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Farming

Farmers react to Budget

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Absence of broadband announcement disappointing: Meurig Raymond

Absence of broadband announcement disappointing: Meurig Raymond

THE CHANCELLOR’S Budget has been received with mixed reaction by farmers and the food industry.

Delivered on Wednesday, (Mar 16), George Osborne’s financial plans have been received with mixed reaction by farmers and the food industry.

In what will probably grab the biggest headlines across the industry, the Chancellor has announced a sugary drink levy on soft drinks manufacturers. The Government will consult on how the levy will work and which products will be covered, but there was some re-assurance that it wouldn’t include milk based drinks or pure fruit juices.

Elsewhere a continued focus on corporation tax cuts does nothing to help the 90% of UK farm businesses who are unincorporated and are struggling in the current economic climate. For the next generation of farmers, news that the Government will top up a new ISA saving system (£1 given for every £4 saved) until the saver is 50 will be welcome for those who are in a position to save.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said : “I had really hoped that the Chancellor would have recognised by now that all parts of the economy should benefit from tax simplification, as it is there is little support for capital investment on farm for buildings and reservoirs.”

Mr Raymond continued: “We are disappointed that nothing new was announced to boost the provision of superfast broadband to the last 5%, who are predominantly farmers and those living in rural communities. It’s particularly disappointing that the Chancellor has announced nothing to help mitigate the additional costs and pace of introducing the national living wage from April this year.

“News that the country will invest £700m more in its flood defences will be welcomed by the many farmers and their families who have faced devastating damage this winter. But we should be clear this is funded by an increase in insurance premiums for all. I am also seeking assurance that the planned £40m per year increase in maintenance expenditure will protect deserving rural communities as well as urban areas.”

He added: “We will study the implications of the proposed levy on sugary drinks and respond to the Government’s planned consultation, but it is reassuring that the Chancellor confirmed that neither milk based nor pure fruit juices will be included in the levy.”

Responding to the headline grabbing tax on sugary drinks, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “This is very welcome news as we aim to have a healthier population. Current levels of obesity are unsustainable and the obesity problem among young people is so bad that the present generation of parents may be the first to bury their children.”

“As such we advocate a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and milk has a part to play in that.

“In light of this we welcome that milk-based drinks are excluded from the sugar tax and encourage parents to ensure that their children get to drink the recommended amount of milk per day,” he added.

The Union further welcomed that fuel duty is to be frozen for the sixth year in a row as a rise could have a devastating effect on the Welsh farming industry.

“Fuel price rises could have a devastating result for farmers and all the rural communities in general as a car is essential in the countryside with public transport being so poor,” said Mr Roberts.

Commenting on the Capital Gains Tax cut from 28 % to 20 %, and from 18 % to 10 % for basic-rate taxpayers, FUW Director of Finance David Parker said: “This is a positive move for any farmers who are selling any or all of their farm.

“We must also welcome the Commercial stamp duty 0% rate on purchases up to £150,000, 2 % on next £100,000 and 5 % top rate above £250,000.

“The young person’s ISA is of importance to self-employed people enabling up to £4000 p.a. to be saved tax free up to the age of 50 with government adding 25 % bonus to savings.

“This is possibly where the wider pensions market will be heading over the next few years with tax relief on the receipt of pensions rather than tax relief at the point of saving.

“This provides a new vehicle for younger self-employed people to commence pension savings aided by the government contribution and must be welcomed,” he added.

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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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