FUW welcomes long awaited grant support for slurry storage infrastructure

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the announcement made today (29 April) by Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies MS, that two funding schemes to support on-farm investment will shortly be opening with an allocated budget of £20 million.

FUW President Ian Rickman commented: “Despite concerns we’ve raised previously in terms of this promised funding as a proportion of the estimated overall costs to the industry of over £360 million, this long awaited support will be welcomed by many in light of the recent wet weather.”

The announcement follows a recent Extreme Weather Summit during which the FUW President made a call for urgent capital grant funding in light of the challenges farmers are facing whilst attempting to increase their slurry storage capacities.

The maximum grant value offered through both the Nutrient Management Investment Scheme and the Small Grants - Yard Coverings Scheme will increase to 50% for certain project costs. The Cabinet Secretary encourages applicants to consider preparing their planning applications and associated documents as soon as possible.

“We also called for derogations and flexibility around certain scheme requirements. It is therefore encouraging that Rural Payments Wales will consider potential derogations on a case by case basis for those who are finding difficulties in meeting certain contract requirements as a result of the prolonged wet weather.

“This statement shows an example of co-working where our concerns result in prompt action from the Welsh Government. We sincerely hope that this positive engagement continues in the context of other fundamental policy developments,” added FUW President, Ian Rickman.

The Fair Dealing Obligations (Milk) Regulations 2024 set to come into force

Defra have announced that The Fair Dealing Obligations (Milk) Regulations 2024 have been laid, with commencement of the regulations due on the 9th of July 2024 for any new milk purchasing contract. Concurrently a period of transition to compliance for existing contracts is to be completed by the 9th of July 2025.

These regulations are a product of evolution from the voluntary dairy code of best practice on contractual relationships in the dairy sector that was introduced in 2012.

FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee Acting Chair Brian Walters said: “The voluntary dairy code was established to stamp out unfair contractual arrangements between milk producers and purchasers which could in turn help stabilise the UK dairy industry.

“Despite many processors supporting the values of the voluntary dairy code, the lack of legislation meant that some processors continued with unfair and underhanded contractual expectations leaving dairy farmers extremely vulnerable to market changes.”

In June 2020 the ‘contractual practice in the UK dairy sector’ consultation was published of which responses provided direction for the newly made Fair Dealing Obligations (Milk) Regulations 2024.

“We discussed various drafts of the regulations as a committee and the Union presented those views to Welsh Government and Defra representatives.

“Most importantly, we managed to ensure that the regulations will apply to all milk purchasing contracts across the UK which avoids any risk of creating a two-tiered market.

“Processors will now be required to review their contracts over the next twelve months in order to become compliant with these regulations, and I am hopeful that as a result of these changes there will be a fairer foundation for selling milk across Great Britain,” he added.

FUW presents alternative options to on-farm slaughter to newly established Bovine TB Technical Advisory Group

Following an announcement last week (15 April), the long-awaited appointment of the Bovine TB Technical Advisory Group (TAG) met for the first time, with the Chair Professor Glyn Hewinson, Sêr Cymru Chair of the TB Centre of Excellence, leading the group.

The ten publicly appointed members consist of a wealth of knowledge covering social sciences, epidemiology and veterinary medicine. However, questions have been raised concerning the absence of farmer representatives on the group.

Speaking after the first meeting of the TAG, FUW Policy Officer Elin Jenkins said: “We welcome the opportunity to present alternative options for the group to consider that would reduce the number of cattle slaughtered on-farm following bovine TB-breakdowns and provide support in circumstances where on-farm slaughter is unavoidable.”

During the three year period between 2020 and 2023, 2,337 cattle were slaughtered on-farm; 8 percent of the total number of cattle culled due to bovine TB in Wales during that period.

The majority of these cases of on-farm slaughter were due to animals testing positive for TB whilst under medicated withdrawal periods, or when they were heavily pregnant or within the first week post-calving and were therefore deemed unfit for transport according to animal transport regulations.

“Some of the options we presented included providing greater flexibility around arranging routine testing to avoid block calving periods, and minimising the risk of on-farm slaughter cases due to medical withdrawal periods.

“However, 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 which is the abysmal track record of a long standing ineffective TB eradication programme in Wales.

“As such, and whilst we welcome the fact that Wales now has a dedicated TAG to provide expert advice on bovine TB eradication, the importance of allowing this group to be politically independent and to identify and explore a fully holistic approach to eradicating this disease cannot be overstated,” said Mrs Jenkins.

FUW highlights challenges during Ministerial Summit on extreme weather

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has highlighted the challenges farmers are facing due to the wet weather and called for possible interventions during a summit which took place recently (19 April).

Organised by Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies MS, the summit was arranged to examine the impacts of the current prolonged wet weather and to explore what interventions may be necessary from the supply chain to deal with the exceptional circumstances some farmers are facing.

Speaking after the summit, FUW President, Ian Rickman said: “We welcome the opportunity to discuss these very timely issues farmers face following an extremely wet winter. It was positive to see engagement from such a wide range of stakeholders from across the UK food supply chain.

“Some of the interventions we called for included derogations around scheme requirements; many Growing for the Environment contract holders have simply been unable to meet the required sowing dates due to the wet conditions. It’s been impossible for some farmers to comply with their Small Grants Environment contracts due to both the weather and prescriptive dates for when certain works could be completed.”

Other interventions required, in the FUW’s view, include greater flexibility to cross compliance rules and farm inspections. Additionally there is an urgent need to provide capital grant support to farmers for slurry infrastructure and yard coverings in line with reducing the burden on those who are attempting to complete works to meet incoming regulatory requirements.

“Despite numerous calls made by the FUW to delay the third phase of the Control of Agricultural Pollution ‘NVZ’ regulations until the review of the regulations has been completed, this latest edition of wet weather has made it impossible for building contractors to continue with their work. This means that the August deadline for increased slurry storage is looking as challenging as ever.

“Above all else, these past few months have demonstrated the need for any future financial support scheme in Wales to underpin the economic viability of our family farms so that they can continue to navigate such unforeseen circumstances in future.

“Whilst we await news from the Welsh Government on outcomes from the summit, it is recommended for any farmer facing extreme difficulties to seek support and speak with relevant organisations. These include the FUW, Rural Payments Wales, Natural Resources Wales, bank managers, The DPJ Foundation or any other mental health charities. No one should feel alone during these trying times, we’re all here to support one another,” concluded Ian Rickman.

FUW meets with new First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has met with the recently elected First Minister for Wales, Vaughan Gething, and new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Climate Change, Huw Irranca-Davies, to discuss the way forward for the farming industry.

Speaking after the meeting, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We welcome this early opportunity to outline the current challenges we face as a farming industry and to discuss possible next steps with the newly appointed First Minister and Cabinet Secretary following our request for an urgent meeting.

“We made it very clear that the feeling of frustration and anxiety within the industry still very much exists, and we presented our extensive Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation response and a list of our key asks to the Cabinet Secretary.”

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