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Farming

Committed to the future, remembering history

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Sharing memories and comparing notes are (l-r): Roy Edwards, founder member of the union in 1955 Mr T Llew Jones MBE, FUW president Glyn Roberts and Nerys Edwards

Sharing memories and comparing notes are (l-r): Roy
Edwards, founder member of the union in 1955 Mr T Llew
Jones MBE, FUW president Glyn Roberts and Nerys Edwards

THE FARMERS’ UNION  OF WALES celebrated its 60th  anniversary on Tuesday, December  8 with a trip down memory lane.  Sharing memories and comparing  notes on the state of the industry were  Roy and Nerys Edwards and their four  sons, of Groesasgwrn, Llangynderyn,  Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire and Mr T  Llew Jones MBE, a founder member  of the union in 1955.  The couple joined the FUW in  May 2015 – making them the newest  and one of the ‘youngest’ FUW  members in the founder county.

Roy was the winner of Fferm  Factor for the year 2014 and Nerys’  time is split between being actively  involved in the running of the home  farm, helping her husband and  keeping a successful occasion cake  business ‘Cacennau Moethus’.  The informal visit gave the couple  and FUW president Glyn Roberts,  who also attended the visit, the chance  to explore the different views of those  who were actively involved in the setup  of the FUW 60 years ago and those  who have just joined the organisation.

“Farming has changed  dramatically over the last 60 years  and it was interesting to hear about the  challenges the farming community  faced in 1955 and how these compare  to the struggles but also opportunities  the current generation of farmers  deal with,” said FUW president Glyn  Roberts.  Many stories were shared over  cups of tea and wonderful homemade  cake and Glyn Roberts  particularly enjoyed looking through  old photographs with Llew Jones.  He said,” It was inspiring to hear  the stories of how the FUW was  founded back in 1955 – and how  determined our Welsh ancestors were  to fight for Welsh farming and the  small family farm.”  The evening celebration at the  Halliwell Centre in Carmarthen was  well attended by FUW staff old and  new and many members.

Guest speaker the Rt Hon. the  Lord Morris of Aberavon KG QC,  who was actively involved with the  formation of the FUW as the union’s  legal adviser and deputy general  secretary between 1956 and 1958,  talked about how the FUW was  formed and reminded guests that the  union was born out of the frustration  felt by Welsh farmers, when their  needs and voices were not being  heard by the Westminster Parliament.  It was down to their dream of  having a Welsh farming union he  said and the tenacity of these Welsh  entrepreneurs that the FUW has  been given the official right by the  Government to represent and speak  on behalf of Welsh farmers and the  union has done so at the highest level  – at the National Assembly, Whitehall  and Brussels ever since.  Speaking at the dinner, union  president Glyn Roberts added that,  “We are here today because of the  vision of the founder members who  have worked so hard.  “It is an overwhelming honour to  stand in front of you as president of  this union, but that honour also has  great responsibilities and a duty, not  only to those that have fought so hard  in the past, but also to those that will  take over from us in future.”

The president further added that  Shakespeare once said that Owain  Glyndwr was not like most men,  he had a vision. We can proudly  say the same about the pioneers of  the FUW. Their vision was to have  an independent voice for Welsh  agriculture; an union that spoke for  them, and which had the interest of  Welsh farmers at its core.  “I have no doubt in my mind that  all of us will do everything we can to  honour those founding members and  ensure that their vision of a strong  voice for the industry remains at the  core of the FUW’s principles.”  Carmarthen county executive  officer David Waters, who was  heavily involved in organising the  evening function, said “I would like  to thank all the staff for helping  to organise such an enjoyable and  successful dinner.  “We also held a raffle to  raise money for the British Heart  Foundation Cymru and I am very  pleased to say that we have raised  £1,600 for the cause.”

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Farming

A vision for Welsh upland farming

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A NEW NFU Cymru report highlights the unique contribution that the Welsh upland farming community makes to food security, environment, the economy, rural communities and the Welsh language.
The NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming report, which was underpinned by a survey of over 750 farmers, was launched at the Vision for Welsh Upland Farming virtual conference on Tuesday, November 24.
The document reveals that 96% of farmers surveyed believed their role as food producers was very important or fairly important, with 95% saying that food production and sales were very important or fairly important to the viability of their business. 88% said it was very important that future Welsh agricultural policy should underpin food production and ensure consumers have a stable supply of affordable food.
The biggest worry for Welsh upland farmers to surface from the research was farm business profitability, with 85% of those questioned stating this was a ‘significant threat’ to the sector. The vast majority of those questioned (92%) said it was vital that future Welsh farming policy included measures that ensured farmers could make a reasonable living. However, just 18% of farmers answering the poll felt Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals to replace the CAP were very good or fairly good at specifically addressing the needs of upland farming, with 37% labelling the proposals fairly poor or very poor.
With the Brexit transition period coming to an end, 84% of farmers surveyed said that future trade deals were a significant threat to upland farming, while 80% stated that future policy was a significant threat.
NFU Cymru said the findings of this research work provide ‘another compelling argument’ as to why future Welsh agricultural policy should include a stability measure to help ensure the safe supply of food and as an economic foundation in rural communities, alongside the other multiple benefits provided by Welsh farming, amid changing trade and climate conditions.
The new NFU Cymru study also shined a light on Welsh upland farmers’ attitudes towards the environment. 80% of those surveyed had carried out one or more environmental actions on the farm in the last 10 years, while 83% said that future policy measures to tackle climate change were very important or fairly important. 54% of farmers surveyed were in Glastir agri-environment schemes and together had delivered more than 70 different environmental actions on Welsh farms.
The survey data further emphasises farmers’ role as drivers of the rural economy. 30% of farmers surveyed said their business supports or buys from 21 to 50 different businesses, with a further 10% stating that their business trades with or buys from more than 51 other businesses.
The important contribution of Welsh upland farming to rural communities and Welsh culture was also revealed. 83% of respondents were involved in one or more voluntary activities within their community, while over half of those answering the survey identified themselves as fluent Welsh speakers.
Diversification remains an important income stream for many Welsh farms; 43% of farmers responding to the survey stated that they had a non-farming element to their business. The most popular diversification enterprises were renewable energy (43%) and accommodation (42%).
Discussing the importance of NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming project, NFU Cymru LFA Board Chair Kath Whitrow said: “In recent years, despite their extent and significance, we have seen upland farming policy de-emphasised. As our relationship with the EU changes, the economic rationale for upland livestock production is threatened. Global environmental challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity decline, are viewed by some as drivers for land-use change without any consideration of the wider impacts.
“At this pivotal time for Welsh farming as we transition out of the CAP and into a new ‘made in Wales’ agricultural policy, the NFU Cymru LFA Board wants to ensure that the voice of Welsh upland farming is clearly heard in this debate. This is a message that has resonated strongly with Welsh upland farmers and, despite the limitations placed on us as a result of Covid-19, the voice of farmers across Wales has been clearly heard with our survey attracting a fantastic number of responses.”
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “The Vision for Welsh Upland Farming report launched at today’s conference is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research work undertaken by NFU Cymru. Its findings are of strategic importance not just to the people living and working in the Welsh uplands, but to the whole of Wales.
“This research provides another compelling argument that future Welsh agricultural policy should include a stability measure to support farmers by protecting them against the increased volatility that affects businesses, trade and production. Such backing would ensure our farmers can continue providing safe, affordable food, as well as boosting the economy, enhancing the environment, caring for our cherished landscapes communities and being champions of Welsh language, culture and rural communities.
“I urge our policymakers in Cardiff Bay to carefully consider the report’s key recommendations and work with us to ensure that the people and communities of the Welsh uplands can continue to deliver for the whole of Wales.”

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Farming

Potato production up despite tough year

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THE TOTAL harvest of British potatoes this year will be 5.3m tonnes according to provisional estimates – up two point eight per cent (2.8%) on last year’s figure but just below the five-year average of 5.4m tonnes.
This estimate by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has been released during a time when growers have battled an exceptionally wet harvest period for the second year running.
They have fared better than last year, as on 10 November it was estimated that two per cent of the planted area was yet to be lifted. This compares with 11 per cent of the crop that was estimated to be unlifted on 12 November 2019.
This production figure follows an AHDB estimate that the planted area this year is the third-lowest on record.
Alice Bailey, Senior Analyst at AHDB said: “This overall net yield sits in line with the five-year national average (2015-2019). Anecdotal reports suggest that yields have been somewhat variable from farm to farm, even field to field. Yet overall, crops are within farm expectations so it is not surprising that the national yield is in line with recent years.
“We saw planted area drop by two-point three per cent this year, yet we are estimating a two-point eight per cent rise in production. This is based on both a slight increase in yields year-on-year and the fact that a large area was left unharvested last year. The unlifted area in 2019 was estimated at six per cent, whereas in 2018 less than one per cent was estimated to be left in the ground and we would anticipate similar this year.”
It was also noted that the estimate could be amended in the coming weeks, with 2.1Kha still to harvest in the East of England, and some members of the 450 strong AHDB Grower Panel still to return their survey information.

WINTER MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Meanwhile, Potatoes Strategy Director Rob Clayton announced that AHDB would be launching another promotional campaign in reaction to the market conditions caused by the coronavirus. This follows on from a similar campaign in the summer that reached 5 million shoppers via catch-up TV, social media and display advertising.
“Since the pandemic hit we have increased the amount of data we analyse from supermarkets and other areas of the marketplace. While potato sales at retail are up eight to nine per cent overall – analysis from Kantar Worldpannel shows baking potatoes lagging behind at a rise of three per cent.
“Jacket potatoes are a fantastic healthy and cost-effective option for families, so we will be launching a winter campaign to inspire shoppers to take advantage of all the great things they can do with bakers,” said Doctor Clayton.

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Farming

Farmers should prepare for IHT changes

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FARMERS should review their Inheritance Tax (IHT) and succession plans ahead of the Spring Statement as potentially significant changes are expected, according to rural accountant Old Mill.
There are less than six months before the Spring Statement, and changes to the IHT format – based on recommendations originally outlined by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) in July 2019 – are likely. “The recommendations were primarily geared towards streamlining IHT administration but may have the secondary effect of reducing some of the favourable reliefs available to farmers,” explains Catherine Vickery, associate director at Old Mill.
“Current IHT legislation can be very beneficial for farmers, giving confidence that they can pass down agricultural business and property assets to the next generation tax free on death,” she adds. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has left the Government with a very large debt, so there’s potential that it will implement any OTS recommendations to increase tax revenue.”
So, with the Spring Statement anticipated for March, what can farmers do to mitigate any potential changes?
“Under the existing rules, agricultural land and property qualify for Agricultural Property Relief (APR) from IHT at up to 100%,” explains Mrs Vickery. Other land and property assets, like diversified enterprises, can qualify for up to 100% Business Property Relief (BPR) as part of an overall farming business which is at least 50% trading. “These reliefs can apply on lifetime transfers as well as on death where the conditions are met.”
Transfers on death currently also qualify for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) free uplift so that gains are effectively washed out. Lifetime transfers of agricultural land, property, and businesses which are at least 80% trading qualify for gift holdover relief, meaning gains can be deferred until a later disposal. 
However, a key OTS recommendation is to remove the CGT free uplift on death when IHT relief is also available. This would mean that the next generation would inherit the farm at an historically low base cost, leading to higher CGT on any future sale. The OTS has also just released its report into CGT simplification which echoes this same recommendation.   Proposals to alter the trading test for BPR, aligning it to the 80% CGT trading test could leave farmers ineligible for 100% BPR, which could result in assets having to be sold to pay IHT liabilities.
“The most tax efficient option has often been for farmers to continue to actively farm and hold onto assets until they die,” says Mrs Vickery. “Now, given speculation about potential changes, the best course of action is to get a succession plan in place as soon as possible and start implementing it.
“Plans need to be arranged based on what is right for you, your family and the farm right now, rather than how things might stand at a later date.”
This means establishing who is taking on the assets and if they have the skills needed to drive the business forward. “Pass over this responsibility while you still can and while you can be on hand to guide and support your successor,” advises Mrs Vickery.
It’s also important to review partnership or shareholder agreements, and consider the handing on of other assets. Additionally, farmers should collate any trust and gift deeds, so that paperwork is on hand to be reviewed.
“Though we suspect the new IHT rules won’t be favourable, farmers need to make use of the rules we have now as these are a current certainty,” says Mrs Vickery. “Succession planning is so easy to put off but it’s a vital tool in safeguarding the future of farming businesses.”

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