Agricultural Policy

Sheep Sector Support Talks On-Going

By now it is clear that the UK sheep sector could be significantly affected by a no-deal Brexit because of the high tariffs (40-50%) that would apply to sheepmeat exports to the EU, where around 30-40% of Welsh lamb is currently exported to.  

The FUW continues to reiterate that a no-deal scenario represents a catastrophic risk to our sheep industry and local communities in Wales and we are now at a time whereby successful EU trade negotiations which secure unfettered access to the EU are vital.

Already we are seeing reports of EU retailers refusing to sign long-term contracts and offering ‘spot prices’ which would make UK lamb uncompetitive once tariffs are introduced.  Hybu Cig Cymru suggests that 92.5% of our lamb export trade could disappear under a no-deal scenario.

Michael Gove, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has stated that the “sheep industry would require government support to ensure its continued health”.  The run-up to 31st March saw plans to offer some form of support payment to make up for such impacts, and similar discussions are being held for the new 31st October Brexit date.

DEFRA Minister, George Eustice made it clear that the culling of sheep is not a consideration and that the UK Government is working on two possible no-deal options:

Firstly a headage payment for breeding ewes to compensate for the loss in income, and secondly, a “slaughter premium” to make up for any fall in lamb prices at the point of slaughter. 

Neither is perfect: A ewe headage payment, based on ewe numbers reported in the last annual sheep inventory (1st January 2019 in Wales), would not compensate finishers or others along the supply chain for losses, and takes no account of lambing percentages, breeds etc. However, such a system could be quickly established in order to ensure money is released to the industry quickly at a time of need.

Conversely, while a slaughter premium would provide important assistance to finishers and others along the supply chain, it would be very complicated to establish and administer, introducing the risk of delays, and may not lead to money finding its way back to farmers, in particular store producers. Such a system would result in less money being allocated to Wales, and some also fear that prices would be artificially suppressed to increase government make-up margins and that slaughterers may not pass this money back to primary producers. 

Discussions with the Treasury are said to be “at an advanced stage”, and internal workshops have been held by Defra to investigate the pros and cons of the two options - or a combination of both.

The FUW will continue to update members as further information is provided. 

News In Brief

i) DPJ Foundation Receives Welsh Government Funding
The DPJ Foundation, FUW President’s chosen charity for the period 2019-2021, has received nearly £50,000 in funding from the Welsh Government to extend the support it provides.
 
The FUW is pleased that the funding will enable them to deliver free ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training and extend it’s ‘Share the Load’ counselling service to North Wales.  More than 150 individuals have already been trained by the Foundation.
 
ii) HCC Join Transport For Wales To Promote Welsh Food Producers
Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) has joined forces with Transport for Wales to promote Welsh food producers and their products.  Welsh products such as beef, lamb, pork sausages, cheese, biscuits and beverages will be available on buffet trolleys and hot meals for first class passengers across Wales’ transport sector.
 
HCC is also providing reading material for travellers to learn how these Welsh foodstuffs are sustainably produced and the pedigree of PGI Welsh lamb and beef.  
 
iii) First Minister Heads To Japan on Trade Mission
First Minister, Mark Drakeford, flew to Japan this month to introduce 17 Welsh companies to potential partners and new opportunities and promote Wales as a tourist destination.
 
Welsh exports to Japan were worth almost £250 million in 2018 which was a 25% increase on 2017 figures - 60 Japanese owned companies are present in Wales and employ more than 6,000 people.

iv) FUW To Attend BeefQ Taste Panel

BeefQ is a project which aims to increase the eating quality and value of Welsh Beef production through an enhanced carcase quality grading system.  The system is based on the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) model and the project held its first consumer tasting event at the Royal Welsh Show earlier in the year.

Event participants sampling Welsh beef are questioned on issues such as their eating experiences and willingness to pay for the product.  Data is then gathered and analysed to inform the industry about factors such as consumer preferences. 

The Farmers’ Union of Wales will be participating in these events which will involve data from around 1200 consumers.  The uncertainties of Brexit mean that projects, such as BeefQ, will be of value if they can improve consumer education surrounding the excellent quality and stand

Farming Provides an Answer to Climate Change and Food Crisis says FUW

The FUW recently met with the Welsh Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles AM, to reiterate the Union’s long-standing position that food production and caring for the environment can, and do, go hand in hand. 
 
At present, around 40% of the food that is being consumed in this country is imported and a fifth of the fresh foods imported come from areas that are threatened with climate chaos.
 
The FUW believes that farmers here in Wales are the answer to that problem. Welsh farmers support local livestock markets, maintain the local rural economy, support local jobs, are custodians of the environment and produce healthy, safe and traceable food. 

The UK has a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, yet our food system is vulnerable and dominated by complex global supply chains.  Our farmers have the knowledge, skill, and willingness to produce sustainable food, that works in harmony with the environment but this could be hindered by over zealous policies which do not recognise or value the fact that food production and environmental protection can operate side by side.
 
In order to safeguard the environment and protect domestic food security, the FUW believes that there is merit in food that has been produced locally; food that has been produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. 

By supporting countries who produce food to standards that would be illegal in this country, there is a danger of displacing adverse climate impacts to other countries whilst simultaneously over-regulating and hindering our domestic producers and reducing domestic food production.

The environmental audit committee has only recently called on the UK Government to set out a clear plan for how the UK’s food supplies could be protected from climate emergency and explain how food might be affected by Brexit, as well as asking Ministers to ensure that food provided by the Government is “sustainable by default”. 

Welsh producers continue to look for ways to positively contribute to nature, exploring ways to be cleaner and greener, but they need to be allowed to do their job. 
 

FUW Events on WG Sustainable Farming Scheme Continue

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) continues to hold meetings for members and other interested parties across Wales to discuss the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming and our Land consultation.
 
The consultation, launched by Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths in July, outlines proposals for future farm and rural support which have been revised in light of the comments received in response to the 2018 Brexit and our Land consultation.
 
It proposes that future support should be designed around the principle of sustainability in a way which brings together the ‘wide-ranging and significant economic, environmental and social contribution of farmers’, through a single Sustainable Farming Scheme based on the principles of providing a meaningful and stable income stream; rewarding outcomes in a fair way; paying for both new and existing sustainable practices; and flexibility allowing it to apply to every type of farm.
 
The FUW welcomes the fact that the consultation document acknowledges many of the concerns raised by respondents to last years Brexit and our Land consultation, and focuses on farmers and food producers.
 
Concerns highlighted by the FUW last year about the dangers of setting a fixed timetable and ploughing ahead with proposals at a time of complete uncertainty over Brexit and its impacts seem to have been taken on board.  The FUW also stressed that undertaking detailed modelling and economic assessments of proposals, before coming to any decision,  was imperative and this also appears to have been taken on board.
 
The FUW is urging anyone with an interest in the future of agriculture, and the Welsh rural economy, to attend these HSBC sponsored meetings to discuss  the proposals in depth.  Details of the remaining meetings can be obtained via the local FUW offices. 


 

Mid Wales Rewilding Plans Meet Challenges

In response to rising concerns over proposals contained in Rewilding Britain’s ‘Summit to Sea’ project, the project boundary of which includes around 155,000 acres of land in Ceredigion and Montgomeryshire, an open meeting was held in late July to discuss the project plans.

The 160 or so people who attended expressed major worries regarding the fact that the project was instigated and is effectively run by Rewilding Britain - a charity which wants to rewild a quarter of the UK.  It was felt that the objectives of the organisation were in direct conflict with agriculture, particularly in the uplands, as well as being damaging for conservation and species which rely on sustainable agriculture.

It was also noted that considerable damage was being caused to relationships between local and agricultural communities and Summit to Sea ‘partner’ organisations such as the RSPB and the Woodland Trust - bodies which often share a great deal of common ground and common objectives with rural communities in relation to conservation.

In light of these concerns, those present voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion that Rewilding Britain should not be involved in any project in the area.

Those present also voted overwhelmingly to establish a committee comprising representation from all the communities encompassed by the Summit to Sea project area boundary in order to fight against the project in its current form.

In recent months, Natural Resources Wales and the Waterloo Foundation, both of which were originally listed as partners in the Summit to Sea project by Rewilding Britain, have confirmed that they are not in fact partners, and in September Machynlleth-based company Ecodyfi withdrew its support, saying: "The project reflects the partners' focus on the environment, and pays much less attention to the cultural, linguistic, social and economic aspects of sustainable development, which are fundamental to the whole community."