FIGURES released this week by Defra show that more than 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England last year after testing positive for bTB. They also show more than 3,950 herds that had previously been clear of the disease were affected by it.
The quarterly publication – which can be read here – gives details of bTB incidence in Great Britain. The stats show that new herd incidents and herds under disease restrictions rose in England in the year to December 2015, but in Scotland and Wales disease levels remained relatively unchanged.
The number of animals slaughtered under TB control rules declined in the edge and low-risk areas of England and in Scotland, but rose in Wales and the high-risk area of England.
Upon releasing the figures, Defra said: “Short term changes in these statistics should be considered in the context of long term trends.”The longterm data suggests: “There has been an overall long-term upward trend in the incidence of TB in cattle herds in England and Wales since 1996 [when the stats release began] although there is evidence that the rate of new incidents is levelling off in most areas of the country.”
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: “These figures make sombre reading for anyone who is fighting a daily battle against bovine TB or has experienced the devastation it can cause to a farming family business.”
Ms Batters continued: “These figures reinforce the need for the Government’s 25-year TB eradication strategy to be implemented in full as quickly as possible. We have always said that all available options need to be used – cattle movement controls, cattle testing and biosecurity all have a role to play. But dealing with the disease reservoir in wildlife in areas where it is endemic is a vital part of the strategy.
Animal welfare campaigners from the Badger Trust welcomed the cattlebased measures, as well as government funding that will help farmers with the financial burden of stricter testing. They urged the government to look to Wales, where a proposed badger culling policy was replaced by cattle-based measures and a vaccination programme in 2012.
However, looking at Wales, NFU Cymru says that the latest figures starkly highlight the need for the next Welsh Government to put the implementation of a comprehensive TB eradication strategy at the top of its agenda.
According to the NFU, in 2015 8,103 cattle were slaughtered as a result of bovine TB – a massive hike of 27% on 2014 figures when 6,378 cattle were slaughtered in Wales. The number of new herd incidents in 2015 and herds not free of the disease at the end of the year remained relatively static compared to 2014 figures.
Stephen James, NFU Cymru President said: “Since 2008 over 68,000 cattle in Wales have been slaughtered because of this disease, this is despite the fact that Welsh farmers have adhered to stringent cattle movement and testing controls. This disease continues to cause untold heartache and stress to cattle farmers across Wales and places an enormous emotional and financial strain on farming families.
“Whilst we recognise that the bovine TB picture is more complex than just looking at one statistic, these figures should make politicians from all parties in Wales sit up and take notice of the impact that bovine TB continues to have on cattle farmers in Wales. The new Government, following the May National Assembly elections, must come forward and be prepared to work with industry on a comprehensive plan of action that tackles this disease in both the cattle and wildlife populations.
“Cattle movement controls, cattle testing and biosecurity all have a vital role to play in a TB eradication plan, but experience from across the globe has shown that a genuine TB eradication plan must also include a strategy for dealing with the disease reservoir in wildlife in areas where it is endemic.
“The fact that there is a global shortage of BCG vaccine means that no politician or party can hide behind badger vaccination as their sole policy for dealing with the disease in wildlife.”
Stephen James concluded: “Ahead of National Assembly for Wales elections this May we have asked all parties to clearly set out their policy for dealing with the reservoir of infection in our wildlife populations.
“Our manifesto for the elections places a TB eradication strategy that removes disease from cattle and Wildlife as a key priority in helping us to achieve our vision of a productive, profitable and progressive Welsh agricultural industry. We will be looking for the new Government to take action as a matter of urgency.”
As part of its contribution to the debate, the Badger Trust is running a Selfie campaign ‘for everyone who loves and wants to protect badgers to give us their support’.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, has reminded farmers that from 1 April the new TB Order will come into force changing the way they are compensated for cattle slaughtered for TB.
The changes are intended to reduce the risk of the disease spreading by encouraging best practice and follows a consultation with the industry.
The changes provide the Welsh Government further powers to reduce compensation where a person has not followed the rules on testing and cattle movements. Cattle keepers will always be paid the slaughter value of the animal as a minimum and payments will be capped at £15,000 per animal.
Rebecca Evans said: “These changes will penalise a minority of cattle keepers who undertake risky practices, such as failing to present cattle for testing, valuation or removal, which can contribute to the spread of TB. In these cases, compensation could be reduced by up to 95%.
“The vast majority of farmers abide by the rules and are working with us to eradicate this disease. For these people, little about how their animals are valued or compensated will change in the vast majority of cases full compensation based on market value will continue to be paid.”
Also launching on April 1 is www. ibTB.co.uk, a new website which provides information on locations of TB breakdowns to help people make informed decisions on how they can protect cattle and other animals from TB.
The TB Order was changed last year to allow the Welsh Government to publish details of herds affected by bovine TB. The aim is to provide information to help reduce the risk of the disease spreading locally and through cattle movements.
Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop, said: “One of the primary goals of our TB Eradication Programme is to prevent the disease spreading to TB-free farms.
“We aim to provide as much information as possible about potential TB risks to those making purchasing and other cattle movement decisions. I encourage people to use this information to take precautions to reduce the risk of TB spreading.”
Payment commitment sought from minister
NFU CYMRU has asked the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to make an early commitment to maintaining the Basic Payment Scheme in Wales for 2021.
In a meeting this week NFU Cymru President John Davies asked the Minister, Lesley Griffiths AM, to commit to maintaining the Basic Payment Scheme unchanged for 2021.
Speaking after the meeting, John Davies said: “The events in Westminster these last few days mean that our future relationship with the EU remains as uncertain as it has ever been, with the prospect of a general election in the not too distant future, this means further political upheaval, and by extension more uncertainty. The fact that the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill was not carried forward when parliament was prorogued means that the intended legal basis for setting Welsh agricultural policy has now also disappeared, and we are now essentially back to square one.
“At the end of last year, Welsh Government announced that the Basic Payment Scheme would remain unchanged in 2020; we welcomed that announcement as it offered Welsh farming some stability at a critical time. The uncertainty in the intervening period has only intensified, NFU Cymru considers the possibility of a disorderly Brexit to be a very live possibility, either after a failure to reach an agreement at the end of any extended Article 50 period, or alternatively if the UK fails to agree on a future trading relationship with the EU27 during the transition period.
“There are many factors completely outside of our control which considered individually or collectively would have a very detrimental impact on Welsh agriculture. NFU Cymru is very much of the view that this calls for a cautious and restrained approach from the Welsh Government when it comes to developing future agricultural policy. We would urge Welsh Government to take its time and not to hasten to move away from the present arrangements until we have a far clearer picture of the sort of future trading relationship we will have with the EU27.
“We fully respect that the timing and nature of Brexit, the general election and the fate of the Agriculture Bill are all outside the hands of Welsh Government, but what we do ask for is the support of Welsh Government on the areas that sit within its remit. In our meeting with the Minister, we have asked if she will make an early commitment to the continuation of the BPS unchanged for 2021.
“We have also asked the Minister to ensure that the additional £5.2 million per year for the next two years made as part of the UK Government’s response to the Lord Bew review last month is used as a top-up to the BPS. This funding has been allocated to Wales because average Pillar 1 payments have historically been lower in Wales than in some other parts of the UK. We therefore firmly believe that as the Lord Bew review was about correcting this matter then the additional money should be made as a top-up to the BPS and not spent elsewhere.”
Public want food standards maintained post-Brexit
THE GOVERNMENT should ensure that all imported food meets the same high animal welfare and environmental standards in place on British farms.
That’s the overwhelming view of the public according to new research carried out by ComRes on behalf of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists (BGAJ).
ComRes surveyed the public in September and found 84% support the view that imports should match British standards as Brexit threatens to open the door to imports from low cost producing, de-regulated markets across the globe.
The study found that just 16% would buy food they know is produced to lower animal welfare standards if it was cheaper than food produced to a high standard.
BGAJ President Baroness Rosie Boycott said: “The results of this study are a stark reminder to the government that the public values the high standards of British farming.
“There will always be countries able to produce cheaper food than Britain but it always comes at a cost. It could be the safety of the food, the farmer, an animal or the environment.
“With Brexit on the horizon, we’re on the brink of potentially seeing lower quality food imports flooding into the country.
“The survey resoundingly shows there’s no appetite for it and it’s the responsibility of government and the entire supply chain to put the safeguards in place to protect both British farmers and the consumer, whose heads may still be turned by attractive price deals in tough economic conditions, despite how they have responded.”
The results of the study come at a critical time for British agriculture – a sector which stands to lose more than most if the protection provided by the European Union’s single market is not replicated post-Brexit.
British standards of food and farming are among the best in the world thanks to decades of progress in the areas of production that matter most to consumers.
Many countries which can produce food cheaper than Britain often use production methods which are illegal here and across Europe; chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef being two well-reported examples.
Professor of Food Policy at the University of London, Tim Lang, said: “An overwhelming 84% want imported food to be of the same standard as home-produced food. Gung-ho supporters of yoking the UK to the USA post-Brexit should note this
“The survey suggests the UK public almost certainly recognises the need for the UK farming to tick lots of boxes. It’s got the message that farming is multi-functional. But have the politicians?”
84% of GB adults agree the government should ensure all imported food meets the same environmental and animal welfare standards as food produced in the UK. Only 2% disagree
A majority (53%) of GB adults would not buy food that is produced to lower animal welfare standards if it’s cheaper than food produced to a high standard of animal welfare. Only around one in six (16%) agree
Younger people are less likely to disagree with the statement than older people – it seems attitude to the trade-off between animal welfare and price swings towards animal welfare the older we get (45% disagree 18-34; 52% 35-54; 61% 55+)
62% of the public agree that UK farmers should receive financial support from the taxpayer to ensure a continued supply of food produced by British farmers post-Brexit, compared to just one in ten (10%) who disagree. 68 per cent of rural and 61 per cent of urban respondents agreed
Two in five (39%) GB adults agree that a UK farmer’s primary purpose should be to produce food rather than carry out environmental work, although just under a third (29%) disagree. 33% were not clear (26% neither, 7% don’t know)
CLIMATE CHANGE AND TECHNOLOGY
62% of the public agree farmers have an important role to play in generating renewable electricity from technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels, while around one in twelve (8%) disagree
Just under half (48%) of GB adults agree that a climate change levy should be charged on food with a higher carbon footprint, with the proceeds spent on encouraging carbon-friendly farming methods, compared to fewer than one in five (17%) who disagree
34% agree new plant-breeding technologies, such as genetically modified and gene-edited crops, should be used to grow food in the UK, compared to more than a quarter (27%) who disagree. Young people aged 18-24 are more likely to agree (46%) with the statement than any other age group
Retail and UK marketplace
Only 24% agree UK farmers receive a fair share of the profits made by retailers on the food that they produce, compared to more than a third (36%) who disagree. Rural respondents were more likely to disagree than urban respondents (43% rural vs 35% urban)
ACCESS TO THE COUNTRYSIDE
Almost two thirds (62%) of GB adults agree the public has adequate access to the UK countryside in terms of rights of way and footpaths, compared to just one in 10 (11%) who disagree. Londoners and those in the West Midlands were the least likely to agree with the statement (54% and 55% respectively), whereas those in Wales and the North East were the most likely to agree (both 70%)
Four in five (79%) adults are proud of the British countryside and the rural communities which sustain it, compared to just 3% who disagree. While urban respondents still have a high level of agreement with the statement (77%), almost nine in ten (88%) of rural respondents agree
NFU plans for New Horizons
NFU CYMRU’s annual conference takes place on Thursday, November 7, at 10 am with another stellar line-up of speakers.
To be held at the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells, the conference, titled, Welsh Farming: New Horizons, will focus on future opportunities for Welsh agriculture.
NFU Cymru President, John Davies said: “We are, once again, looking forward to welcoming hundreds of members to our annual conference. With so much uncertainty within the industry at the moment, this conference will be an opportunity for members to look beyond the horizon line towards future opportunities for the industry.
“Our annual conference has continued to grow and become the must-attend event of its kind in Wales, consistently attracting world-class speakers – and this year is no exception.
“At NFU Cymru we are both passionate and ambitious about the future of Welsh food and farming. We believe that given the right support from the government, we can continue to develop a profitable, productive and progressive agricultural industry. I hope that our expert line-up of speakers will help inspire members and allow them to head home with some thoughts and ideas on how to take their own farming businesses forward.
“We will also use the conference to present the first-ever NFU Cymru Sustainable Agriculture Award, kindly sponsored by Wynnstay. This award seeks to recognise the unparalleled contribution Welsh farming enterprises make to the economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being of Wales, and I’m very much looking forward to presenting this award to the very worthy winner.”
Speakers on the day include:
Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Welsh Government
Heather Hancock DL LVO, Chair, Food Standards Agency
Professor Robert Pickard, Food and Nutrition Expert
Professor Michael Lee, Sustainable Agriculture Expert
Dmitry Grozoubinski, Founder and Lead Trainer, ExplainTrade.com
Breffni Carpenter, Agriculture Counsellor, Permanent Representation of Ireland to the European Union
Sam Watson Jones, Co-Founder, Small Robot Company
Dr Andrea Graham, Head of Policy Services, NFU and ‘The Future of Food 2040’ Author
Campbell Mauchan, Head of UK Operations, AgriWebb
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