Welsh farming leaders join forces on climate change goals

Farming leaders in Wales have united to speak with one clear voice on the industry’s ambition to deliver climate goals alongside the production of climate-friendly food.

Representatives from NFU Cymru, Farmers’ Union of Wales, Hybu Cig Cymru, AHDB and Wales YFC met for a meeting in which all five organisations agreed to work together to ensure Welsh food and farming can make a positive contribution to combatting climate change while safeguarding global food security.

The statement reads: 

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world.  Through climate-friendly food production, the trees, hedges, grassland and soils that store carbon on Welsh farms together with on-farm energy generation, agriculture in Wales plays a key role in tackling climate change and is uniquely placed to be the solution. 

Great Orme Shepherd advocates traditional farming methods for sustainable food production and conservation

The Great Orme - a limestone mountain that rises 207 meters above sea level and is recognised as a Country park, Special area of conservation, a site of special scientific interest and part of the heritage coast. With views right across the Irish Sea and Anglesey in the short distance, it is no wonder that it’s rugged landscape attracts over 600,000 visitors a year.

But the Great Orme is more than just a tourist attraction. It is home to National Trust tenant Shepherd Dan Jones and 650 sheep. Dan has been the custodian of Parc Farm for the past 5 years and looks after not just the 145 acres included with the farm, but helps to manage a total of 900 acres, which have grazing rights for 416 ewes plus followers. 

Dan was born on a small family farm on Anglesey, and farming was always his passion. “My parents wanted me to do something different but I really wanted to farm. I went to Llysfasi college and then to Aberystwyth University to study agriculture. I always wanted to be my own boss and loved working with animals, so this was a really natural progression.” 

The National Trust bought Parc farm in 2015, and it was an important purchase as there were plans to convert the 150 acres farm into a golf course and with that the sheep would have had to go. The sheep are essential residents on the Great Orme, ensuring grazing rights are maintained and the landscape and biodiversity flourish.  

FUW raises school meal procurement concerns with Anglesey County Council

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has raised concerns about the procurement policies for school meals at primary schools on Anglesey with the local council. Union officials were concerned that the menu offered to children did not incorporate enough local and Welsh produce. 

FUW Anglesey County Executive Alaw Jones said: “We were encouraged by the meeting we had with the County Council and welcome the fact that they hope to work with local farmers to explore opportunities to supply meat and dairy produce for school meals on the island.” 

The council, which has recently signed a multi million pound contract to supply 9,500 school meals every day with catering giant Chartwells said that though they were limited in their influence over food suppliers, they would be happy to help the FUW raise awareness of high quality Welsh food producers within the catering company.

‘Help for mental health must remain high on agenda’ - says FUW ahead of World Mental Health Day

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is urging decision makers and Governments to ensure that mental health services remain high on the agenda, ahead of World Mental Health Day (Sunday, 10 October). 

The 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’, run by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), aims to focus on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequality locally and globally. 

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “I would say we are lucky in Wales and in our rural communities that we have the support of many mental health charities such as the DPJ Foundation, that our farmers and rural communities can call on for help. However, many people with a mental illness still do not receive the treatment that they are entitled to and deserve and together with their families and carers continue to experience stigma and discrimination.”

Ecologist turned farmer highlights industries crucial role in sustainable food production and habitat conservation

Four miles south of Machynlleth, nestled in the Dyfi valley and on the edges of the Cambrian mountains is Cefn Coch Farm, home to Dr Joseph Hope. The farm lies at about 200 to 250 meters above sea level and the land rises to the south and you can walk to the summit of Pumlumon without seeing a road or a house. 

The farm has 40 acres of species-rich pasture and woodland, and Joe is currently buying another 50 acres at Ynyslas. A new entrant, he keeps a small growing herd of Highland cattle, currently just 12 head in total. 4 saddleback x wild boar pigs are also busy clearing bracken and brambles in order to rehabilitate it for grazing.

Joe moved to Cefn Coch just over 6 years ago, leaving behind a life in Edinburgh, and a career at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh where he worked as a lichenologist. He initially let out the fields to a neighbour for grazing sheep and cattle and it was only 3 years ago that he bought his first cattle – 3 cows and calves. It was a big shift but got him hooked into pursuing a farming life.

“I guess I just wanted to get my hands dirty! Working at the Botanic Gardens was a real privilege but very cerebral. I wanted to do rather than just observe. I inherited money from the sale of my grandmother’s farm in Australia and didn’t just want to pile it into stocks and shares. I have a long interest in conservation and the countryside and came here to look after what seemed to me to be a very special patch of land. In time I decided that the best way to do that was by continuing to farm sensitively,” explained Joe. 

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

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) 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.

“Our longstanding concerns regarding this issue were discussed in a recent meeting of the Union’s Council. Members felt strongly that the Welsh Government and Senedd should take urgent action to tackle this issue through some form of control mechanism,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

Farmers highlight industry concerns with Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales

Farmers from Ceredigion, Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire have highlighted concerns of the industry, including the future of agricultural policy in Wales and bovine TB, when they met with Cefin Campbell Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales.

Hosting the meeting was Farmers’ Union of Wales member Meirion Rees, who farms in partnership with his parents, Val and Meurig Rees at Penrallt Meredith, Crosswell, Eglwyswrw.

The family farming business was started by Meirion’s parents, Val and Meurig, over 40 years ago.  Originally a dairy farm the family stopped milking around 20 years ago and kept suckler cows and sheep.  

Meirion went to University in Cardiff to study civil engineering and spent 10 years working on different engineering projects in all parts of the country. However, he always kept an interest in the farm and helped out when he could. Eight years ago he moved back to the farm full time.

New team at the helm for Montgomeryshire FUW

The Montgomeryshire branch of the Farmers’ Union of Wales has elected three new county officials at its recent county executive meeting. 

Iwan Pughe JonesTaking over the reign as county chairman from Bryn Francis, is Iwan Pughe Jones. The county wishes to thank Bryn Francis for his dedication to the Union and the farming industry over the past 3 years. 

Additionally the county wishes to thank the outgoing County President, Mr Gareth Vaughan for his service. The newly elected Montgomeryshire county president is Mrs Lynda Brown and Mr Wyn Williams has been elected as county vice chairman.

Proposed lift on USA lamb ban welcome news for industry

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed news that the long standing ban on importing Welsh lamb into the United States is to be lifted soon. The announcement was made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday 22 September. 

The FUW has long discussed the prospect of lifting the unjustified ban with the USDA in various meetings over the past decade. Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales have highlighted that the potential market for PGI Welsh Lamb in the USA is estimated to be worth as much as £20 million a year within five years of the export restrictions being removed.

Speaking from his Carmarthenshire sheep farm, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman, said: “Now more than ever we need to explore other export markets while also protecting our long established markets in Europe. The US market is one we are keen to develop much stronger relationships with and the news that this ban could soon be lifted is most welcome news for our sheep industry.”

FUW welcomes BPS and Glastir contract extensions

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths, that subject to sufficient funding being provided by the UK Government, farmers will continue to receive the Basic Payment Scheme until 2023 and that there will be a two year extension to the Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic scheme contracts.

The Glastir contract extension represents a budget commitment of £66.79m over two years for Welsh farmers. All existing eligible contract holders will be offered an extension via their RPW on-line accounts.

Responding to the announcement, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “This is very welcome news for the farming industry. With so much uncertainty around at the moment, this offers some stability for the next two years. A reassurance the industry very much needs, particularly as trade deals with large global agri-exporters are made by the Uk Government. 

Farming Matters take centre stage at Usk Show

The Farmers’ Union of Wales and FUW Insurance Services Ltd. welcomed members, customers, friends of the Union and politicians at Usk Show on Saturday 11 September, where farming matters discussions took centre stage. 

The event, which was one of a few to go ahead in person this year, was a busy and successful day, which celebrated the very best of Monmouthshire farming and rural life. Joining the FUW Ltd. group on the day were the DPJ Foundation, Wales Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator Rob Taylor, and police officers from the Gwent Police force. The county office also arranged a raffle and childrens competition.

FUW Glamorgan and Gwent County Executive Officer Sharon Pritchard said: “We enjoyed welcoming friends, family, members, FUW Insurance Services customers and many politicians to our marquee on the day. We were pleased to be able to support this event, meet people in person and discuss the most critical farming matters with local politicians.”

FUW launches domestic violence awareness raising campaign in our rural communities

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), in cooperation with the DPJ Foundation and police forces across Wales, is putting the spotlight on an increase in domestic violence in all of our communities since the Covid 19 restrictions came into place last year.

There are many consequences of domestic abuse, including the development of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, and the FUW made a commitment to keep the spotlight on mental health issues for as long as it remains a problem in our rural communities and the last 12 months have been tough for many.

For many people home is not a place of safety and Covid-19 restrictions have increased the isolation suffered by many which is often exacerbated in our rural communities. It has also been more difficult for victims of domestic abuse to seek help at a time when incidence of domestic abuse has increased, which is even more acute in some of our isolated rural communities.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales from March 2020 to 2021 there had been a 7% growth in police recorded domestic abuse crime but support services have seen a bigger rise, with many victims not seeking justice through the criminal justice system. Victim support have seen a 12% increase in the number of domestic abuse cases referred and many charities such as the DPJ foundation have seen an increase in calls regarding domestic abuse over this time. 

Ceredigion farmers raise bovine TB and tree planting concerns with local Member of the Senedd

Farmers from Ceredigion have raised their concerns around bovine TB and current tree planting targets with local Member of the Senedd, Elin Jones. Hosting the meeting was Farmers’ Union of Wales Ceredigion County Chairman Morys Ioan, who farms with his wife Helen, at Fferm Drefach, Cross Inn, Llandysul. 

The farm has been in the family for over 150 years and Morys is the 5th generation to farm Drefach. Morys and Helen own 24 acres and rent a further 244 acres. They keep 200 sheep and also rear 450 beef calves from dairy herds as stores and finishing cattle. 

Morys has recently come home to run the family farm and a lot of improvements have been made to the land including the planting of 4,000 hedging plants through the Glastir Small Grants scheme. Work has also begun on an approved calf rearing unit on which the farm business will be focusing on for the next 5 years. Working with local dairy farms, Morys is currently working on a way to accommodate the bovine TB situation as part of the business.  

Carmarthen farmers raise climate change issues with Deputy Minister

Farmers’ Union of Wales members from Carmarthenshire and Union officials recently discussed critical climate change issues facing the agricultural industry with Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS.

Union officials acknowledged that given the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the role played by soils and plants in sequestering carbon is attracting significant attention, with a particular focus by the Welsh Government on planting trees.

FUW Carmarthen County Chairman Phil Jones said: “The FUW supports the overall aims of the Welsh Government with regards to environmental issues but we are concerned that a number of recent policy proposals to increase tree planting targets from 2000 hectares per year to 5000 ha/pa could see agricultural funding being diverted towards forestry and woodland with a lack of clarity on the consequences for Wales’ family farms and rural communities.”

FUW encourages children to submit farming Christmas card design in aid of charity

Primary school pupils from all over Wales are being invited to enter a Christmas card design themed around farming for the FUW’s Christmas card competition.

The FUW is asking children aged from four to 11 to design a Christmas farming scene for its Christmas cards, which will be sold to raise money for the Union’s charity The DPJ Foundation.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The competition will be split into Welsh language and English language categories. Children can use any media in their entries, such as crayons, coloured pencils, felt tipped pens or paint which must be completed on an A4 sheet of paper and emailed to us in jpeg format.

Reach out to loved ones, FUW encourages rural communities ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is reminding rural communities to stand side by side with those suffering from poor health and reach out to loved ones, ahead of World Suicide Prevention day (Friday 10 September). 

World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and to promote action that will reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts globally.

The International Association for Suicide Preventation has highlighted that one in every 100 deaths worldwide is the result of suicide and The World Health Organisation estimates that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds. The latest available statistics from the Samaritans (2019) highlight that in England and Wales there were 5,691 suicides, an increase of 321 on the previous year. The suicide rate for females under the age of 25 has increased by 93.8% since 2012, its highest level yet.

FUW looks forward to Usk show

The Farmers’ Union of Wales and FUW Insurance Services Ltd. are looking forward to welcoming members and customers to the Usk Show on Saturday 11 September. 

The event, which is one of a few to go ahead in person this year, will be held at Usk Showground, Gwernesney, Usk and promises to be a busy and successful day to celebrate the very best of Monmouthshire farming and rural life.

FUW Glamorgan and Gwent County Executive Officer Sharon Pritchard said: “We are very excited to welcome friends, family, members, FUW Insurance Services customers and everyone who wants to find out more about the Union to our marquee on the day. We are pleased to be able to support this event, meet people in person and are hopeful that events such as this signal a return to normal.”

Farmers urged to remain vigilant as credit card scams circulate in Pembrokeshire

Farmers and the wider public in Pembrokeshire are being urged to remain vigilant as credit card scams have been circulating in the county. The warning comes as the Farmers’ Union of Wales county office has received numerous phone calls from members raising the alarm.

According to Citizens Advice, scammers have been exploiting the pressures that the Covid-19 pandemic is putting people under and have noticed a significant increase in the number of scams relating to financial services in the last 12 months. These can include fake “Get Rich Quick” investment schemes or someone pretending to be from the individual's bank, asking them to transfer money or personal details.

FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz said: “Our county office has received numerous phone calls about members having potentially fallen foul of a credit card scam in recent months. People of all ages and backgrounds get scammed and it’s important to be on your guard.”

Concerns stack up for Welsh agri sectors with UK-New Zealand free trade deal on the horizon

Concerns for the Welsh agricultural sector are stacking up as details of a free trade deal with New Zealand are on the horizon. The deadline for the trade deal has been mooted to be the end of August, according to the UK Government. 

The UK and New Zealand free trade deal is said to have been worth over £2.3 billion in 2020, with the figure likely to increase as a result of a wide-ranging trade deal.

FUW Vice President Dai Miles said: “The biggest problem with these trade deals is the volatility it will add to UK markets for all sectors. Currently with the demand from China, meat and dairy products from New Zealand and Australia are going there. If that demand in China drops, the UK will be exposed to potentially very cheap imports with no way of controlling their volume or price. 

Additional UK animal movement rules ‘utter hypocrisy’ given UK-Australia trade deal proposal, FUW says

The announcement that a raft of additional restrictions on animal movements will be introduced in England and Wales and confirmation that live animal exports will be banned has been described as ‘utter hypocrisy’ by the Farmers’ Union of Wales.

The UK and Welsh Government announced on Wednesday 18 August that animal movement rules - which are already amongst the strictest in the world - would be tightened up significantly, despite standards in other countries not coming close to those already required in the UK. The announcement also confirmed that the new proposals would come in alongside a ban on live animal exports.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The decision to tighten the Welsh and English rules while opening the door to more foreign food produced to far lower welfare standards is utter hypocrisy. 

Pembrokeshire farmer raises industry concerns with Member of the Senedd for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire beef, arable and sheep farmer Mathew Van Dijk and Farmers’ Union of Wales officials from Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have raised concerns of the farming industry with Member of the Senedd for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Sam Kurtz.

The meeting was held at Arnolds Hill Farm, Slebech, Haverfordwest, which together with Square Farm next door, is a 300 acre holding which is home to around 150 head of cattle and 50 breeding sheep.Between the two farms, Mathew Van Dijk and his partner Cath Davies keep Limousin and Limousin cross suckler cows. The calves are reared to 20 - 24 months old and they also keep some pedigree breeding bulls.  The couple also grow 32 acres of spring barley, 7 acres of winter barley and 112 acres of maize.

Speaking to Mr Kurtz, Mathew highlighted that the main issues affecting the business going forward were reduced bull sales at the market because of the on-going bovine TB crisis, a slow planning application system, the agricultural pollution regulations and uncertainty surrounding support payments going forward. 

FUW to discuss merits and drawbacks of carbon trading quotas

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is to discuss the merits and drawbacks of limiting the amount of carbon credits that can be sold from Welsh land, carbon trading quotas and other approaches that might be applied in Wales. 

During a recent meeting of the FUW’s Land Use and Parliamentary Committee, members expressed extreme concern that a large proportion of the carbon locked and sequestered in Welsh land could be sold to other countries and companies outside Wales, undermining the ability of Welsh agriculture or even Wales as a whole to become carbon neutral.

They also highlighted ongoing concerns that Welsh farms were being purchased by companies from outside Wales in order to cash in on Wales’ carbon.

The committee therefore agreed that a quota system should be introduced to reduce this risk, and it was agreed at a subsequent meeting of the FUW’s Presidential Policy Team that the pros and cons of such limits should be the subject of detailed discussion by all FUW committee chairmen and the presidential team. 

Flintshire organic dairy farmer raises industry concerns with regional North West Member of the Senedd

A Flintshire organic dairy farmer has raised industry concerns around bovine TB and the Water Resource regulations with regional North West Member of the Senedd Carolyn Thomas, when the family welcomed her to the family farm.

John and Jenny Wrench, who are the third generation on the tenanted holding, farm in partnership with John’s parents Stephen and Anne, as well as grandparents John and Vera, at Beeches Farm, Saltney Ferry in Flintshire. 

The 186 hectare holding was once a beef, sheep and arable farm. However, as corn prices didn’t change over 20 years whilst machinery costs trebled, the margins on beef became tighter and livestock worrying increased, the family decided to start dairy farming. They now have 130 dairy cows and hope to increase this to 250 milking cows. The family also keep 100 young stock. 

The decision to convert the holding to dairy in 2020 was not an easy one to make and put enormous financial pressure on the family. To future proof the farm business, the Wrench family have invested heavily in winter housing and feeding infrastructure for their dairy cows. Whilst the landlord has been supportive, they have made all the investments themselves. 

Farm safety webinar discusses industry dilemma and solutions

Solutions to the ongoing farm safety dilemma were discussed at a webinar organised by Farmers’ Union of Wales Insurance Services Ltd. (FUWIS) as part of the virtual Royal Welsh Show. 

Keynote speakers on the day included Tony Succamore,Sales and Operations Director of FUW Insurance Services Ltd; Georgina Davis, Business Development Manager (Midlands) at British Engineering Services; Health and Safety Executive representative Christopher Maher and Farm safety expert and instructor Brian Rees. Chairing the webinar was Farmers’ Union of Wales Deputy President and FUW Insurance Services Ltd. board member Ian Rickman.

Opening the event, Mr Rickman said: “It saddens me to know that despite efforts to highlight the dangers on farms time and time again, we have still not seen a decrease in these figures. Together with our partners in the Wales Farm Safety Partnership, we are working on raising awareness and reducing the risk of harm faced by those in our industry. 

“We have got used to hearing those kinds of statistics over the years but we need to keep putting that message out there and get an improvement on those figures. As farmers we are busy, with silage and hay at the moment, but planning and jotting down a few thoughts on what the risks are could really help.” 

FUW looks forward to Welsh National Sheep dog trials at Sandilands

The Welsh National sheep dog trials will be held at Sandilands farm, Tywyn, Gwynedd from 24 to 26 August 2021 - and the FUW Ltd. group is excited to join the event on Union member Geraint Owen’s holding. Mr Owen is no stranger to hosting such events, having previously hosted the 2016  International Sheep Dog Trials.

The FUW will be represented by the Meirionnydd branch and FUW Insurance Services Ltd. and all are looking forward to welcoming members and those participating in the Sheep Dog Trials to the stand.

Geraint Owen of Sandilands farm, Tywyn has had close connections with the FUW over many years, and is a former Chairman of the Tywyn Branch. Sandilands is a Beef and Sheep farm with around 2000 breeding ewes and 150 breeding limousines and limousine cross suckler cows.

Nearly 1000 viewers tune in to strength of mind event

Nearly 1000 viewers tuned in to a chat between two world-class extreme sports personalities at a special virtual event organised recently by volunteer led healthy minds organisation in rural Wales. 

The World's Best Machine Shearer, Richard Jones of Glyndyfrdwy and extreme endurance runner and TV presenter, Lowri Morgan shared their experiences with a virtual audience at the hands of experienced broadcaster and host, Nic Parry at the Rhug Estate, recently.

Nerth Dy Ben*, a volunteer-run organisation that aims to give individuals a platform to share positive experiences, in Welsh, organised the event to share the endurance, perseverance and mental strength individuals need to meet extreme physical challenges.