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Farming

NFU back EU membership

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Welsh farmers ‘better off in EU’: Llyr Gruffydd

Welsh farmers ‘better off in EU’: Llyr Gruffydd

FOLLOWING a specially convened meeting of NFU Cymru’s governing body, the Union has concluded that, on the basis of the current available evidence, the interests of Welsh agriculture are best served by the UK remaining within the European Union.

This policy decision was taken by NFU Cymru Council at a meeting held in conjunction with the Union’s commodity boards and Next Generation Policy Group.

However, NFU Cymru respects that voting on an issue as important as the EU Referendum is an emotive and deeply personal matter and it is therefore for each member to vote how they see fit.

NFU Cymru recognises that the referendum question is both hugely complex and highly contentious with many factors adding to the debate, which may ultimately sway an individual to vote one way or the other.

NFU Cymru President, Stephen James said: “NFU Cymru has spent the past few months helping to inform our members of the issues at stake in the referendum. Our EU report, which was launched last autumn, examines our current relationship with the EU and has proved extremely popular.

“It has helped stimulate debate within the Union and has given members some of the key information to help them make an informed decision. Over the course of the last few weeks we have held a series of meetings in every county of Wales.

“At these meetings we have provided information to our members and given them an opportunity to air their views. Through this comprehensive process we have been able to engage with a significant proportion of our membership and we have heard forthright views, covering both sides of the debate.

“The culmination of this process of engagement was a special meeting of our NFU Cymru Council that included our commodity boards and the Next Generation Policy Group, which was convened today to agree our position ahead of the referendum. ”

Our position, and all the discussions leading up to it were all based purely on Welsh agriculture and what the Union believes is at present the best option for Welsh farming. We have purposely stuck to agriculture and steered clear of many of the other elements of the debate that we do not believe directly impact on Welsh farmers.”

Stephen James continued: “We very much recognise that the EU is far from perfect, the new CAP which has added much complexity and bureaucracy and individual movement recording of sheep, are just two areas that frustrate us about the EU and this needs to change. However, in our opinion, over-regulation is a fault of Government at all levels and this is something that must be tackled in Cardiff Bay, Westminster and Brussels going forward.

“The EU must continue to evolve to ensure it remains relevant; NFU Cymru through our dedicated team in Brussels and our Government has a role to play to make this happen.

“There is a lack of any clarity or certainty of what Brexit would mean for Welsh agriculture, for example we have no international trade agreements in place, no commitment from our Government to future financial support and no agreement that regulations would be scrapped or reduced if we were to leave the EU.

“Our future depends on our ability to trade and to have ready access to the widest possible range of markets, our present situation highlights the importance of having the necessary support mechanisms to deal with periods of extreme volatility.

“It is for these two key reasons that following extensive discussion and consultation, NFU Cymru Council reached the conclusion that Welsh agriculture is best served by remaining within the EU.”

Plaid Cymru shadow minister for rural affairs, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said: “NFU Cymru, like the FUW, has decided that Welsh agriculture is better off by us remaining as members of the European Union.

“Wales will benefit by around £2 billion between 2014 and 2020 through the Common Agricultural Policy payments that support more than 80% of farms.

“In that context, leaving the European Union would be disastrous for the farming industry in Wales – but that’s the position taken by the Welsh Conservative leader.”

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Farming

Farming faces zero carbon challenge

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AN AMBITIOUS new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 will lead to significant changes in farming practices over the coming decades, according to a leading agri-environment specialist.

Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, was responding to the publication of ‘Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the UK Government Committee on Climate Change.

Professor Donnison is an expert on agriculture and land use, which feature in the report in terms of targets for one-fifth of agricultural land to be used for forestry, bioenergy crops and peatland restoration.

According to Professor Donnison, such a reduction is very ambitious but achievable in Wales and the wider UK. “Land use can positively contribute towards achieving the net zero targets, but there are challenges in relation to emissions from agriculture especially associated with red meat and dairy,” said Professor Donnison.

“In IBERS we are already working on how to make livestock agriculture less carbon intensive and developing new diversification options for the farming of carbon. For example, net zero targets could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

Professor Donnison added: “The report gives a clear message regarding the importance of the task and the role that the UK can play to compensate for past emissions and to help play a leadership role in creating a greener future.

“The report says it seeks to be based on current technologies that can be deployed and achievable targets. One-fifth of agricultural land is a very ambitious target but I believe that through the approaches proposed it is achievable (e.g. for bioenergy crops it fits in with published targets for the UK). This is based on the knowledge and technologies we have now regarding how to do this, and because right now in the UK we are developing a new agricultural policy that looks beyond the common agriculture policy (CAP). For example, the 25-year Environment plan published by Defra envisages payment for public goods which could provide a policy mechanism to help ensure that the appropriate approaches are implemented in the appropriate places.

“The scale of the change, however, should not be underestimated, although agriculture is a sector that has previously successfully responded to challenges such as for increased food production. The additional challenge will be to ensure that we deliver all the benefits we wish to see from land: food, carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) management and wider environmental benefits, whilst managing the challenge of the impacts of climate change.

“The link is made between healthy diets with less red meat consumption and future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This reflects that agriculture will likely go through significant change over the coming decades as a result of changes in consumer diets.

“Net Zero targets, however, could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

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Farming

HSE fees up 20%

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A FEE imposed on farm businesses found to be in breach of health and safety legislation has gone up nearly 20% to £154/hr.

Since October 2012 the Health and Safety Executive has operated a cost recovery regime, which means that businesses are charged for the costs of an investigation from the point a material breach has been identified through to the point when a decision is made on enforcement action.

If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety law, you will have to pay for the time it takes the HSE to identify the breach and help you put things right. This includes investigating and taking enforcement action. This charging scheme is known as a Fee for Intervention (FFI).

Robert Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist for Strutt & Parker said: “A material breach is something which an inspector considers serious enough that they need to formally write to the business requiring action to be taken. Once an inspector gives a farmer this written notification of contravention (NoC), the farmer will be expected to pay a fee.

“From 6 April 2019, the hourly charge has been increased from £129 to £154. The final bill will be based on the total amount of time it takes the HSE inspector to identify the breach and their work to help put things right.

“Of course, the primary reason for farms to be proactive in their approach to health and safety should be to protect themselves, their families and any employees.

“The number of people who are killed and injured each year on farms remains stubbornly high and the human cost of these incidents can be incalculable to those affected.

“But taking a safety-first approach should also help farm businesses to avoid a financial hit, as the HSE fees can mount up in the event of an investigation.”

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Farming

Red meat gives ‘Taste of Wales’

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WELSH Lamb and Welsh Beef were among the finest of Welsh foods at Wales’ largest and most prestigious food and drink trade event, Taste Wales last month.

The remarkable display of products, all under one roof, brought together a large contingent of UK and overseas buyers, including importers with a specific interest in Welsh red meat. These included a major foodservice and retail importer and distributor from Scandinavia that imports 6,000 million tonnes of meat annually from all over the world. The company is recognised for bringing tasty food experiences to Nordic dining tables.

They were invited to the event by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) who also arranged site visits to some of Wales’ major red meat processing plants. The main aim was to impress the importers with the industry’s high ethical and environmental standards.

The visit, led by HCC’s market representatives in Scandinavia, was a platform for many productive and promising discussions.

One representative, Anette Stenebrandt said at Taste Wales: “We have a company from Sweden and Finland with us, trying to do some new business in the Nordic-speaking countries. This is really a fantastic fair and we have enjoyed it a lot.”

Her colleague Jakob True added: “This is our first time here at this amazing event, it’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of Welsh producers, particularly Welsh Lamb which is world-class, we know. We’ll go back to Scandinavia with a lot of good new leads and hopefully bring a lot of business to Wales.”

HCC’s Market Development Manager, Rhys Llywelyn said: “Many of the buyers we met at Taste Wales, including the Scandinavians, showed a significant interest in Welsh Lamb and were impressed by the whole package – from the story of producing Welsh Lamb to the processing techniques, the taste and texture.

“Others also expressed a keen interest in forging deals with the industry, including a Japanese department store, a major buyer from Hong Kong and a representative from Qatar. This bodes well for the future, especially as Brexit uncertainty is set to continue in light of the extension on Article 50.”

In recent months, HCC has undertaken a strategic GB marketing drive to encourage growth and recognition of our quality produce on British soil.

HCC’s UK Market Development Executive, Emily Davies said: “Our presence at Taste Wales also included concentrating our efforts on promoting Welsh Lamb in the domestic market. We met a number of foodservice companies, retailers and executive chefs and discussed Welsh red meat opportunities with meal-kit companies and online retailers. We also launched a new tool-kit for retailers which highlights the ways in which we can work with them to promote Welsh Lamb and Beef.”

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