Welsh Government must continue to listen to Welsh farmers as SFS consultation response published, says FUW

Commenting on the Welsh Government’s response to the final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Welsh Government must continue to listen to Welsh farmers as the summary of responses to the latest SFS consultation is published today. The industry’s voice has been loud and clear and it has been a challenging process to get this far for everyone involved.

“It comes as no surprise that the consensus from the mammoth 12,000 farmers and organisations who responded to the consultation calls for significant changes to the scheme proposals.

“This was also the clear message from our members who responded individually, and fed their views into the Union’s comprehensive consultation response earlier this year. We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to make this scheme work for farmers.

“We welcome the remarks made by the Cabinet Secretary today as he commits to introducing the scheme only when it is ready. This needs to be an agricultural support scheme that provides stability for our food producing family farms in Wales and considers economic, social and environmental sustainability on equal footings. As a Union, this remains our ultimate goal.”

The written statement by the Cabinet Secretary refers to the on-going work of the SFS Ministerial Roundtable, Carbon Sequestration and Officials groups in reviewing and implementing the scheme, in partnership with the farming unions and other stakeholders.

The FUW welcomed the announcement that the SFS will not begin until 2026 and that a preceded preparatory phase will take place next year.

“There is an intense body of work being undertaken by the FUW with the Cabinet Secretary, stakeholders and Welsh Government officials, with extremely important discussions having taken place.”

President, Ian Rickman, concluded: “FUW members can rest assured we are doing our utmost to negotiate a scheme that works for all farmers in Wales from 2026 onwards. This remains our commitment to Welsh farmers.”

FUW welcomes the introduction of BVD legislation from 1 of July, but says government support is crucial for its success

Despite frustrations over the delay in introducing Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) legislation in Wales, the long awaited BVD Wales Order 2024 will be introduced from the 1 of July 2024.

BVD is a viral infection of cattle, which can cause a variety of health issues, including abortion, infertility and Mucosal Disease which is fatal. The virus is maintained in herds by a small population of animals that are born “persistently infected” with the virus.

FUW Policy Officer, Elin Jenkins, said: “With the estimated annual costs of BVD for a 100 cow beef herd of £4,500, and upwards of £15,000 for a 130 cow dairy herd, it was anticipated that an immediate introduction of this legislation would have stamped out the remaining pockets of BVD following the success of the voluntary Gwaredu BVD screening programme.

“However, 18 months have passed since the funding provided by the Welsh Government for Gwaredu BVD ended which has resulted in a reported 83% less submissions for BVD testing by the Wales Veterinary Science Centre.”

The first phase of the new legislation will require all cattle keepers in Wales to test their herds for BVD annually and isolate all persistently infected animals from the rest of the herd for the remainder of their lives.

“This is a step in the right direction towards eradicating BVD in Wales, however, there are ongoing concerns regarding the support available for a successful rollout of the legislation. We now call on the Welsh Government to continue supporting the industry and its ambitions to improve the health and welfare of cattle.

“The eradication of BVD would not only benefit the health and welfare of Welsh cattle leading to improved farm efficiencies and reduction of carbon footprint, it would extend to promoting Welsh producers in current and future trade negotiations bringing Wales in line with many other countries that already have a BVD-free disease status,” said Mrs Jenkins.

Mona Dairy announcement highlights need for support, says FUW

Mona Dairy have announced an uncertain future for their milk suppliers after failing to secure funding from stakeholders and have advised their milk suppliers that an alternative milk processing company will be processing milk in an interim period.

The facility is powered by renewable energy and has the potential to produce 30,000 tonnes of continental cheese a year. Mona Dairy’s commitment to drive down the carbon footprint of cheese production saw them being the first in the UK to utilise electric lorries for milk collections.

FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee Chair Brian Walters said: “Undoubtedly, this loss will be hard hitting for both the local economy and the 31 producers that currently supply milk to Mona Dairy.

“Dairy farmers throughout Wales are facing an unprecedented period of uncertainty, having dealt with the difficulties of a long wet winter alongside the continuing turmoil of changes to future agricultural support and red tape.

“Compliance with the Control of Agricultural Pollution regulations and the ever tightening noose of bovine TB infections continue to bring great difficulties and extortionate costs to the sector.

“We hope that as a result of a weak spring flush and an improving dairy commodities market, other milk processors will be in a favourable position to support milk producers currently supplying Mona Dairy.

“However, for a more permanent resolution, it is hoped that a new buyer could be sought to take advantage of these innovative facilities at the site on Ynys Môn. Given the sustainability credentials and economic opportunity that Mona Dairy has to offer, we call on the Welsh Government for support in facilitating a positive outcome for the business.

“FUW members affected by this news are welcome to contact their county offices for guidance and support during this challenging time,” Mr Walters concluded.

FUW welcomes Welsh Government announcement to change on-farm slaughter measures around bovine TB

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has today welcomed the news that the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies accepts in full the recommendations presented to him by the newly established Technical Advisory Group on a suite of measures that will provide flexibility for the on-farm slaughter of cattle with bovine TB.

Farming families, already under emotional and financial pressure from TB breakdowns in cattle have been reduced to tears due to the harsh and harrowing experience of watching cattle being put down on their farmyards.

Dai Miles, FUW Deputy President said: “This is certainly welcome news that the Cabinet Secretary has listened to the concerns of the industry and most importantly taken action by accepting these recommendations in full.”

The TAG conducted its first meeting on 15 April under the guidance of Professor Glyn Hewinson, who is also chair of Sêr Cymru at the TB Centre of Excellence in Aberystwyth.

The majority of on-farm slaughter cases are due to cattle testing positive for bovine TB whilst under medicated withdrawal periods. Slaughtering also occurs on farmyards when cows are heavily pregnant or within the first week post-calving and are not permitted to be transported off farm under animal transport regulations.

Dai Miles continued: “The FUW were invited to provide written and oral evidence to the TAG for consideration, and we’re pleased that our work supported the changes announced today.

“Our recommendations were aimed at reducing the number of cattle slaughtered on-farm following bovine TB-breakdowns and to provide support in circumstances where on-farm slaughter is unavoidable.

“We welcome the pace at which this process has taken place and hope that these actions can be implemented as soon as possible to reduce the occurrence of on-farm slaughter. The effects of this process has a long-term detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of our farming families.

“However, we must not forget that the need to discuss the subject of alleviating the horrors of on-farm slaughter looks to remedy the symptom rather than address the root cause of the issue. This continues to be the abysmal track record of a long standing ineffective TB eradication programme in Wales.

“We will continue to work in partnership with the TAG and other stakeholders to address other ways in which the TB eradication programme can be improved for the benefit of all cattle farmers in Wales,” FUW Deputy President concluded.

Welsh Government announcement on BPS extension welcome news for the farming industry, says FUW

FUW President Ian Rickman, has today welcomed the news that the Welsh Government is to maintain the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to support Welsh farmers alongside the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) preparatory phase for 2025.

Responding to the statement made by Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We welcome the statement made by the Cabinet Secretary on the future of farming in Wales and his plans to work in partnership with the farming industry.

“Since the last consultation, we have consistently called on the Welsh Government to extend the BPS at current levels for next year given the amount of change required in regards to the Sustainable Farming Scheme within the proposed time frame.

“This announcement on maintaining the BPS alongside an SFS preparatory phase next year is a major step in the right direction. It will provide both stability for farming businesses and a solid foundation for meaningful discussions.

“The development of the SFS represents the most significant change in agricultural policy in Wales for decades. It is therefore reassuring that the Cabinet Secretary maintains that the Scheme will not be introduced until it is ready.”

The statement also refers to the continuation of rural investment schemes, including consideration of extending the Habitat Wales Scheme and support for organic producers.

“It is essential that we avoid any gaps in support during the transition from the BPS to the SFS which underpins the economic sustainability of farming businesses. The continuation of such support is therefore welcomed while we work to design a Scheme that delivers for farming businesses, our rural communities and the environment.

“While we welcome the statement today which demonstrates a willingness to listen, to work with the industry and support rural Wales, we’ll wait to hear the finer details through the Cabinet Secretary’s oral statement in plenary this afternoon. 

“There has been a real frustration within the industry over recent months, and scrutiny of the finer details will be crucial as this work progresses over the coming weeks.”

“FUW members are at the heart of our organisation and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcomes for our family farms and the wider industry,” concluded Ian Rickman.

Sustainable Farming Scheme Ministerial Roundtable welcomed, but must deliver meaningful change, says FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed an announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs outlining his plans to create a Ministerial Roundtable which will consider the evidence and lead on the development of a revised Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).

In response to the statement, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “One of our key asks following the consultation was to establish a small focused SFS design stakeholder group tasked with considering details of different elements of the scheme, along with payment rates and overall budgetary requirements.

“We therefore welcome today's announcement which outlines plans to establish such a group, providing us with a formal platform to scrutinise and rework the scheme so that it properly delivers for Welsh farmers and our rural communities.

“However, I reiterate this message again; the scheme needs far more than touching up around the edges. It needs a radical rethink and this group must now deliver meaningful change within the timeframe presented to us.”

The Cabinet Secretary’s statement also highlights how one of the first tasks of the Ministerial Roundtable will be to look at any further and alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the SFS.

“This development is also welcomed given the urgent need to evaluate the science around net zero and carbon sequestration to help develop the SFS. This element needs to take into account all actions farmers can undertake to make progress towards net zero in a sustainable way.

“The engagement we’ve had as a Union with the Cabinet Secretary and his officials to date has been positive and this statement reflects those discussions. The FUW is ready to burn the midnight oil to ensure we get to the right place before the end of the year, in order that this scheme is workable both economically and environmentally.” concluded Mr Rickman.