December 2008 Archives
New food chain legislation coming into force in 2009 was described by the Farmers' Union of Wales today as "utterly balmy" and a threat to the livestock industry.
The legislation requires slaughterhouses to request, receive, and check information for all cattle under eight months old sent for slaughter after December 2008. The requirement is planned to be extended to all cattle and sheep in 2010.
"All slaughterhouses have received notification of the new requirements, with a copy of a model document that asks farmers to provide at least nineteen separate pieces of information relating to each animal or batch of animals," said Aeron Prysor Jones, chairman of the FUW's livestock, wool and marts committee.
"Yet the vast majority of that information is completely unnecessary, and the form even asks farmers to confirm that they have not broken a host of different laws."
The form asks farmers to confirm that the withdrawal periods for veterinary medicines and other treatments have been met - yet movements of such animals to slaughter are illegal. The form also asks whether animals are TB reactors, when the movement of TB reactors are also subject to strict rules.
"The nature of the information being requested is simply ridiculous. Why on earth should someone have to confirm in writing that they have not broken a host of laws?" said Mr Jones, of Bala.
"It is like asking for written confirmation that you are not a bank robber every time you enter the bank. It is utterly balmy.
"The form also requests a written list of tag numbers, despite this information being readily availably, not least in the animals'' passports, on their ears, and on the relevant movement documents."
The form also asks for full details of the holding of origin, the supplier, and the veterinary surgeon responsible for the holding.
There are plans to extend the legislation for all cattle and sheep in January 2010, and there could be major implications for livestock auctions as each animal or batch of animals will be accompanied by a pile of unnecessary paperwork.
"I also believe that there will be major implications for slaughterhouse operators, as people will be tied up by paperwork when they should be inspecting animals."
In 2004 the FUW wrote to the Food Standards Agency stating that Food Chain Information legislation "represents a wholly unnecessary regime for which there is no scientific justification, and the purposes of which are already catered for by existing laws".
And in 2005 the union advocated an exception reporting system that took account of the fact that "the vast majority of FCI paperwork accompanying animals to slaughter would be identical, and would comprise a list of 'no's' under declarations 853/2004 Annex II Section III, Parts 3 (a) to (h)".
"Once again, the powers that be have ignored commonsense solutions and opted for a system that will do little more than waste time and paper for all concerned, and could severely damage the livestock industry," Mr Jones said.
DON'T USE FINANCIAL CRISIS AS EXCUSE TO IGNORE FARMING IN 2009
The financial crisis must not be used as an excuse to ignore the problems facing the agricultural industry, Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan warned in his New Year's Message.
"As 2008 draws to a close, the catastrophic collapse of global financial markets continues to dominate the news, and the repercussions of these are set to hit every section of our communities in 2009 and beyond," he said.
"For Welsh farmers, critical issues in 2009 will be the impact this has on cash-flow and borrowing, and whether the banking sector honours its obligation to pass on the vast sums injected by governments into the financial markets."
He admitted the weakening of the pound in 2008 resulted in farmgate prices being more stable than they have been for years - although they were still unacceptably low.
"However, the effect that falling disposable incomes will have on the procurement of Welsh produce in 2009 is a significant concern, particularly for the premium market, and a weakening pound means an increase in the costs of imported inputs - particularly the 'three Fs' - fuel, fertiliser, and feed.
"It is, therefore, essential that the recent falls in global fuel prices are passed on to industry in order to offset the impact of the exchange rate, and the Competition Commission must be ready to intervene if companies are found not to be passing on the benefits of falling oil prices.
"It has become increasingly clear that the financial collapse is the result of short-sighted, sometimes greed-driven decisions taken by the financial sector. Yet it is not only the financial sector that should be learning the importance of taking prudent, long-term views."
For many years the FUW has warned of the implications of ignoring food security, while Defra's policy has actually been to work against domestic production by discouraging EU financial support for the farming sector and encouraging food importation, said Mr Vaughan.
"2008 saw the early warning signs of the dangers of further marginalising farming and food security, as many non-EC countries banned the export of food in order to stabilise supplies for their own citizens, and food riots occurred around the globe.
"More recently we saw our long-standing warnings regarding the inadequacy of EC and UK food labelling rules ratified, as it became clear that large quantities of dioxin-contaminated Irish meat had been legally labelled as British after processing.
"The discussions that have awoken in the light of this crisis are not before time, and are little consolation for the millions of members of the general public who have been completely misled into buying foreign meat."
Closer to home, and in contrast to UK Government, the Welsh Assembly has shown significant support for farming, most notably by taking the first steps towards an holistic bTB eradication policy in Wales, their commitment to help young farmers by introducing a new entrants scheme and the removal of many planning restrictions that hinder young farming families.
"And, of course, the timely payment of around 85 per cent of Welsh Single Payments within the first week of December shows a commitment to farming that is lacking elsewhere and an is achievement that should be congratulated."
Other critical issues for the Welsh industry in 2009 will be the outcome of the consultation on Axis 2 and the Tir Mynydd scheme, and the assessment of possible future Welsh Single Payment models in light of the finalised CAP Health Check Regulations."With regard to both these important issues, the FUW remains committed to ensuring funds are distributed equitably and with due regard for the needs of both upland and lowland farmers.
"However, farming also needs the proper support of UK and European governments, and the planned implementation of ridiculous regulations such as compulsory electronic identification (EID) of sheep show a massive failure to recognise the needs of our industry.
"Yet the impact of EID is just a drop in the ocean when compared with the repercussions of further abandoning food security, as was being proposed during the 2008 World Trade Organisation discussions.
"Thankfully, those discussions collapsed, but there remain those who seem hell bent on ignoring the lessons of 2008.
"Therefore, 2009 must see an increase in the momentum that has grown in support of food security, local procurement, and disease control, and the financial crisis must not be used as an excuse to look away and return to complacency."
Since opening his shop near Aberystwyth Kiwi butcher Heath Raggett has supplied Welsh Lamb and Beef to a local pub which serves up "Britain's best Sunday roast" and is currently CAMRA's "Pub of the Year" for Ceredigion.
The Druid Inn is situated on the A44 trunk road a few miles east of Aberystwyth at Goginan. It is very much the community centre of the village and is very popular with locals and visitors alike.
Landlord Lewis Johnston keeps excellent real ale and the pub is featured in the CAMRA's Good Beer Guide.
In the friendly cozy atmosphere of a typical country pub, visitors can enjoy a range of traditional home made dishes including delicious Sunday Roast lunches voted Britain's best by the Guardian Travel magazine in September 2007.
Judge reviewer Niall Griffiths wrote: "Always one of mid-Wales's best pubs, it's been further improved since younger management took it over in 2006. Stone-walled, TV-free (except on big rugby days when a portable is propped up on a table by the wood-burning stove).
"Brightened by friendly dogs and children, the Druid Inn serves up huge Sunday lunches which spurn the usual ration of two measly roast spuds that most pubs serve up; here, there's an avalanche of golden 'taters which you can consume while gazing out at the mist rising from the forest on the far side of the valley.
"And, after the kitchen has closed, the leftovers are placed on the bar in communal platters ... Should you be still able to move, you can walk your meal off through the facing forests and haunted quarries down into remote valley villages. Or just sit and sample the Brains and Banks and guest ales that change week by week. If I haven't necked it all before you."
Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan said: "The Druid Inn is a typical example of what traditional Welsh village pubs used to be - the hub of the community serving top quality food and drink to locals and passers-by.
"The efforts of the landlord and his staff fit in with the FUW's continuous work of campaigning for the sustainability of Welsh communities and the retention and survival of rural services such as the village pub, school, shop and post office."
Much of the Welsh Lamb sold by New Zealand butcher Heath Raggett at his Bow Street shop is reared on the slopes of Cardigan Bay a couple of miles from the abattoir at Tywyn where the animals are slaughtered.
Brothers Simon and William Jones run 4,500 breeding ewes, including Welsh mules, Suffolk crosses and Brecknock Cheviots, plus 800 ewe lambs and 550 Welsh Black beef cattle on the 2,800-acre Ysguboriau Farm alongside the river Dysynni.
The farm, which specialises in producing fat lambs for the market, extends from sea level to mountain land 2,000-ft high.
The brothers strive to lamb around 600 ewes as early as mid-January which they start selling at the end of April through Tywyn abattoir and Welshpool mart where they aim to sell their larger lambs of around 45 kilos.
The Welsh mountain rams are sold at Dolgellau mart where they achieved 8,600gns earlier this year for a ram at the Merionethshire Welsh Mountain Sheep Society sale.
"But we always try to supply the local abattoir at Tywyn whenever we can. It is very important to support a local facility such as this as it's crucial that it stays open," said Simon, whose son Dafydd (21) also works on the farm.
Simon and William, whose two sons Llion and Rhys also work on the farm, have been in partnership with their recently-retired father, FUW life member Richard ap Simon Jones, since leaving school.
"We are all continuing the family tradition by remaining in the farming industry," said Simon.
The business has also diversified by running a caravan site on the farm with 160 static pitches and room for 30-40 tourers.
"It really is satisfying to be part of a food production chain involving fresh Welsh Lamb travelling a couple of miles to the local abattoir and on to a traditional family butcher's before ending up on the plate at a pub restaurant within just 35 miles of the farm," said Simon.
"It is an excellent example of how we can cut food miles with good cooperation all round," he added.
Farmer Simon Jones and his son Dafydd round-up Suffolk X Mule lambs at Ysguborau Farm, Tywyn.
Butcher Heath Raggett's shop is supplied with Welsh Lamb and Beef by Tywyn abattoir "Cig Dysynni" run by Farmer's Union of Wales members Dai Anthony Jones and Dai Owens, farmers from Bryncrug and Abergynolwyn, who have operated the premises for the past 18 months.
The abattoir had been closed for over a year and was re-opened by the partners in July, 2007. Business has since steadily built up from slaughtering 40 lambs a week to 600 lambs and 10 cattle. Around 300 lambs are currently supplied to an Iraqi customer in Birmingham.
And last month the abattoir supplied Welsh mountain lamb for a joint initiative with the Snowdonia National Park Authority and Gwynedd County Council to provide pupils at all schools in the county with a taste of locally-produced lamb.
The pilot project, supported by the FUW, Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales and NFU Cymru, ensured lamb from the national park was provided to all Gwynedd schools as part of their school meals between November 10 and 14.
Mr Jones said: "There is a huge emphasis today on cutting down on food miles and there is always a demand for local produce. We can help the community by meeting this demand for local food which also helps the many, smaller, family-run farms in the area.
"We get all our beef from local farmers and our lamb from local farmers and local markets. We are proud to be able to say that our meat is produced, processed and sold locally.
"Our meat is delivered in the van to numerous shops and butchers within a 50-mile radius. We would like to thank all our customers for their loyalty and support and of course we hope that this support will continue as we strive to improve and expand the venture."
Currently the partners employ three full time staff - Jim Jordan, Ben Short and Gareth Williams - but they are an ambitious pair and are hoping to expand further in the near future allowing them to employ more locals.
The abattoir - owned for over 30 years by Sir Meuric Rees, of Escuan Hall, Tywyn - has been completely refurbished and modernised to comply with European standards.
"I believe that agriculture is the heart of rural Wales and we must preserve it for the future sustainability of the region," said Mr Jones.
Stressing that many small abattoirs had been forced to close in recent times, FUW president Gareth Vaughan said it was heartening to see two local farmers bucking the trend.
"The FUW wishes them continued success with their enterprising venture," he added.
Cig Dysynni abattoir manager Jim Jordan with a Welsh Lamb carcass bound for Heath Raggett's shop at Bow Street, near Aberystwyth.
New Zealand butcher Heath Raggett regularly talks up the top quality of Welsh Lamb with his growing number of customers since taking over his own shop at Bow Street, near Aberystwyth, on St David's Day 2006.
"Much of the Welsh Lamb we sell here is reared on a Tywyn farm and slaughtered a couple of miles away at the town's abattoir. By the time it is delivered to us it has only travelled a further 30 miles," said 39-year-old Heath who first came to Aberystwyth to play rugby in 1990.
"We don't sell New Zealand lamb here - it's only Welsh Lamb. That is what my customers ask for and it is my personal preference too. But I am not being unpatriotic to the country where I was born and bred - I always want them to beat Wales at rugby!
"However, I fully understand where I am now and I would never tell my customers they are getting Welsh Lamb when it's not the real thing. I get a lot of local farmers coming into the shop and you have to look after them properly.
"We also source our Welsh Beef mainly from farmers living nearby in north Ceredigion. It is important that we can show our customers it is all fully traceable."
Heath came to Aberystwyth because the rugby club has strong links with his home town club in Gisborne where he completed a four-year apprenticeship in butchery at a local meat company slaughtering and processing pigs, cattle and sheep for surrounding farms.
"Soon after arriving in Aberystwyth I took temporary jobs as a barman at the rugby club and then I worked for fellow rugby player Rob Rattray who was just opening up a butcher's shop in the town.
"After working with Rob for a while I spent over three years as a butchery manager at the local Booker Cash and Carry. I left there to work as a coach with Aberystwyth University's sports department but kept my hand in by working off and on for Rob.
"Then in 1997 I returned to New Zealand where I took up a post as a butcher for AFFCO, one of New Zealand's leading meat companies, which currently processes and exports more than 150,000 tonnes of meat products and by-products every year."
But after four years Heath was back in Aberystwyth, working for Rob Rattray once again. "By then Rob was setting up a processing plant on the outskirts of town at New Cross and I became manager of the cutting plant there."
However, when a traditional family butcher's shop alongside the Aberystwyth to Machynlleth road at Bow Street became available, after the owner I O Thomas retired following 44 years in the business, Heath readily grasped his opportunity.
"It had always been on my mind to get into some sort of business and I came to the conclusion the best thing was to do what I know. I saw the potential of the shop where Mr Thomas had built up a good business with many local customers.
"Even though I am a New Zealander, my idea was to keep the shop as good as it already was and not to alter it in any way. I also wanted to make it as Welsh as possible. My partner Rhiain is a Welsh speaker and together we have made sure we retain the Welshness of the business.
"We have retained all the traditional features of the shop, providing a wide selection of specialist meat cuts, but we have also converted a small area at the rear into a kitchen producing our own home-made cottage pies, steak and ale pies, chicken and ham pies, pasties, sausage rolls, lasagnes, Scotch eggs and we even make our own honey roast ham.
"We also sell takeaway all-day breakfasts such as bacon rolls, bacon and egg rolls, hot pasties, Welsh Lamb burgers and Welsh Beef burgers and we now have plans to converted part of the building into a small cafÃÂ©ÃÂ© which we hope to open up by next Easter.
"We also supply a growing number of local shops, hotels and restaurants. All in all it's been a busy few years which has seen a one-man shop expand into a team of five. It's gives me great satisfaction to think we have created employment for local people."
Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan said: "It is fitting that we should be seen to be supporting such an enterprising business as Cigydd Bow Street which, in many ways, endorses the FUW's ''Help Cut Food Miles...Buy The Welsh One'' campaign.
"Heath Raggett is a shining example of the sentiments that lay behind our campaign. In his own way he is a true ambassador for Welsh farming and we admire him for that - even though he's an All Blacks supporter!"
Cigydd Bow Street butcher, New Zealander Heath Raggett, shows off some of his Welsh Lamb shop displays.
The meeting was arranged by Meirionnydd FUW county executive officer Huw Jones to coincide with the current Welsh Assembly Government review of land management actions under Axis 2 of the Rural Development Plan for Wales.
It took place at FUW county executive committee member David Roberts' farm near Aberdyfi.
"Given the gravity of this issue, and the impact that the current review of Axis II Schemes could have for Welsh producers, it was a great privilege for the FUW to meet with Sir John in order to hear his views," said Mr Roberts.
During the meeting Sir John provided a detailed account of the various factors influencing climate change, including deforestation, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions, and the 'feedback' that can occur as carbon dioxide is released from drying soils.
"Sir John explained that while there was uncertainty at one time regarding man 's contribution to climate change, the vast majority of scientists are now in no doubt that it is a real and extreme phenomenon," said Mr Roberts
"The implications are dire, particularly given that the World population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050.
"The melting of the icecaps and glaciers is expected to raise sea levels to the extent that large areas of our most fertile land will become submerged, while rising temperatures will change weather patterns, accelerate desertification, and alter the viability of farming systems around the globe.
"This will mean the large displacement of populations and more food having to be produced on less land.
"Meanwhile, there is a desperate need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maximise carbon absorption and storage, and balancing food production and carbon storage formed a significant part of our discussion."
During the meeting FUW members expressed concern that farmers undertaking costly voluntary or compulsory initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions might place businesses at an economic disadvantage if parallel action was not taken globally.
"Some climate change campaigners only concentrate on reducing emissions in Wales and the UK, without considering the influence on international trade and domestic food security. Yet short-sighted draconian measures implemented at a local level are likely to increase global greenhouse gas emissions," said Mr Roberts.
"Rules that disadvantage Welsh production will simply result in more of our food being grown by unsustainable farming methods in other countries, leading to more deforestation, more CO2 emissions, and more food miles.
"Policies that fail to recognise the full picture, including the need to maintain rural economies and domestic food production, are likely to make matters worse"
There was unanimous recognition at the meeting that 'global problems demand global solutions', and that changes affecting the farming sector should be carefully planned and managed at an international scale.
"There are many things that Welsh farming families can do to help in their small way, and support to do this must be provided by government. However, above all, we need global coordination and local and global investment."
Sir John emphasised the risk that the current financial crisis could eclipse the acute need to take international action on climate change. He emphasised the economic boost that would accompany local and global investments in measures that tackle climate change.
"Such measures would provide the much needed boost that economies need, and would be a case of killing two birds with one stone."
NOTE TO EDITORS: Sir John Houghton was formerly chief executive of the Meteorological Office and chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. In 1994 he joined the UK government panel on sustainable development and was a recipient of the Global 500 Award, under the United Nations Environmental Programme. Sir John has been chairman of scientific committees for the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Climate Observing System and the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. In 1998 he was awarded the International Meteorological Organisation Prize and in 2007 he received the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delegation, alongside the former vice-president of America Al Gore.
PICTURE CAPTION: David Roberts, Trefrifawr, Aberdyfi welcomes Sir John Houghton to the meeting at his farm, together with Meirionnydd FUW County Officials and staff.
THE winner of the Farmers' Union of Wales ÃÂ£700 student bursary is 39-year-old Jon Paul Mccalmont who is studying countryside management at Aberystwyth University.
Jon, of Llangammarch Wells, Powys, will receive his award from FUW president Gareth Vaughan on the FUW''s stand at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
Born and brought up in Talybont-on-Usk, he has worked as a self-employed sub-contractor in the forestry industry. He said: "I felt it was now time for a change from the heavy end of the forestry industry and I am hoping to develop my career into a more managerial sector.
"My particular interest would lie in upland land management and conservation. As a keen Land Rover enthusiast and home mechanic I am quite capable of maintaining my own vehicle and have actually converted my Land Rover to run on recycled cooking oil."
In runner-up position, and receiving cheques of ÃÂ£200 from judge and chairman of the union's Agricultural, Education and Training committee, Alun Edwards, were farmers' sons 18-year-old Roger Williams of Presteigne, Powys, and 19-year-old Guto SiÃÅœn Owen of Foel Gadeiriau, Llangernyw, Abergele, who are both studying at Aberystwyth University.
Former presenter of S4C's Ffermio programme Sulwyn Thomas will be signing copies of his just-published autobiography on the Farmers' Union of Wales stand during next week's Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
The popular broadcaster will be on the union's stand behind the auctioneer's show ring position in the livestock complex building between 11am and noon on Tuesday, December 2.
Sulwyn is also renowned for his enthusiasm on the former BBC Radio Cymru programme "Stondin Sulwyn" and the same fervour is found in his new book as he recalls his fulfilling and busy life.
FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: "Sulwyn Thomas is a popular and well recognised person throughout Wales and he is still very proactive in Welsh cultural circles, especially in the Carmarthen area.
"But most of all he's an accomplished public speaker and a natural communicator and I'm sure this comes to the fore in his autobiography. ''Stondin Sulwyn'' broke new ground by bringing the people to the medium in every sense of the word and important issues were discussed by ordinary people as well as experts.
"However, the biggest appeal of the programme was, without a doubt, its lively presenter. The same liveliness runs through his book in which he tells about his memories in an interesting way and traces the history of his busy life."
ISBN: 9780860742524 (0860742520)
Publisher: Gwasg Gwynedd, Caernarfon
Format: Paperback, 182x123 mm, 224 pages
Farmers will be given the opportunity to give their opinion on the crucial issues affecting the industry including Bluetongue during next week's Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
The Farmers' Union of Wales is giving visitors to their stand at the Fair the chance to win a Christmas Hamper filled to the brim with prime Welsh produce, courtesy of bwyd blasus aeron fine foods, of Aberaeron by filling in a questionnaire.
All they have to do is spend a few minutes completing the survey seeking information about how Bluetongue is affecting farmers plus details about livestock stocking levels, diversification and investment plans.
Completed questionnaires will be entered into a free prize draw and the winner will be announced at the FUW stand in the main exhibition building at 4pm on Tuesday, December 2.
While filling in the questionnaires visitors are also welcome to enjoy free refreshments including Fair Trade coffee.