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Open access opens can of worms

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Urges caution over open access: Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru

Urges caution over open access: Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru

CONCERN has been expressed by farmers over proposed changes to access legislation in Wales, at a recent county NFU Cymru Annual General meeting.
Brecon and Radnor NFU Cymru County Chairman, Stuart Morris said : “NFU Cymru recognises that some reform is required to access legislation to allow for modernisation of the public rights of way network, through a process of prioritisation and rationalisation. In our response to the recent Green Paper we have made clear that the current system does not take into account modern-day farming. The procedures to divert or close public rights of way must be made far easier and less expensive.”
During the summer months, the Welsh Government carried out a consultation exercise to explore views on the potential for simpler, more integrated, legislation on access to the outdoors and public rights of way. Most alarmingly, concern was raised with regard to the proposal for an entirely new access settlement in Wales which would allow access for responsible recreation to all land in Wales.
Stuart Morris continued, “Farmers are deeply concerned that any proposals to extend access will impose severe limitations on the day to day running of their farming businesses. Our farms are our factory floor and consideration must be given to the fact that we have grazing livestock and cropping decisions to take.
“We have already seen the consequences of the vast spread of phytophthora ramorum and we would not wish for any repeat of this type of disease spread in any of our agricultural crops. There are also health and safety factors to consider such as access to emergency services if an accident were to occur.
“Overall, NFU Cymru is supportive of reform to simplify current legislation to allow a sensible rationalisation of the network. Wales already has a very extensive network of paths and access land and it is time that existing routes are maintained and clearly signposted. We would urge members to continue to lobby their own AMs on this important matter.”
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Llyr Gruffydd AM has also urged caution over government plans to introduce open access to the countryside. His call comes following the publication of HSE figures showing 74 deaths involving cattle in the past 15 years and in the wake of a series of high-profile animal welfare incidents linked to public access to farmland.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Llyr Gruffydd said: “There is much that needs to be improved with the existing arrangements for access, rights of way and public footpaths in Wales. Updating antiquated legislation and outdated regulations would, for example, reduce many of the administrative burdens on those responsible for our paths.
“A quarter of Wales is already designated as open land and we have over 20,000 miles of public rights of way. There has been a threefold increase in land accessible by right by the public since 2005 meaning that over a million acres of Welsh countryside is already accessible to the public.
“If the Government genuinely wants to encourage more access then it should start by promoting the better use of what we already have. Flinging the farm gates wide open by introducing open access to all land in Wales is the wrong approach.
“Recent incidents involving dog attacks on livestock have reminded us that allowing public access onto farmland brings with it risks to land owners and for animal welfare. Health and Safety Executive statistics also highlight the dangers to the public in terms of injury and deaths. Among the 74 fatalities involving cattle were 18 members of the public who were either rambling or walking their dogs.
“These incidents generally occurred on public footpaths or rights of way and almost always involve dogs. If a dog comes between a cow and its calf then that can trigger an attack, which makes it all the more important that people do not wander at random and put themselves in danger.
“Wales has a countryside of which we can all be proud. Allowing responsible use of it by the public has clear benefits for health and our economy. As well as the national coastal path, our citizens already have access to hundreds of thousands of hectares of land and I don’t believe we’re making the best of this existing potential. The Government would do well to deliver more effectively on what we already have before seeking to introduce open access to all land in Wales.

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Farming

Plan for ‘collaborative approach’ to tackling rural crime issues

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THIS week (Mar 9) Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn chaired a strategic meeting with key stakeholders to identify collaborative opportunities to tackle rural and wildlife crime in the Dyfed-Powys area.


Following a meeting with the Farming Unions in Wales earlier this year, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn is keen to establish a Strategic Partnership Working Group with key stakeholders that will aim to identify ways of working collaboratively to tackle some of the rural and wildlife crime issues in Dyfed-Powys.


Dyfed-Powys Police have recently appointed a Sergeant for the Rural Crime Team, and the Police and Crime Commissioner has been keen to consult with key stakeholders to gain an input from partners to support the development of a new Rural Crime Strategy for the Force.


Key Stakeholders that were invited to be part of the strategic group include both NFU Cymru and FUW unions, as well as local authorities, National Parks, RSPCA and many others.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn said: “I had positive discussions with representatives from both unions earlier this year to highlight some of the rural crime issues in the Dyfed-Powys area.


“One of the priorities identified was the need to take a collaborative approach to tackling rural and wildlife Crime, and the meeting with several key partners today was an opportunity to develop discussions and ideas further”.


Earlier in March, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn published a Rural Crime bulletin, which highlights some of the work that has taken place recently in the Dyfed-Powys area, and cross border collaborative initiatives.


PCC Dafydd Llywelyn noted that this multi agency partnership will aim to build on some of the great work that is already happening, and said;  “This meeting today comes a year on from the successful St. David’s Day Conference focusing on Rural Crime that I held at Police Headquarters last year. The last 12 months have been like no other but sadly crime and incidents affecting the rural community have continued.


“Today’s multiagency Strategic meeting was an opportunity to present the new Sergeant for the specialist team, and to discuss a new website that we are developing in partnership with North Wales Police to provide key crime prevention messages to the agricultural industry – the Future Farms Cymru initiative.


“I’m grateful to all partners who attended the meeting today, and I now look forward to take all comments on board as we look to re-energise and refocus the work of the Dyfed Powys Rural Crime Team.”

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NFU Cymru ‘responds robustly’ to WG

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NFU CYMRU has said that many proposals within the Welsh Government and Defra’s Welfare in Transport consultation will cause significant disruption to livestock transportation in the UK.

In a robust response to the joint Welsh Government / Defra consultation, the union has stressed the significant impact the proposals would have on the livestock and poultry sectors, and raised concerns that if the proposals are implemented, they will fail to deliver any meaningful benefit to animals’ welfare.

Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman said: “In order to ensure the best possible welfare outcomes, the main priorities should be the animal’s fitness to travel, loading and unloading, driver training and experience, rather than the length of the journey or the external temperature at the time of transport.

“We firmly believe that the current regulations for domestic transport already deliver high welfare, as a result of the standards, cleanliness and adaptability to different weather conditions of transport boxes in the UK. But as an industry, we want to strive for even better. We believe that in order to do that there should be more focus on certified training and providing clearer, sector-specific guidance, particularly during loading and unloading rather than what is proposed in the consultation. Good welfare and healthy livestock go hand in hand; safe arrival at a destination, be that at market or abattoir, must be and is a priority.

“The transporting of livestock is an integral part of UK food production. The suggested changes to journeys based on duration and weather conditions would cause serious delays and disruption, potentially damaging welfare outcomes, while changes to vehicle requirements would add significant costs. It will also lead to many more journeys being made, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which work against both farming’s and the government’s net-zero targets.

“Turning to the part of the consultation on live exports, we have inputted our views into a proposed NFU assurance scheme, which is detailed in an appendix in the response. This would be extremely effective in delivering welfare outcomes at the same time as maintaining this trade, as assessing the animals’ health and reporting back to producers is a fundamental part of the scheme.”

Richard Williams, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Poultry Group said: “Looking at the month of January for example, over the last three years on average there were 10 days where temperatures were five degrees or less. If the proposals were implemented to stop transport at this temperature, no broilers could be collected off-farm in those days. If we had a prolonged cold snap; this would have a massive effect on the food chain.  

“With any policy developments government makes, it is essential they are based on the latest evidence.  We have an industry to be proud of, with world-leading standards, and that includes our current transportation requirements for all farmed livestock.”

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Farming

Export push for Welsh Lamb

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PGI Welsh Lamb will feature in export marketing events in Dubai and Qatar over the coming months, despite Coronavirus restrictions, with the industry aiming to continue a major growth in exports to the Middle East region.


Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) will have a presence at the upcoming Gulfood 2021 trade show during February 21-25 with support from the Welsh Government via the Enhanced Export Fund. The event, which takes place in Dubai, is the first global trade show to take place in nearly a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In-market representatives will promote PGI Welsh Lamb to buyers at the Covid-secure event.

The Middle East is an important and growing export market; newly published export data shows that the volume of UK sheepmeat exports increased by 18.3% on levels seen in 2019 and a hefty 368% compared to 2018. HCC helped to secure four new retailers as stockists of PGI Welsh Lamb in Qatar over the last year along with a high-end online retailer in the United Arab Emirates.


HCC’s Export Development Executive, Deanna Jones, explained ‘Welsh Lamb exports have grown rapidly in the Middle East over the last few years and the market now sells Welsh Lamb through wholesale, retail and foodservice.’
‘Whilst we will not be attending any events in person, it is important that Welsh Lamb has a presence at Gulfood 2021 and other trade events as we continue to build the customer base and profile of our products.’


Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am very pleased we have been able to support Hybu Cig Cymru as they continue to promote Welsh produce internationally – particularly given the increasing export value of the Middle East to Welsh Lamb producers.


“While restrictions mean delegates will not be able to attend in person, it is vital that Wales continues to have a presence at trade events such as Gulfood 2021, and I am very pleased Wales will be at the table in Dubai.”

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