Union stresses importance of fair funding for industry in meetings with politicians

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has stressed the importance of clear, sector specific funding in meetings with politicians at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair whilst also highlighting the urgent need for clarity if we are to retain Wales’ family farms.

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Concerns regarding the possibility that agricultural and rural development budgets may not be restored, or may be cut even further, are exacerbated by the fact that what funding is made available is no longer ring-fenced for direct support for farmers and specific rural development objectives.

“It is also not regulated by strict spending criteria, meaning national Governments are in effect at liberty to reduce support and reallocate funding away from rural communities without regard for the social principles which were previously upheld through UK and EU legislation. We urgently need clarity on those issues from Westminster and Cardiff.”

The FUW also discussed issues surrounding the Habitat Wales Scheme, the Sustainable farming scheme and issues surrounding the proposed National Park in North East Wales and Montgomeryshire.

Winning FUW Christmas card designs revealed

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has revealed the winning designs for its Christmas card design competition. Children from primary schools across Wales had been invited to submit a farming themed Christmas card design in aid of Wales Air Ambulance, the FUW’s current Presidential charity.

The competition was split into two categories – English and Welsh designs. The English category was won by Lucy-grace Humphrey, 9 years old, from Glannau Gwaun School, Fishguard. The Welsh category was won by Ynyr Wyn Lloyd, 9 years old, from Bontnewydd School, Caernarfon.

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “The competition was a roaring success once again and has attracted hundreds of entries from across Wales. The standard was very high and presented the judges with a tough task when it came to choosing the winners.

“I would like to thank every single child who entered the competition and to tell them that without their participation the contest would not have been such a success. I would also like to express my gratitude to the staff at the schools up and down the country that assisted the FUW in the running of the competition.

“It gave children in urban and rural areas of Wales an opportunity to connect with the farming industry and express their thoughts in a creative and colourful way, showing why #FarmingMatters. I believe it is vital that we as farmers maintain a strong link with young people so that they understand the way that food is produced in this country.”

The cards can be purchased either from the FUW’s head office by calling 01970 820820 or from respective FUW county offices.

Ceredigion farming family highlights concerns to local politicians

A Ceredigion beef and sheep farming family have outlined their concerns for the industry when they welcomed Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake and Elin Jones MS to their farm on the outskirts of Tregaron.

Garnwen farm, a 4th generation holding, is home to Peter, Gill and Emily Jones. The family keep 250 ewes, including 80 pedigree North Country Cheviots, 10 Charmoise Hill sheep and 160 commercial ewes, as well as 20 suckler cows including pedigree Beef Shorthorns on 140 acres, including 20 rented.

A traditional family farm with a low input approach, the cattle are in a high health scheme to ensure no disease is brought onto the farm and herd. The farm has strong sustainability aims, using organic lays including chicory and plantain, which acts as a natural wormer for sheep. 

Through such grazing practises the family have reduced their antibiotic use on farm and found it to be a more sustainable way of getting their lambs ready for market, reducing supplementary feeding. Fertiliser is also being used sparingly across the holding.

Union officials and politicians enjoyed a presentation from Emily on the farm business and heard the families concerns about the Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals, as well as the Welsh Government’s approach to eradicating diseases such as bovine TB and sheep scab. Union officials also highlighted concerns around Wales’ Rural Affairs budget.

Speaking after the visit, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “A huge focus for us ahead of the next UK General Election is Wales’ rural affairs budget and we raised some concerns around that with Ben Lake and Elin Jones. We know that by 2025, Wales will have received around £228 million less in funding for agriculture and rural development than could have been expected had the UK remained within the EU.

“This doesn’t include the recent announcement of the £37 million which could be lost from the rural affairs budget at a time of major transition and pressures for farmers. What we are seeing is that with the conclusion of Glastir and the implementation of the interim Habitat Wales Scheme, now is the first time a significant number of farmers throughout Wales will feel the impact of Brexit and budget cuts at the farm gate.

“Funding received from the UK Treasury is also no longer ring-fenced for direct support for farmers and specific rural development objectives, nor regulated by strict spending criteria as it used to be under EU legislation. With this in mind, it is absolutely essential that the Sustainable Farming Scheme is sufficiently resourced and Welsh farmers are properly rewarded for helping to meet Welsh Government targets.”

The Union president also thanked the Jones family for the warm welcome to the farm, adding: “Farming families like Emily’s are the backbone of our rural economies, keeping our way of life and culture alive and are leading the way in sustainable food production. It is crucial we don’t lose farming families like the Jones’ from our lands.”

Autumn budget does nothing to relieve pressures on farming families

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has given a lukewarm response to the Autumn Budget, delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today (Wednesday 22 November 2023).

Despite the recent drop in inflation rates we are yet to see this feed through to lower interest rates and the warning from the Bank of England indicates that we should not expect many changes in the near future. This is a real concern for all businesses including farm businesses.  

FUW Group Chief Executive Guto Bebb said: “Whilst we fully understand the need to get inflation under control this should not be at the expense of farmers being able to recoup the cost of production. There is a lot of recent evidence that the fall in the price of dairy products is having a very real and detrimental impact upon farm gate prices. 

“This is a rather disappointing fiscal statement from the UK Government which does little to resolve the cost of living crisis and not much to instil confidence in the business community.  

“Farmers in Wales have had their confidence impacted by trade deals that damage their interests, funding cuts for Welsh agriculture justified on the back of accounting tricks, and a Welsh Government that seems incapable of delivering a coherent habitat scheme for farmers as we move beyond the previous farm support system.

“There was an opportunity for the UK Government to provide a much needed confidence boost for the sector but it appears that we will need to wait once again to see the issues facing the farming community being seriously addressed by the Government in Westminster.”

FUW calls for TB impact review following announcement of additional testing requirements

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to undertake a review of the costs and administrative burdens placed upon livestock keepers resulting from the current TB testing regime in Wales. The call follows an announcement by the Minister for Rural Affairs today (November 14) which outlined additional testing requirements for the Low and Intermediate risk areas of Wales.

The changes come as part of the 5 year Delivery Plan published earlier this year.

From the 1st of February 2024, pre-movement testing will be reintroduced into the Low TB Area of Wales, whilst cattle moving into the Intermediate TB Area from the High TB area of Wales, the High Risk Area of England and from Northern Ireland will need a post-movement test. 

Farmers can still move cattle that have tested clear at a government funded routine surveillance test, such as the annual herd test. 

Dr Hazel Wright, FUW Deputy Head of Policy, stated: “The announcement of further testing requirements for cattle will be of little surprise to many FUW members given the proposals contained in the last Welsh Government TB consultation. In our lengthy response to this consultation we outlined that the expected impact on cattle welfare and human health and safety due to the increased gathering and handling required to comply with additional testing proposals should be determined prior to any additional testing requirements. However we are yet to receive this information despite today’s announcement.”

As part of its consultation response on the reintroduction of pre-movement testing in the LTBA, the FUW stated that the priority for such herds should be protection against disease but only in a manner which is proportionate to the risks conferred by a given activity and the benefits gained by a given policy.

“Whilst the FUW recognises the need to protect the Low Risk Area from further disease spread, the cost-benefit of increased testing must be fully considered.  According to data provided by the Welsh Government, between 2017 and 2022 there were over 860,000 pre-movement tests. Of these, just 0576 reactors and 610 inconclusive reactors were disclosed. In the LTBA, there were just 2 reactors over this time period - one in 2020 and one in 2021 - but more than 43,000 pre-movement tests conducted. Over the same time period in the Intermediate Mid Risk Area, no reactors were disclosed from post movement testing.

“The increased costs of these new policies come at a time when the industry is facing potential reductions to the compensation paid to cattle keepers following the compulsory slaughter of cattle infected with bovine TB.

“The financial and emotional costs of bovine TB are tremendous. Analysis conducted by the FUW showed that, in 2022, the estimated total cost of TB pre-movement testing borne by cattle keepers in Wales was more than 2.3 million pounds. This is a 129% increase in industry testing costs since 2006.

“Sadly, testing costs are just a fraction of the costs borne by the industry in relation to this disease. No compensation is offered for the additional costs incurred such as lost revenue, loss of milk production, loss of breeding lines, delays to re-stocking and movement restrictions. These consequential losses suffered by a producer whose animals are compulsorily purchased can be significant and can run into tens of thousands of pounds.  

“We are therefore calling on the Welsh Government to properly analyse the cost-benefit of such proposals and to take a more rounded view of the overall impact on farm businesses prior to implementation.”

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