation for farmers.

New partners to join the rewilding Summit to Sea project

The £3.4 million Summit to Sea rewilding project was launched by Rewilding Britain in October 2018 and aimed to rewild on a scale never before seen in Britain, creating ‘core areas’ supporting low-impact tourism and recreation.

The project targeted some 240 square miles (around 155,000 acres) of land in Montgomeryshire and Ceredigion, an area first earmarked for rewilding in George Monbiot's book Feral, back in 2013.

Following a meeting in the area last July, attended by more than 100 locals, and the subsequent establishment of Cymunedau Oll Pumlumon a’r Ardal (COPA) to oppose the plans, the end result has been the departure of Rewilding Britain from the project and a substantial change in the project's approach and leadership which has been welcomed by the group.

More recently, RSPB Cymru and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have intervened and taken control of the project, proposing a ‘fresh start’ by taking into account all of the concerns raised during the past 18 months.