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Farming

FUW in fair funding call

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UK Government must ensure level playing field: Glyn Roberts, FUW President

FUW PRESIDENT Glyn Roberts has raised concerns over the stark contrast between discussions taking place within the UK on the future of agriculture and equivalent EU discussions on the continent – highlighting worrying differences between recognition of the importance of common standards and support for farming.

Speaking shortly before Wales’ First Minister, Carwyn Jones delivered his keynote address at the FUW’s Annual General Meeting in Aberystwyth, Mr Roberts told delegates that the principles of providing a fair standard of living for farmers and securing a stable supply of affordable food had been key elements of both Labours 1947 Agriculture Act and the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

“The latest Euro Barometer survey reveals that providing a fair standard of living for farmers and securing a stable supply of safe, healthy high quality food are still considered priorities by the public, not only across the EU, but also here in the UK,” said Mr Roberts.

EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has made it clear that the same principles will continue to be at the heart of the 2021-2027 EU Common Agricultural Policy, initial proposals for which were revealed in early June.

By contrast, many fear that food production and the economic viability of farms and rural communities are taking second place or being left out of post-Brexit policies being devised in the UK.

Mr Roberts also underlined the FUW’s major concerns about the liberalisation of financial and legislative frameworks once the UK leaves the EU.

“From Lithuania to Latvia, from Italy to Ireland, huge debates over the future of the Common Agricultural Policy are taking place, with the introduction of greater flexibility to the CAP framework highlighted as a major concern across the 27 member states,” he said.

However, Mr Roberts said similar concerns about the impact of liberal frameworks were not reflected in discussions within or between the UK nations.

“As one of the first organisations to call for our nations to agree on UK frameworks which respect devolution but also prevent fragmentation, unfair competition and market distortion, we of course welcome the fact that our calls for discussions on the issue have been heeded.

“But at the same time, we have become increasingly concerned at the apparent indifference to the importance of having frameworks which are meaningful, – and that some actually welcome the prospect of a carte blanche without a thought for what others might do outside the constraints of the CAP.”

Mr Roberts said the post-Brexit UK frameworks currently being discussed in the UK would be rejected without a second thought across the EU, and basically represented what Commissioner Phil Hogan has indicated would be an unacceptable carte blanche on the continent.

“For this reason the FUW will shortly be publishing a discussion document which for the first time offers up what proper UK frameworks might look like, including in terms of overarching principles, financial limits and key policy instruments that should be honoured in each of our four nations in order to ensure a level playing field while also fully respecting devolution.”

Mr Roberts said the document will highlight the need for a fair funding formula for Wales and the other devolved nations, as well as a multiannual financial framework which takes away the risks of annual budgetary fluctuations, while outlining how key areas of funding should exist within financial limits in order to provide a level playing field while also allowing each of our nations the flexibility to address national needs.

“Brexit brings with it many dangers; allowing imbalances to develop within our internal markets will not only add to those dangers, but it will also undermine what opportunities do exist as a result of Brexit.

“Without such frameworks we risk seeing distortions which will distract us and undermine efforts to tackle all the other challenges facing us – be it bovine TB, farm productivity and profitability, or the successful succession of the next generation,” he added.

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Farming

Common export rules until 2020

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THE UK’s listed status application has been agreed by the European Union’s (EU) Member States after it met the animal health and biosecurity assurances required for a third country to export live animals and animal products.

This confirmation is part of the EU’s published no deal contingency planning – without it, exports of animal products and most live animals to the EU could not take place in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU.

It also means the movement of equines between the UK and the EU will also now continue in a no deal scenario, offering welcome reassurance to this sector.

Food and Animal Welfare Minister David Rutley said: “This is good news for UK businesses. It demonstrates our very high standards of biosecurity and animal health which we will continue to maintain after we leave the EU.

“If you or your business import or export animal and animal products or imports high-risk food then I urge you to visit our guidance pages on gov.uk for what you need to do to be ready to continue to trade post-Brexit.

“Our top priority remains to deliver a negotiated deal, but it is the job of a responsible Government to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios, including no deal.”

The EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) confirmed the acceptance of the UK’s listed status application on Wednesday, April 9.

National listed status is the EU’s classification for non-Member States and the UK’s application, submitted in November 2018, has passed the high criteria on biosecurity measures for animal health and food hygiene.

UK exports of animals and their products to the EU will need to go through an EU Border Inspection Post and businesses will still require an Export Health Certificate (EHC) and meet its requirements. Our guidance remains to send an EHC with the export consignment and to send a copy of the EHC to the EU importer.

With listed status now confirmed, exporters will need to follow the EU rules for exports from third countries to the EU. Our guidance for importers and exporters is available on GOV.UK.

In a deal scenario, the UK will not need to be listed during the implementation period. To give certainty to businesses and citizens, common rules will remain in place until the end of the implementation period meaning businesses will be able to trade on the same terms as now up until the end of 2020.

Disruption for those businesses which import live animals, germinal products and certain animal products will also be minimised as they will now continue to have access to the TRACES (TRAde Control and Expert System) after the UK leaves the European Union until later this year. TRACES is the system used by importers to notify authorities of such imports from non-EU countries.

As originally planned, imports from non-EU countries will need to go through the UK’s new IPAFFS system from day one.

The National Sheep Association has welcomed the announcement which will allow UK sheepmeat exporters to continue to sell to the EU post-Brexit.

Eleanor Phipps of NSA comments: “NSA is very pleased to hear this news as it means there will be no period of lost trade. UK farmers can rest assured there will remain a market for their products in the EU from the point we leave, potentially as soon as this Friday.”

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Farming

Big agenda for sheep conference

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A NUMBER of the hot topics in food and farming will be up for debate at the National Sheep Association (NSA) Welsh Sheep Event in Glynllifon near Caernarfon on May 21.

As part of the event, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is working with the NSA to organise a series of discussion seminars, with expert keynote speakers from all over Wales and beyond ready to discuss the biggest issues of concern to sheep farmers.

One vital topic which will be addressed is the environmental credentials of Welsh farming.

While some media discussion of livestock farming has focused on its impact on deforestation and greenhouse gases in some parts of the world, HCC and others have pointed out that Welsh farming has a much more positive story to tell.

Rearing sheep and cattle on grassland, as is overwhelmingly the case in Wales, requires much fewer inputs in terms of water and supplementary feed, and grass-based farming systems can help to regenerate the soil and aid carbon sequestration.

Dr Prysor Williams from Bangor University is one of the guest speakers at May’s event. He said; “I’m looking forward to a lively discussion with farmers at the NSA event, bringing out how small on-farm changes can both increase efficiency and the farm’s environmental credentials. There will also be an opportunity to discuss how Welsh agriculture can deliver many environmental benefits compared to other production systems.”

The environment seminar will also include contributions from Glynllifon farm manager Rhodri Owen, and HCC’s Gwawr Parry who will discuss how genetic improvement could help secure a sustainable future for upland sheep farming.

Another session will concentrate on animal health, with a particular focus on how pro-active management of flock health can have a positive impact on farmers’ businesses. HCC’s Dr Rebekah Stuart will be joined on the panel by Dr Neil Paton of the Royal Veterinary College and Dr Peers Davies of Liverpool University, who will respectively discuss sheep scab and ‘iceberg’ diseases which can indicate wider flock health problems.

A third seminar will take a broad view of the future of the sheep sector after Brexit, with industry leaders Phil Stocker (NSA), Tim Render (Welsh Government) and Gwyn Howells (HCC) on hand to discuss the latest developments.

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Farming

WG’s access proposals concern farmers

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FARMERS ‘remain concerned’ over the access proposals contained within Welsh Government’s Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources consultation, says NFU Cymru.

A written statement by Deputy Minister for Housing & Local Government, Hannah Blythyn AM, provides the government’s response to the chapter four access proposals outlined in the 2017 Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) consultation, with a ‘commitment to access reform’.

The Minister has indicated that she will progress significant changes to access rights and facilitate an assumption of non-motorised multi-use on access land and the public rights of way network. This will provide users, such as cyclists and horse riders, with many more opportunities to access the outdoors.

The Minister has also confirmed that minor technical reforms that were widely supported will be progressed as soon as a suitable legislative vehicle can be identified, including enforcing placing dogs on a short fixed lead in the vicinity of livestock at all times of year and amending the technical provisions around creating, diverting and extinguishing rights of way.

The Minister has announced an independent Access Reform Group will be established to consider in detail how the more significant changes to access rights should be implemented including multiuse paths and reducing restrictions on open access land.

NFU Cymru Rural Affairs Board Chairman Hedd Pugh said: “Following the closure of the SMNR consultation in autumn 2017, farmers have been waiting with bated breath to see how Welsh Government would consider the responses and move forward.

“The Minister’s written statement includes a number of non-controversial elements that we look forward to working on with the government, not least the proposals around enforcing short fixed-length leads on dogs in the vicinity of livestock all year round which will go some way to assist with concerns over increasing levels of worrying of livestock in Wales.

“There do, however, remain a number of areas of concerns for our members. Near the top of this list are changes to multi-user access rights on public rights of way and access land, in particular. These changes could see ‘thrill-seekers’, as the Minister has described them, being granted increased rights on farmland across Wales. It is important to recognise that access is not always responsible and it is farm businesses across Wales who bear a disproportionate burden of this.

“The proposals also do little to address farmers’ fears that they could end up incurring increased costs and liabilities as a result of extended access. Most farmers will be able to tell you of cases where anti-social behaviour and dog worrying, for example, has had an emotional and financial impact on their farm and yet they are the ones left holding the bill.

“We are pleased that the Minister confirmed to the National Access Forum meeting in Bangor yesterday that changes will be subject to a full regulatory impact assessment which will be necessary if full costs and impacts are to be understood.

“Farmers understand better than most the positive benefits of time spent outdoors in our wonderful Welsh countryside. Farmers manage over 80% of the land area of Wales, providing the backdrop for the Welsh tourism industry, and Wales is already home to more public rights of way per square km than any other UK nation. We want the public to enjoy access to the great outdoors, but this must be managed in a manner that is safe for the custodians of the land and access users.”

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