December 2009 Archives
The Farmers' Union of Wales has described discussions with Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones on the Glastir scheme as "useful and productive", following a meeting today in Aberystwyth.
The Welsh Assembly Government intends replacing Tir Mynydd, a compensatory payment scheme recognising the Less Favoured Area (LFA) status of 80% of Wales's land, with Glastir, an all -Wales agri -environmental scheme.
During today's two-and-a-half hour meeting with the Minister, the FUW raised numerous concerns regarding the scheme, and the timetable for its implementation.
Afterwards, FUW president Gareth Vaughan said: "The fact that we spent two and a half hours in discussions with the Minister and her senior staff highlights that we all share a common interest, which is to make Glastir work in the best interests of Welsh farmers and rural Wales.
"The meeting was extremely useful and productive, and gave us the opportunity to raise our concerns face-to-face with the Minister.
"I trust that these have now hit home, and that we will see some changes that will be of benefit to the farming industry.
"However, we made it clear that we still believe the Glastir implementation date should be delayed by 12 months, and Tir Mynydd extended for that period.
"Glastir comprises such a significant change to the distribution of Axis 2 monies that such a delay would give us far more time to iron out the significant issues that have arisen during our negotiations."
The Farmers' Union of Wales today urged the Welsh Assembly Government to distribute EU emergency aid monies directly to dairy farmers in Wales following a meeting of the union's finance and organisation committee.
EU member states recently agreed the UK will receive Ã¢ÂÂ¬29.26m of the proposed Ã¢ÂÂ¬300m aid package for dairy farmers struggling to cope with low milk producer prices.
EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel first announced the aid package back in October following months of protests and lobbying from dairy farmers. The exceptional measure was designed to ease the financial struggles of the worst affected EU farmers.
The finance and organisation committee objected wholeheartedly to payments being proportional to milk production or quota held, on the grounds that, on average, farms with higher production/quota get more money per litre for milk, due to production related bonuses, and also benefit from economies of scale such as cheaper feed.
Members felt that, ideally, they would like to see a system that benefits those with the greatest needs. However, they recognised that this is unlikely to be practical as it would involve individual assessments of every dairy farm.
FUW milk committee chairman Eifion Huws said: "We, therefore, support a system where all dairy farmers receive the same amount, on the grounds that this is practical, easily administered and is more equitable than a system that would, in many cases, see the most profitable businesses receiving more than those in greater need of the money."
A variety of topical issues will be discussed at an open meeting organised by the Farmers' Union of Wales's Denbighshire and Flintshire branches on Monday, January 18 at the Wild Pheasant Hotel, Llangollen, commencing at 7.30pm.
The guest speakers will be FUW vice president Eifion Huws, FUW director of agricultural policy Nick Fenwick, FUW north Wales regional manager Dylan Evans, Welsh Assembly Government policy officer Delyth Brown, Dalton Tags development manager Tudur Wynne, and HCC industry development manager SiÃÅœn Aron Jones.
"With a question and answer session to follow, it promises to be both an interesting and informative evening. Everyone is welcome to attend," said FUW county executive officer Marian Jones.
NOTE TO EDITORS: If you intend sending a representative, please let Marian Jones know by January 12 on 01824 707198.
A Farmers' Union of Wales delegation to Brussels highlighted the dangers to Wales and the EU of Defra's approach to CAP reform at a time when all parties should be pushing for a properly funded scheme recognising the key role agriculture must play in maintaining food security and mitigating climate change.
Mr Vaughan said although a favourable euro -sterling exchange rate has significantly helped the industry over the past year, Aberystwyth University's Farm Business Survey results highlighted the industry's continuing reliance on CAP payments to remain financially viable.
"So, in the absence of a system that ensures fair returns for our produce, the outcome of the forthcoming discussions on the post -2013 CAP is crucial to our future prospects.
"To get some idea of what the worst possible post -2013 CAP might look like, we need look no further than our own Westminster government policy, as laid out in the Defra -Treasury 2005 CAP policy document.
"Since 2005 the FUW has warned that that policy - which advocates less direct aid, more imports into the EU, and lower food prices - would devastate our industry and the rural areas in which we live."
Research commissioned by Defra and the Welsh Assembly also confirmed what the FUW had been saying for the past four years - that Defra's policy would lead to a 26% fall in cattle prices, cattle numbers would plummet by between 26 and 29% and sheep prices would fall by around 12%.
Sheep numbers would fall by around 17% and similar trends are predicted for the milk, pig and poultry sectors.
"While it may have been drafted in 2005, this is not Defra's 2005 policy: This is Defra's policy now," said Mr Vaughan.
"Despite their own reports warning that their policy will 'hasten the decline in agricultural employment' and 'employment within the wider rural economy' while undermining 'the viability of the rural population', Defra has made no u -turn and, for all the warm words recently spoken by Hillary Benn in favour of agriculture, its policy is to destroy our rural communities and businesses.
"So in terms of the forthcoming negotiations on the future of the CAP, which will be critical to farming in Wales, this is the policy that Defra will be trying to push, and even as I speak, Defra officials are no doubt holding meetings and discussions about how best to get as many of these catastrophic policies into the post -2013 CAP.
"We believe that people should not be pushing for Defra to be at the European Parliament's negotiating table because it would be advocating a policy that evidence shows will devastate farming and our rural communities."
Welsh sheep farmers will get the chance to quiz the leaders of two major organisations competing to buy their wool during a meeting organised by the Farmers' Union of Wales.
British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) chairman Frank Langrish and Aidan Walsh, managing director of Irish company Texacloth Ltd, will share a platform for the first time at an open meeting at Llysfasi College, Ruthin, on Monday December 14 at 7.30pm.
In September last year Mr Walsh told the Farmers Guardian Texacloth's wool buying operations in Wales and Scotland will not damage the BWMB. But it is up to wool producers to decide who they sell to and it is important they make their decisions based on facts, he added.
"I have never refused wool from anybody. We pay the market value on the day and the producer has the option to accept it or not.
"Of course Texacloth is not a charitable organisation, it is a well run family business that must make a profit and I am not going to pay anyone more for their wool than it is worth. But I will pay what it is worth," said Mr Walsh.
While not wishing to perpetuate an exchange of claim and counter-claim with the BWMB through the media, Mr Walsh said he would be happy to share a platform in front of producers with chairman Frank Langrish.
"I do not mind open debate, but it must be based on fact," he said.
Mr Langrish said: "The BWMB is the farmers' business, it is effectively a co-op. The full value of the wool sold at auction is returned to the producer, less the marketing costs."
FUW's Denbigh and Flint county executive officer Marian Jones said: "This should be an interesting meeting as this is the first time that BWMB and Texacloth have shared a platform. We believe that it is important to give producers the opportunity to meet, raise any issues and to ask any questions to both members of the panel.
"We hope that members and non-members take advantage of this opportunity and we anticipate that the meeting will be well attended."
For further information contact the FUW's Ruthin office on 01824 707198.
NOTE TO EDITORS: The media is welcome to attend the meeting. For further details contact Marian Jones on 01824 707198.
A Farmers' Union of Wales delegation travelled by train to Brussels to discuss agriculture's key role in mitigating climate change as Sir Paul McCartney flew in from London to demand meatÃ¢ÂÂfree Mondays, the union's leader claimed today.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, McCartney admitted his flights from London to Brussels to make his case - and on to Berlin for a concert later in the week - had contributed to global warming.
President Gareth Vaughan told the FUW's grand council he was accompanied by his deputy Emyr Jones and senior policy officers when they met EC officials and Welsh MEPs to express concern over Defra's proposals for the industry after the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is replaced in 2013.
"And while we were in the EU parliament, arguing in favour of a common sense approach to land use and climate change, both in terms of the CAP and the Copenhagen summit, Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, was in the same building, doing exactly the opposite.
"The FUW travelled there and back by train! The word hypocrisy springs to mind, and I am confident that the carbon footprint of our farm fades into insignificance alongside the hundreds of transatlantic journeys undertaken by Sir Paul over the years.
"While McCartney's campaign might incense us here in Wales, the anger must be far worse in Kintyre, Scotland, where he made his home in an area where, like Wales, crop production is in many areas unviable, and livestock farming an integral part of the economy and environment."
The Chancellor's vision of a "fairer society" and "securing opportunity for all" was today refuted by Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan.
"I was bitterly disappointed that the Chancellor had not heeded our warning and that the proposed repeal of the Furnished Holiday Legislation (FHL) has been enacted," said Mr Vaughan.
The move will mean that FHL businesses will cease to be treated as a trade for capital gains tax, roll-over relief, and entrepreneurs' relief.
"Scrapping these benefits will seriously affect the income of the many FUW members who have diversified into letting out holiday accommodation.
"Some of whom have done so after acting upon past government advice which encouraged diversification into the tourism industry.
"It, therefore, seems rather unfair that they will now be penalised for doing so.
"But I must add that relief may be available in the short-term, and FUW members are urged to think carefully about what they want to do before April next year and seek professional advice as soon as possible," added Mr Vaughan.
"VAT was expected to return to 17.5% but there was a further blow for the agricultural industry as the Chancellor announced an additional 0.5% increase in National Insurance, making the increase 1% from April 2011.
"This move will further increase the cost of employment on farms as well as hitting self-employed farmers.
"Whilst it is forecast that the economy will be out of recession by then, I believe that adding to employers' costs will not help sustain the recovery," said Mr Vaughan.
He also questioned Mr Darling's logic when he said that "to promote growth, we need to invest in the dynamic sectors of the future - in digital, bio and low-carbon technology".
Mr Vaughan added: "Whilst climate change experts in Copenhagen were warning that 'millions will go hungry by 2050' I found it difficult to believe that the Chancellor failed to announce any measures that would promote growth within the sector that faces the formidable task of feeding a growing nation whilst tackling the effects of climate change.
"In fact, there was little that he announced yesterday that would give farmers the confidence to invest in their farming businesses.
"On a slightly more positive note, I was glad that agricultural property retains its exemption from Inheritance Tax and I welcome the extension of empty property relief."
The union also welcomed the decision to introduce a duty of 50p a month on all phone landlines. This levy is to finance the availability of super-fast broadband to 90 per cent of the population by the end of 2017.
"The FUW has long campaigned that the lack of effective broadband in many parts of Wales is putting rural businesses at a severe disadvantage. I hope that this move will eradicate any black-spots that currently exist in Wales," said Mr Vaughan.
"Access to a fast internet connection is also becoming an increasingly useful tool for farmers with registering cattle movements online a regular task.
"So, it is vital that we have effective access to broadband technology to carry out these tasks quickly and efficiently."
The Government will defend its report by referring to the need to support industry and commerce through a recessionary period by reducing their costs, and retaining public expenditure to stimulate demand and expedite the economy's return to positive growth.
Mr Vaughan concluded: "Past failings have meant that this pre-budget report was a fine balancing act, but I fear that reality is just around the corner and that worse is yet to come with many difficult and unpopular decisions postponed until after the looming general election."
But the union also expressed bitter disappointment that the conclusions of the sub-committee's inquiry did not deal with the controversial issue of the abolition of milk quotas in 2015.
"We support the wide-ranging recommendations made in this report," said FUW milk committee chairman Eifion Huws, when it was launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
"Their conclusions tie in with policies advocated by the FUW for many years, particularly in terms of the equitable distribution of profits along the supply chain and the appointment of an ombudsman.
"However, we are disappointed that, in the current climate where hundreds of thousands of dairy farmers across Europe are protesting against the abolition of milk quotas, this issue has been blanked.
"In evidence to the committee the FUW highlighted the findings of numerous reports that show the abandonment of the quota regime will reduce farm-gate prices and milk production in Wales.
"This is a critical issue for the Welsh dairy industry, and there is a real need for a proper debate on the matter.
"That debate is raging on the continent but it is being largely ignored in Wales and the UK despite its critical importance to the sector."
NOTE TO EDITORS: A picture of Eifion Huws, a Welsh-speaking Anglesey dairy farmer, is attached.
The Farmers' Union of Wales has teamed up with Dalton ID Systems to offer its members a discount scheme for cattle and sheep tags that is being launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair (November 30-December 1).
The deal provides a 10% discount on Dalton cattle tags, free replacements when ordered from January 1, a 24-hour replacement service, and a free applicator with the first order.
And due to the potential combined buying power of thousands of farmers the union has also managed to negotiate a discount of up to 35% on the costs of electronic tags for sheep if ordered before March 31.
"We in Dalton ID Systems are fully aware that farmers are unhappy with the introduction of electronic tagging of sheep," said the company's UK national sales and business development manager Tudur Wynne.
"However, I'm looking forward to working closely with the union. This deal has meant that we could negotiate with our suppliers to reduce the cost of the materials and therefore reduce the cost of implementing EID on farms across Wales.
"It proves the proverb 'mewn undeb mae nerth' (in union there's strength)," Mr Wynne added.
Dalton was established in 1947 and, despite becoming a worldwide recognised brand, has remained a family-owned business for over 60 years. It was the first company to patent and produce two-piece plastic ear tags.
FUW business development director Emyr James, who helped negotiate the scheme, said: "During the Winter Fair we will have examples of the tags and supporting literature on display on our stand in the Livestock Complex Hall. Details of the ordering procedures for tags are also available at all FUW county offices."
The farming industry and government must act without delay to attract younger people into agriculture in Wales where the average age of farmers is 58, the 19-year-old winner of the Farmers' Union of Wales student bursary has demanded.
Iestyn Russell, who is studying rural enterprise and land management at Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, chose to write a 1,000-word essay on the topic "What should the Welsh farming industry and government do to attract more young people into agriculture?" as his submission for the ÃÂ£700 bursary.
"This question has been the subject of debate for several years. We need to deal with the problem now or our industry will face major problems in the future," the Lampeter farmer's son wrote.
He added: "Rural Wales' young people are quite prepared to bridge the gap and take responsibility, but we must ask why they are not offered a chance to move forward within agriculture in Wales.
"Older farmers must take a step back and give young people a chance to experiment with their own ideas. But what encourages this to happen? Not a lot at the moment, but there are plenty of possibilities.
"Firstly, the profile of agriculture has to be raised in the public's eyes. Farmers in this country do not get the respect, praise or the price they deserve, so this would be a good place to start. An advertising campaign on the television and in the daily newspapers would be worth considering.
"Perhaps the public would be willing to pay more for local produce and support Welsh farmers instead of buying imported food. They should be aware of the high level of care farmers in this country give their stock and they, therefore, deserve a better price for better produce."
Iestyn, an enthusiastic member of Cwmann YFC and this year's Wales YFC best junior stockman, also worked on the family's dairy and sheep farm at Cwmann, near Lampeter, and on a neighbouring beef and sheep farm before deciding to go to university to study for a degree "but my dream of farming is still as real as ever".
Speaking for the bursary scheme's judging panel, FUW agricultural education and training committee chairman Alun Edwards said they were very impressed with the way Iestyn expressed himself during his interview and in his written submission.
"We were confident that his broad knowledge of the industry will serve him well in the future. The submissions of the other award winners were also of a high standard."
Iestyn suggested other ways to attract more young people into farming could include schemes to assist the transfer of farms from the older generation to the younger generation. "Would some sort of pension scheme for the more experienced farmers work?
"Farmers could be offered a pension scheme to enable them to retire earlier, at 55 years old for example. Or keep the age as it is at present but offer them more money.
"Some sort of a succession scheme which would make the process of changing the people who run or own a farm easier would be a good idea. It would motivate both parties and avoid a long, drawn out process which is slow and expensive.
"This would mean looking closely at the rules of inheritance tax. One idea would be to reduce the rate if one member of the family was going to carry on farming the farm."
He acknowledged that the Welsh Assembly Government recently announced a scheme to support people under 40 years of age to make a living out of agriculture by offering a one-off payment of ÃÂ£15,000 to cover the costs new farmers face when they establish themselves as head of a holding for the first time.
"They also offer support to encourage share farming or joint ventures between young people. And another part of the scheme is that young farmers are mentored by an older, more experienced farmer.
""I believe that this is an excellent idea as it combines the new ideas and enthusiasm of young people with the older farmers' experience and knowledge."
Iestyn stressed that depopulation, especially of young people, in rural areas had been a problem for years. Young people can find better, cleaner jobs elsewhere with more spare time and, more importantly, more money.
"Farming is one of the hardest jobs and, therefore, people who do this job deserve a fair wage. Unfortunately, the prices farmers receive are not enough and a fairer price is needed.
"The Government could set a threshold below which prices could not drop. This would not be favourable to the public or to private processing companies, but it would benefit the milk industry and this could offer a solution and prevent farmers from ceasing milk production.
"A ban on cheap imported foods would mean that farmers in this country could be better supported in order to increase production levels to satisfy the demand for food. It's likely that this would create more jobs on farms and would reward farmers for their hard work.
"The Government could reduce some of the paper work which cripples and takes up farmers' time. This would make the industry more attractive for young people to enter and more time would be spent on the land instead of in an office.
"There are numerous ways to tackle this old problem, but something needs to be done at once to give young people a fair chance. The responsibility not only lies with the Government and the industry, but also with the current and future farmers."
Runner-up to Iestyn is 19-year-old David Evans, of Groeswen Farm House, Groeswen, Cardiff, who has just started a four-year agriculture BSc degree course at Aberystwyth University. He receives ÃÂ£200.
Third is 22-year-old Manod Williams, of Tregerddan, Bow Street, near Aberystwyth, who has also just embarked on a BSc course in agriculture with animal science at Aberystwyth. He receives ÃÂ£100.