Importance of protecting food supplies and rural communities highlighted in letter to governments

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has written to the UK and Welsh governments calling for action to protect food producers and rural communities in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

In letters to UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice and Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, FUW President Glyn Roberts highlighted a range of concerns, including the need to protect UK food security and primary producers, as well as concerns over access to the countryside.

The pandemic has had a varied impact on food supply chains, with panic buying and other factors lead to shortages of certain foodstuffs, while sales of produce through cafes and other outlets have plummeted - factors that have increased market volatility and already led to price cuts for many milk producers.

“With such impacts likely to continue for many months at a time when the importance of maintaining UK food security has rapidly been brought into sharp focus, we believe it is essential that those businesses producing what is, next to water, our most essential commodity should be supported,” wrote Mr Roberts.

Former deputy President elected Life Member of the Union

Former Farmers’ Union of Wales Deputy President, Brian Thomas, has been elected as a life member of the Union at a recent Grand Council meeting in Aberystwyth in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Union and Welsh agriculture over many years.  A Pembrokeshire beef and sheep farmer, Brian Thomas has previously received the Union’s annual internal award for his services to the agricultural industry.

The recommendation that he be made a life member was accepted unanimously by the Union’s Grand Council.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Brian has been a rock solid friend and working partner for over 20 years. He is always willing to help, support and give advice. Over the years Brian has gone above and beyond in serving not just this Union but the industry as a whole. It is fair to say that the industry in Wales has benefited greatly from Brian’s active lobbying and efforts to make our sector a better place for everyone involved.”

Brian is a past county chairman of the FUW in Pembrokeshire, and has previously sat on the FUW’s central tenant’s committee. He was elected South Wales member of the central finance and organisation committee in 2011, Vice President of the FUW in 2013 and Deputy President in 2015.

During the 1996 BSE outbreak, Mr Thomas led the campaign in South West Wales opposing the importation of inferior beef into Wales.  In 1997 he led a group of farmers to Tesco’s stand at the Royal Welsh Show to address them about the unfair way in which they were treating the industry and he has been a leading figure in the fight against bovine TB.

Farmers once again appalled with BBC’s Countryfile

Farmers in Wales have voiced their anger and frustration following a BBC Countryfile programme broadcast on Sunday 15 March entitled ‘Looe Harbour’.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We have once again received many complaints from our members about the latest BBC Countryfile programme, which adopted an unbalanced approach in reporting on the current Red Tractor Assurance Scheme. This has led to both anger and disappointment amongst the farming community.”

The criticism is just the latest in a long line of complaints about unbalanced BBC reporting, including by the Countryfile programme, and many farmers have reported that they have long since stopped watching the programme due to its ‘inherent bias against farming’.

Anglesey farmers raise industry concerns with MP

Farmers from Anglesey have raised concerns about the future of farming with local MP Virginia Crosbie in light of the ongoing uncertainty on trade deals, food imports and the lack of frameworks in the UK.

In a meeting with the MP, who also sits on the Agriculture Bill Committee, Farmers’ Union of Wales officials highlighted that the Agriculture Bill does nothing to ensure food imported to the UK meets UK standards - despite previous ministerial assurances that imported food would meet our standards.

FUW Anglesey county chairman Richard Williams said: “We are very concerned about the direction of travel for agriculture. Hearing Farming Minister Victoria Prentis referring to the risk of 'creating considerable uncertainty' by legally protecting food production standards in trade deals, is a worry to say the least.

“In reality it is the UK Government which would be proactively creating such uncertainty by taking a position on trade which deliberately abandons our EU export markets and severs the established supply chains which extend across Europe. It's within their gift to avoid such uncertainty, and we urged Mrs Crosbie to do all she could to help protect our farmers and consumers from a flood of poor quality food products.”

FUW Anglesey County Vice Chairman William Spencer Hughes added: “We work very hard and to very strict rules and regulations. Some of the food that could land on our supermarket shelves from abroad will have been produced to standards that are illegal here. It may make these food items cheaper in some cases, but it’s a false economy given that would undermine our own food security, increase environmental damage and food miles and fail to protect our consumers. As food producers, we are committed to keeping up standards. Our way of producing food in a safe and sustainable way must be protected.” 

Business ‘hanging in the balance’ following attacks on pedigree Jacob sheep

It was going to be a day like any other for Esther Howie and her flock of sheep from Anglesey. Until lunch time at least, when she went for her routine check-up on the family Jacob's flock. Something wasn’t as it was supposed to be - the sheep had been badly injured.

The Howie family moved to a holding near Rhosmeirch 7 years ago and have put a lot of time, effort and money into improving and maintaining the land. Both Esther and her husband Neil also work extra jobs to support their life-long dream of having a smallholding. 

Esther already had a flock of pedigree Jacob sheep when they moved to the island and has since added a few Shetland sheep into the mix. Having been busy building up her Jacob flock for over 12 years now, she breeds primarily for wool to support her start-up business Tyddynys. As such, she only lambs a few selected ewes each year, carefully choosing which ewes to put to which ram for improving fleece for the craft industry. 

So it came as a huge shock when she found out that her flock had been attacked by a dog, leaving her devastated and the business hanging in the balance.

Speaking from her holding, she says: “My main holding is on Anglesey, but a while back I was offered a piece of land to graze near Bangor - great piece for my hill sheep, who are really not that impressed with the terrain at home. 

“It’s a good sized piece of land with a nice big shelter. The landlady lives on one side and a friend on the other to keep an eye on the ewes for me when I can’t be there. I moved my Jacob ewes up there for the winter and they were thriving.  

“Until January this year. I went up for my usual visit during my lunch hour at work and noticed that a mule ewe - my landlady’s adopted pet lamb that now lives with us - had fresh blood coming through her fleece.” 

Not sure what had happened but suspecting the sheep had been attacked Esther checked the field. She said: “It looked like one of the lambs had been attacked, but we’ve never had any experience of this to date. 

“The gate into the field is locked and it is the only entrance. The field runs parallel to the A55 so there would be no reason for anyone to be in there. I thought maybe the ewe had been caught in the hedge or fence somewhere and injured herself. I walked the full perimeter of the field checking for fleece in the hedges - knowing that this was going to be unlikely as we had only recently had them cut.” 

About two thirds of her way around she found a large area of grass in the centre of the field that was strewn with clumps of fleece. There was really no mistaking what had happened. 

“I contacted the police and was quite shaken that this could have happened in a seemingly safe and protected area. I had 11 ewes in that field - 4 of them had injuries - significant injuries that I couldn’t treat with a bit of spray alone. 

‘Follow up-to-date official advice’, FUW urges members in light of Coronavirus crisis

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is reminding members to follow the latest advice from Public Health Wales and Wales NHS on coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to minimise disease spread and reduce the risk of infection.  

Up-to-date information can be found here:  

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ 

https://phw.nhs.wales/news/public-health-wales-statement-on-novel-coronavirus-outbreak/

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “There is a huge amount of misinformation being published online, so it is important that advice from legitimate sources is followed.”  

Mr Roberts’ comments came after Twitter revealed it had recently had to take down a series of posts that were from a fake hospital giving out false advice. 

Some disease experts have suggested we are still to reach the peak season for coronavirus but hope to delay and flatten the peak, which will reduce the pressure on NHS Wales and minimise the impact of the virus.

“Should a member contact coronavirus, or be affected in some other way and there is a subsequent impact on the ability to undertake daily farm business then the FUW can look at this on a case-by-case basis and will provide support where possible,” said Glyn Roberts.

FUW Head of Policy Dr Nick Fenwick added: “We are liaising with the Welsh Government on what changes can be made in order to help the industry to complete and submit their SAF forms this year, during what can only be described as extraordinary circumstances. 

Top performers recognised with FUW Insurance Services awards

FUW Insurance Services Ltd. has recognised its top performers with a selection of awards.

Scooping the 2019 ‘FUWIS Business Development’ award was Dafydd Evans, based in Ceredigion, who has had an exceptional year for growth and retention of clients and policies. 

FUW Insurance Services Ltd. Business Development Manager Jackie Burrows said: “Dafydd has had a fantastic year. He delivered excellent customer service to new and existing clients across the agricultural and commercial insurance markets and is therefore rightly recognised with this special award.”

Also recognised for his achievements was Glamorgan based Account Executive Ashley Yeo, who was presented with the 2019 ‘FUWIS Best Managed Portfolio’ award.

“Ashley has delivered excellent organic growth, retention and customer service through new and existing clients and policies gained across various business sectors. He is highly regarded and fully deserves this award,” said Jackie Burrows.

Recognised for going above and beyond was Aberystwyth based account handler Claire Short, who was presented with the 2019 ‘FUWIS Account Handler’ award.

South Wales farming family stress importance of protecting home food market

A farming family from South Wales has shared concerns about the future of farming with local MP Alun Cairns in light of the ongoing uncertainty on trade deals, food imports and the lack of frameworks in the UK.

Gaynor and Rhodri Davies moved from West Wales in 1995 to Rosedew Farm, Llantwit Major, and have set up a number of businesses to diversify and compliment the farm. With their three children, they run a number of businesses on the farm.

There is a 295 strong herd consisting of many breeds including Aberdeen Angus, Hereford Cross, Saler and British Blues. The home bred beef is slaughtered at the local slaughterhouse Maddock and brought back to the farm to supply another business The Farmers Pantry Butchers with shops in Llantwit Major and Pugh’s Garden Village in Radyr. Farmers Pantry also cater for another family run business - Rosedew Farm Wedding Venue.

With his son Dafi-Sion, Rhodri grows a variety of crops on the farm including sugar beet, wheat, barley, maize, potatoes as well as hay/silage. Rhodri and Gaynor also own and manage Acorn Campsite and hire many local people to work here. 

Talking to the MP about the Agriculture Bill and food imports, Rhodri said: “We are very concerned that the Bill does nothing to ensure food imported to the UK meets UK standards - despite ministerial assurances that imported food would meet our standards.  

“We work very hard and to very strict rules and regulations. Some of the food that could land on our supermarket shelves will have been produced to standards that are illegal here. 

“It makes these food items far cheaper but it doesn’t protect our consumers and it also doesn’t protect us as food producers, who are committed to keeping up standards. 

“Our way of producing food in a safe and sustainable way must be protected.” 

Adding to their concerns of cheap food imports, is the lack of frameworks which would ensure a level playing field across the UK.

Gaynor says: “We need frameworks to keep the UK's 'home market' working properly and fairly. We will already have to compete with farmers in Europe so it is essential that this Government prevents unfair competition between producers in different parts of the UK.”

FUW Glamorgan County Chairman Richard Walkers added: “The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Order illustrates our fears: It removes the EU Pillar 1 financial ceilings mainly to allow Scotland to pay more money to farmers following Lord Bew’s review of payments. 

FUW welcomes opportunities for Welsh Livestock at Vet School launch

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the ambitions of the Veterinary School which was launched in Aberystwyth today (28 February). 

The Aberystwyth School of Veterinary Science forms part of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences and will offer a new Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) degree offered jointly by Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). 

Students on the course will have use of a new Veterinary Education Centre on Penglais Campus which represents and investment of £1 million and partly funded by alumni donations. The school will welcome its first students in 2021.  

Speaking after the launch, FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr Hazel Wright said: “We welcome this significant step forward in protecting and improving animal health in Welsh livestock. 

“The launch of this new vet school represents significant research and development into animal health issues of importance to the Welsh farming sector. It is hoped that the centre will provide an integrated approach to disease diagnosis and elimination. 

“This an exciting opportunity for the farming sector and we remain keen to work with members of the school to help safeguard livestock health, identify industry priorities, reduce losses and improve livestock performance through better health.”  

The FUW has repeatedly expressed concern about the shortage of large animal veterinary practitioners in Wales and the Union is therefore pleased to see the launch of this centre of veterinary expertise in mid-Wales. 

“Alongside providing research into livestock health, we hope that the programme will increase the veterinary skills base available to our members and will ultimately raise the number of veterinary professionals in Wales,” added Dr Wright. 

Former MP takes on leading role with FUW Insurance Services Ltd

FUW Insurance Services Ltd (FUWIS) has appointed Guto Bebb as its new Managing Director.

Mr Bebb who hails from Caernarfon, Gwynedd is the ex-MP for Aberconwy and was previously an Under Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister for Defence Procurement. 

Before starting his political career Mr. Bebb was a business consultant and company director. His commercial experience stood him in good stead as a member of the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster and in managing the multi-million procurement budget of the Ministry of Defence.

In welcoming his appointment, Tom Jones, Chair of FUWIS, said: “It’s a great pleasure to have Guto on board. FUWIS is a growing company which provides key services to the agriculture sector in Wales. 

“With Guto at its head I’m confident that we will see that growth continuing. We pride ourselves on providing a high-quality service that is also close to our customers in their varied communities across Wales. We have found a new head who understands this basic relationship and will know how to build on that existing firm foundation.”

Glyn Roberts, President of the FUW (Farmers’ Union of Wales) added: “FUWIS’s services are a key component of the services that we as a Union offer to not only our members but to the rural community in its entirety. I know that Guto understands the agriculture sector in Wales and will know how to shape future services to meet their needs. I look forward greatly to working with him.”

Guto Bebb commented: “It’s good to be back amidst the business hubbub of Wales. This is a new exciting challenge which I look forward to embracing enthusiastically.”

Mr. Bebb will take on his new role at FUWIS on 6 April.

R.A.B.I TO FAST-TRACK HELP TO FARMERS IN WAKE OF STORMS CIARA AND DENNIS

Farming charity R.A.B.I is once again releasing money from its Crisis Fund to provide emergency grants to farming families via its Helpline – 0808 281 9490.

Following the last two weekends of heavy storms and with more rainfall forecast, R.A.B.I has released an initial £50k to provide emergency payments to those affected by the impacts of the extreme weather across England and Wales.    

Alicia Chivers, R.A.B.I CEO, said: “Having already provided around £75k of emergency grant support to those affected by extreme wet weather this autumn / winter, we know how devastating the impacts are for farmers in both the immediate and longer-term.  Simplifying our criteria and application process means we can fast-track immediate assistance to affected farmers.

“These funds, whilst a relatively small element of the help we expect to provide over the
longer-term to those affected, can make a real difference dealing with urgent priorities – and help to alleviate pressing financial worries, allowing farmers to concentrate on dealing with the immediate impacts of the extreme weather.

“R.A.B.I understands that the effects of severe weather are both financial and emotional. We will be here to provide support for as long as it is needed by our community.  We will also continue to work closely with partner charities and other farming organisations to make sure help is available, both now and on an enduring basis.”

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) is the agricultural sector’s oldest and largest charity, offering support, practical care and guidance to farming people of all ages.

To apply for assistance, call R.A.B.I’s confidential Freephone Helpline 0808 281 9490

Beware of hedge cutting restrictions to avoid penalties

Farmers are being urged to remember the hedge cutting regulations which are in place as part of cross compliance to avoid a penalty on their BPS payment.

FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Most farmers will remember that they are not allowed to cut trees or hedges between 1 March to 31 August. If they don’t comply with the rules, they could face a hefty cross compliance penalty on their BPS payment which is avoidable.

“There are exceptions to the standard rule, but only if the conditions are met can you start cutting early or late. You can also carry out hedge laying and coppicing during March providing nesting birds are not disturbed. We however urge our members to make sure they don’t fall foul by accident.”

Other exemptions include the cutting of hedgerows or trees that overhang a highway, road, track or footpath to which the public have access, where the work is necessary because the overhanging vegetation either obstructs the passage of vehicles or pedestrians; obstructs the view of drivers, or the light from a public lamp; or there is a danger to horse-riders.

Farmers are also allowed to cut or trim hedgerows and trees if they are dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted, and are therefore likely to cause a danger by falling onto a highway, road or footpath.

“I would also urge our members to remember that for safety reasons electricity and telephone companies are responsible for the maintenance of any overhanging trees and/or hedges which affect their equipment,” said Ian Rickman.

Meirionnydd farming family highlight urgent need for frameworks

A farming family from the the Cwm Nantcol valley in Meirionnydd has spoken out about their concerns for the future of agriculture, when they met with Meirion Dwyfor MP Liz Saville Roberts.

Welcoming the local MP to their hill farm, Graig Isa, Cwm Nantcol, near Llanbedr, Alun and Moria Jones stressed that family farms like theirs could be a thing of the past if frameworks are not put in place to protect the industry.

The Jones family keep a flock of 700 Welsh Mountain Ewes on their farm which extends to approximately 700 hectares, with the vast majority of the land being rugged, mountain land.

Walking around the farm, Alun Jones said: “We are concerned about the future direction of the agricultural industry. Without support and loss of markets for our lambs, family farms such as ours will not be able to keep going. The UK Government must make sure that our home market is working properly and fairly and it is absolutely essential that unfair competition between producers in different parts of the UK is prevented.”

Over the years the farm has benefited from agri-environment schemes. It joined Tir Cymen when Meironnydd was chosen to pilot the scheme in the early 1990’s, and thereafter was part of the Tir Gofal scheme. It is now in the Glastir scheme and also Glastir Organic.

The family also has a Hydro scheme, which was established approximately 2 years ago, in a bid to diversify and guarantee a separate source of income.

“Diversification is a necessity on many farms and generating alternative energy is something we can do - it helps in producing clean energy and provides a bit of extra income for the farm. Given that things are as uncertain as they are - we all have to think outside the box and as farmers we are more than happy to do our bit for the environment. But it is important that we have adequate infrastructure to facilitate similar diversification enterprises in future and that the work we do is properly recognised,” said Alun.

FUW Meirionnydd county chairman Sion Ifans added: “Our industry is facing unprecedented time, there are plenty of opportunities but there are also some challenges ahead. “That’s why we must ensure the UK Government sets global tariff rates for key agricultural commodities such as beef and dairy products at the same level as those applied by the EU. It is so important that they work with the other UK administrations to place the protection of farming families and rural communities at the centre of a common framework which minimises unfair competition and market distortion, while respecting devolution.”

Caernarfonshire County Executive Committee enjoy visit to wool laboratory

Farmers from Caernarfonshire got an insight into how wool is tested and analysed for quality, when they visited the Wool Testing Authority Europe Ltd. laboratory in Caernarfon. The company operates from the Cibyn Industrial Estate in Caernarfon, and tests wool from producers across Europe.

The tour was arranged by Courtney Pye, the Managing Director of the company, and members enjoyed learning about how the laboratory tests wool from a number of European countries.

FUW Caernarfon County Chairman Dafydd Williams said: “We all really enjoyed this visit and were certainly surprised to learn that it is the only laboratory of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere.”

The laboratory is fully equipped to carry out tests for the accurate and reliable measurement of an extensive range of wool characteristics and the prediction of processing performance. Wool is such an amazing product with different types of wool being suitable for different uses. To make sure that our wool is used for the right product, it needs to be tested. 

“Through the testing they can also detect disease and establish how stressed the animals have been - it really was fascinating and I thank Courtney Pye and Gavin Jones for arranging this visit,” added Dafydd Williams.

Caernarfon farmers discuss importance of farm safety

Farmers in Caernarfonshire have been urged not to join the long list of fatality statistics, and make their safety on farm a priority.

Speaking after a recent County Executive meeting, FUW Caernarfonshire County Chairman Dafydd Williams said: “Thinking of other people’s welfare and safety is often easier than thinking of ourselves. You understand the responsibility you have looking after an employee. But we must take care of ourselves too and that includes looking after our own safety on the farm.

“Over the last twenty years, other industries such as construction have made huge improvements to their safety records, and farming has not. It is frightening to think that you are now six times more likely to be killed on a farm than you would on a building site!

“That of course is not right and we have to address the issue - each and every one of us, on our own farms. Agriculture is known to be one of the most dangerous professions with farmers often working alone, in challenging weather conditions and in stressful situations.

“The risks on farms are all well-known and it shouldn’t be so difficult to manage them. But all too often we put ourselves in situations where one slip can have life changing or even fatal consequences.”

The figures published in the Health and Safety Executive’s report 'Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2018/19' show 39 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities during the year, that’s 6 more people than the 5-year average of 33 per year. 

Nearly half of the agricultural workers killed were over 60 with overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles causing most deaths. 

Mr Williams urged farmers to think about what they’re doing before getting started. “6 people died in Wales last year because of an accident on the farm. That’s 6 families who went through life-changing trauma and many more will have been affected by the tragedies. It is not acceptable,” he added.  

During the County meeting, the Chairman also drew attention to working from heights and the need for general maintenance on farms in order to avoid accidents, including encouraging the members to have their outdoor electricity circuits tested. 

“All too often we see problems arising from cables being in poor condition after squirrels and rats chewing them. Having them regularly tested can help avoid so much inconvenience as well as avoid fatal accidents. Follow all the advice including wearing that helmet and make the promise to your family and yourself that you will come home at the end of the day,”he said.

Brecon and Radnor farmers highlight concerns about future to new MP

Farmers from Brecon and Radnor have highlighted their concerns about the future of farming during a recent farm visit in South East Wales. 

Opening the gates to his farm Pencoedcae near Tredegar, Farmers’ Union of Wales Vice President Brian Bowen welcomed newly elected MP Fay Jones to discuss issues such as the Agricultural Bill, the urgent need for frameworks and Brexit.

Brian runs a mixed suckler cow and hill sheep unit and the farm consists of 150 acres of owned land with a further 1000 rented acres and 1200 acres of common rights on three separate commons.

Speaking about the Agriculture Bill, Brian Bowen said: “The Bill does nothing to ensure food imported to the UK meets UK standards — despite ministerial assurances that imported food would meet our standards. That is a huge concern for our farmers.”

While Clause 27 of the Bill, gives the Secretary of State powers to impose written contracts or specific contract terms, it still falls short he stressed.  

“The Bill does not extend the powers of the Groceries Adjudicator to cover the whole supply chain. We will therefore continue to stress that farmers selling produce to a supermarket via an intermediary or processor will remain vulnerable.” 

Farmers further highlighted the urgent need for frameworks in the UK if the UK's 'home market' is to continue working properly and fairly. 

“We need frameworks to prevent unfair competition between producers in different parts of the UK. The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Order illustrates our fears: It removes the EU Pillar 1 financial ceilings mainly to allow Scotland to pay more money to farmers following Lord Bew’s review of payments. 

“If an additional windfall promised by the UK Government in August 2019 is paid through the BPS in 2020, the difference between average Scottish and Welsh farm payments will be around £16,200.

“Paying such an additional sum was not possible under the EU framework as it would have exceeded the Pillar 1 financial ceiling,” said Brian Bowen. 

Emphasising the importance of trade, Union officials told MP that 35% or more of Welsh lamb goes to Europe and that trade there is important. But with 60%+ going to England — it is critical that nothing breaks the UK Home market as a policy in devolved arrangements.

“This is a challenge philosophically and politically for some: Frameworks, by definition, restrict devolution and sovereignty, yet no advanced or mature nation which has a trading arrangement with another country or is part of a single market does not operate without the restrictions of frameworks that ensure the proper functioning of the market.” 

Since 2016, following an internal consultation, the FUW has argued for frameworks to be agreed between UK Governments in order to prevent inappropriate differences between policies and funding in different parts of the UK.

Farmers play crucial role in conservation but it has to work in harmony with the business

Farmers across Wales are embracing conservation work and aiming to increase biodiversity on their holdings. Many are actively providing habitats that will help reverse a decline in species, often without grant aid.

John and Sarah Yeomans, who farm at Llwyn y Brain, Adfa, Newtown, are committed to do what they can to ensure that food production works hand in hand with conservation and environmental goals, and hosted a Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) event to demonstrate what species they have on their farm.

The Yeomans family farm a fragmented upland and reclaimed hill unit of around 285 acres (115ha) running up to 1420 feet above sea level. They keep around 90 cows and replacement heifers, mainly Limousin and British Blue x alongside a flock of around 700 Beulah ewes and ewe lambs.

The family hosted the BFBC event with Matt Goodall from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and were also joined by a number of neighbouring farmers, exploring ways to boost the variety of wild birds on their farm land. 

John said: “A lot of farmers, by their nature, are already doing a lot of conservation work. With or without grants. The problem is not many people know about the good work that is being carried out by farmers, so I hope that in future farmers can be portrayed in a better light.”

“The aim of the Big Farmland Bird Count is to raise awareness of the great conservation work being done on farms across Wales and to also highlight what can be done to help farmland birds survive this difficult time of year so that the breeding populations are increased,” says Matt who wants to encourage Welsh farms to take part in the initiative.

Walking around the farm, the family count the different types of birds who call the trees, hedgerows and grassland at Llwyn y Brain, home.

“I think we’ve between 50 to 60 different species of bird here, including Lapwings, Hedge Sparrows, Tree Creepers and the Cockatiel in the front room who is in his third decade,” says John. 

“But we’d like to do more work with the GWCT to work out how we can increase the number and ensure we have a healthy, thriving population here. 

“Whatever we do though, we need to have a successful business to go with it. Livestock helps our grass grow, and they turn that into edible protein. Our sheep and cattle are part of the solution and I think it’s fair to say that healthy livestock positively contribute to biodiversity and conservation,” said John. 

Keen to go a step further in their conservation efforts, the Yeomans family want to do more but fear that farmers sometimes aren’t given the right tools and information to achieve desired outcomes.

“An interesting Glastir option highlighted by Matt at the event, was installing bird feeding stations across the farm to help the birds survive over the winter. Annoyingly until today, I didn’t know you can add this to your Glastir plan - that has never been promoted to us. We would certainly have added that option to our environment scheme plan, had we known about it.

Book your SAF 2020 appointment

It’s that time of year again when we start thinking about Single Application Forms (SAF). The application window opens on Monday 2 March and the Farmers’ Union of Wales is reminding its members that county staff are here to help and ready to take the stress of filling the form away from you. 

The FUW provides this service exclusively to all paid-up members as part of their membership package, which has proved invaluable for thousands of members over the years - saving them time and a paperwork-headache. 

FUW Membership and Operations Manager Caryl Roberts said: “The SAF completion process is probably the single most important form completion exercise being carried out by Welsh farmers since 2004, and the financial repercussions of errors on the forms are severe. Our staff are not only well trained but very well practised in dealing with the complex application process.”

Since the Welsh Government mandated that all applications should be done online, the FUW is focused on providing the best possible service to its members. 

“I encourage our members and first time form fillers to contact their local office as soon as possible to book an appointment if they need help in filling out the form,” added Caryl Roberts.

Aldi’s commitment to boost Welsh Beef hailed as much needed boost for industry

News that one of Britain’s largest supermarkets, Aldi, has committed to stocking a brand new range of PGI Welsh Beef products across over 50 stores, has been hailed as a much needed boost for the industry.

Speaking after the official announcement was made in Cardiff (Monday, 10 February)  Farmers’ Union of Wales Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “This is a most welcome step in the right direction. Given the uncertainty our farmers face over future trade deals, supporting local suppliers is key to ensuring we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales. 

“Farmers in Wales produce excellent, sustainable, quality PGI Welsh Beef and PGI Welsh Lamb and we are confident shoppers won’t be disappointed by the new range. I can only encourage other supermarkets, restaurants, cafe’s and anyone else who is involved in the food supply chain to follow suit.”

From Tuesday, 12 February a range of thirteen different products, including a selection of Fillet, Ribeye and Sirloin Steaks, both 28 and 21 Day matured, as well as roasting joints and diced beef, will be available in over 50 stores across Wales.

The Deputy President also used the opportunity to remind the Welsh Government that the decision to leave the EU presents an opportunity to revisit procurement laws and policies.

“Aldi is setting an outstanding example with their commitment and I urge the Welsh and UK Government to remember that we now have an opportunity to revisit procurement laws and policies in a way which ensures public bodies also lead by example in terms of supporting local, Welsh and UK food and farming businesses.

“We must place further emphasise on the benefits of local procurement and work to ensure that the principles laid down in the Plan for Local Procurement are adhered to in a way which results in investment in and benefits to UK businesses.

“It can’t be stressed enough that we need to instigate procurement policies which encourage the creation of new companies and cooperatives which allow smaller businesses to tender for procurement, in order to bring benefits in terms of local employment and redressing imbalances that currently exist throughout the supply chain.”

Livestock is at the heart of producing flourishing bird numbers

Brian Bowen, Farmers' Union of Wales Vice President, recently hosted a Big Farmland Bird Count event at his farm Pencoedcae. Here he keeps a 230 suckler breeding herd and over 1200 sheep which grazes the three commons that surround his farm in Blaenau Gwent, South East Wales. 

He believes that not only do the cows break up the vegetation to create a more diverse habitat for different species to nest and feed in,  but poaching of the ground with their feet also creates water capture which again is another habitat to attract more wildlife.

“My cows and sheep are integral to boosting wildlife. It also provides access by breaking up the vegetation to the vast numbers of people who visit the area,” he says, pointing to the Brecon Beacons which the ground extends to. Infact Brian is surrounded by Common land which is used by many people with different interests as well as it being critical to the farming enterprise.

Neighbouring farmers to Brian are also breeding cows along with sheep in these peat rich hills which are storing millions of tonnes of carbon, using the native breeds - Galloway and Welsh Blacks for example - which are hardy and flourish in its harsh conditions of high altitude and rainfall. 

“It requires a special breed of cow here which is the cornerstone for the lowland breeders,” says Brian, who describes the native breeds as being tough but stresses that their contribution to the health of the moorland is poorly understood, and the threat of a TB outbreak to all Welsh cattle farmers is a constant worry. 

FUW mourns passing of gifted member Evan R

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is mourning the passing of Union Life Member, Evan R Thomas, from Carmarthen, who has been described as one of the most gifted and intellectual since the formation of the FUW.

Responding to the news FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The FUW has lost a farming stalwart.

“I regard Mr Thomas, or Evan R, as everyone knew him, as probably the most gifted and intellectually able member since the FUW was formed during 1955. He was a remarkable and wonderful man. He literally gave his life to the FUW and to Welsh agriculture. His contribution has been exceptional and he served on a very large number of committees.”

Meirionnydd AGM - farming must positively embrace future

Farming has a great story to tell and must positively embrace the future, that was the key message at the recent Farmers’ Union of Wales Meirionnydd county annual general meeting. 

The well-attended event, held at Neuadd y Parc, near Bala on Friday 31 January, focussed on ‘Red Meat – the next 20 years’ and after an update on county activity over the last year, delegates heard from  Dewi Williams Cig Eryri abattoir in Ffestiniog; Gwyn Howells - Hybu Cig Cymru; Wyn Williams - Dunbia; and Rhys Davies - Farmers Marts. 

FUW Meirionnydd County Executive Officer Huw Jones said: “I would like to thank the panel speakers for their excellent contributions. It was a most interesting evening and the timing of the event certainly made it a historic occasion for us here in the county. Talking about the future of our industry on the night we were leaving the EU after 47 years of membership, certainly made for good conversation and thought stimulating discussions. The main message we can all take away from the evening is that the agricultural industry in Wales had a good story to tell and that we must look forward to the future confidently and positively in view

Breakfast functions raise over £15,000 for charity

Breakfast functions all across Wales have raised over £15,000 within a week for Farmers’ Union of Wales Presidential charity the DPJ Foundation, thanks to an army of farmers and hungry breakfast-goers.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ 12 county branches embraced the Union’s annual Farmhouse Breakfast Week (Saturday 18 January - Saturday 25 January) in the usual, unstoppable and enthusiastic fashion and hosted 30 breakfasts across Wales.

Aiming to not only raise the profile of the sustainable, local, high-quality food farmers produce, staff, members and officials also used the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings over a home-cooked breakfast and cup of tea. 

Glyn Roberts, FUW President, said: “Our staff, members and wonderful volunteers have done an incredible job once again this year. Farming communities are close-knit and this shows what can be achieved when we all come together, with a common goal. Through these events, where we all sat around the kitchen table to talk and share our thoughts about #FarmingMatters, we’ve strengthened ongoing and permanent relationships and established new ones. 

“The money we have raised locally will go towards helping others - we must never forget that our communities are the engine room of people-powered change and that amazing things can be achieved and will be achieved. I can’t thank everyone who supported us in the run-up, during and after the events enough - together we managed to raise a phenomenal amount of money for our charity, all whilst enjoying great, local, sustainable, high-quality food.”

Don’t fall foul - EU regulations still apply after 31 January

Farmers in Wales are being reminded that EU regulations which they must comply with to avoid fines and penalties will still be applicable after 31 January.

FUW Pembrokeshire County Executive Officer Rebecca Voyle, said: “Farmers might be tempted think the rules and regulations are to be thrown out of the window from 1 February, but that is not true, and believing this is the case could bring severe consequences.

“The UK will still be linked to the EU and will only just be starting the transition period which means little will change in practical terms and all rules still apply.”

Mrs Voyle said this included rules which are linked to the Basic Payment and other schemes.

An example is the requirement to notify Rural Payment Wales (RPW) of any changes to land.

“Please remember that you are still required to notify RPW of certain changes to land within 30 days of the change taking place in order to avoid penalties.  

“A ‘Manage My Land’ form needs to be submitted via your RPW Online account when you buy or sell land, or rent new land for which you have the management control of at 15 May.  

“In addition, if the boundary of a field is changed on a permanent basis, a field is amalgamated or divided on a permanent basis, or a field is being registered and mapped for the first time or the permanent feature area recorded in a field increases or decreases you will also need to submit a form,” said Rebecca Voyle.

Mrs Voyle emphasised that this was just one of thousands of rules and regulations that would not change, despite the UK leaving the EU at the end of January.

Glastir Entry and Advanced Support Scheme - don’t miss your chance to apply

Farmers are being urged not to miss the opportunity to apply for the Glastir Entry and Advanced Support Scheme. The loan facility has been set up to help farmers who will not receive their Glastir Entry or Advanced 2019 payment early in the payment window. 

The scheme will operate in the same way as the BPS Support Scheme and is an ‘opt-in’ scheme. 

Applications are now available on RPW Online and the window will close on 14 February. It is anticipated that payment will be made during the week commencing 24 February, to those eligible farm businesses who do not receive their Glastir Entry or Advanced 2019 payment early in the payment window. 

The 2019 Glastir Entry and Advanced Support Scheme will pay a loan of 50% of an individual farm business’ anticipated Glastir Entry or Advanced 2019 claim value.  The Glastir Entry and Advanced Support Scheme payment will be intercepted from a farm business’ full Glastir Entry or Advanced 2019 claim once processed. 

There are some instances where a loan payment would not be appropriate, for example, a farm business may not be eligible for a Glastir Entry and Advanced Support Scheme payment if the business has an outstanding Grant of Probate or if penalties applied to the Glastir Entry or Advanced claim will not be covered by the Glastir Entry or Advanced balance payment. 

FUW Membership and Operations Manager Caryl Roberts said: “I encourage all our members, who are part of these schemes to apply for the loan. Our county staff are on hand to help with these applications or if you have any questions about eligibility - just give your local office a call and make an appointment.”

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, Union President Glyn Roberts warned of the dangers of focussing on livestock production or inappropriate tree planting. 

“This 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,” said Mr Roberts.

Agriculture is currently responsible for around 10% 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,” said Mr Roberts.

“Agriculture alone can’t fix the global problem and it will take each and every single one of us to take a hard look at what we consume and produce in terms of food, energy, electronics, motoring, travel and make adjustments. 

“Farmers in Wales want to and are playing their part, and as acknowledged by the Committee 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.”

Mr Roberts said that for this reason the FUW welcomed the fact that the Committee had backed its calls for a robust post-Brexit trade policy which reflects the lower carbon footprint of UK produce.

Commenting on the call to increase UK forestry cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050 by planting around 30,000 hectares (90 – 120 million trees) of broadleaf and conifer woodland each year, Mr Roberts said: “Our members are fully supportive of appropriate tree planting where this does not undermine farm productivity and the environment, and regularly highlight the obstacles they come across when they try to plant trees.”

COVID-19 - Important Information for our members and customers

 

In view of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve taken the decision to help protect members, customers and colleagues by closing all FUW offices.

All staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, meaning our team will be continuing with exactly the same service but over the phone/email/skype or other means of remote communication instead. 

Members and customers should continue to contact us as they would, as all our team can be contacted via the usual phone numbers. 

We will be making sure that our service levels are maintained. SAF/IACS appointments will carry on as normal but will be conducted over the phone. 

Contact details for your local office can be found here: https://www.fuw.org.uk/en/contact-us 

 

Important links relating to the Coronavirus:


The TB Hub have prepared a list of FAQs regarding how TB procedures will be affected by the virus: https://tbhub.co.uk/statutory-tb-testing-of-cattle-in-gb-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Red Tractor Updated Covid-19 position here: https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/contentfiles/Farmers-7085.pdf?_=637206600290507095

Livestock Auctioneers Association LAA - 25/03/2020: https://www.laa.co.uk/news/3989/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-to-members-and-farmers/

Business Wales (including details of coronavirus support for businesses): https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) available through participating lenders: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) guidance on Coronavirus: https://www.naac.co.uk/coronavirus-guidance-issued-to-contractors/

National Milk Recording services 24/03/2020: https://www.nmr.co.uk/about-us/coronavirus

Senedd Research Blog: https://seneddresearch.blog/2020/03/17/coronavirus-constituency-support/