June 2010 Archives

By Marian Jones on Jun 24, 10 04:34 PM


The Farmers' Union of Wales today welcomed confirmation from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) that the Farming Connect subsidised advisory service can offer an 80% subsidy on the cost of mentoring and advice towards applying to enter the Glastir land management scheme.

"Whilst consultants cannot be used to fill in the actual forms, they can be used for mentoring, advice and guidance," said the FUW's land use and parliamentary committee chairman Richard Vaughan.

"We welcome this step as the union has been pushing for this service to be more pro-active in helping farmers access Glastir."

WAG revealed Farming Connect cannot fund consultants to complete applications on behalf of farmers for Glastir - but they can help with the points calculation, scorecard and advise or mentor on impact and management options that a business could consider.

Examples of mentoring and advice farmers can receive through the Whole Farm Plan (WFP) and Farm Advisory Service (FAS) to help their business make an informed decision to apply for Glastir include: assessment of habitats, species, biodiversity, historical features on the farm and appropriate management of these habitats and features.

Other examples could include advice on options for the farm and changes to the farming systems - e.g. identifying risks to the environment, protection and enhancement of habitats and features, and any changes to the farm system that may be required.

The Farmers' Union of Wales' today gave the new Chancellor's budget a guarded welcome while stressing that it is still early days and only with time will the farming industry be able to assess the impact of cuts in the public sector.

However, the union praised the Chancellor's reintroduction of Furnished Holiday Lettings (FHL) tax allowances. "The FUW has campaigned vigorously for the reintroduction of FHL tax allowances because scrapping these benefits would have seriously affected the income of many of our members who have diversified into letting out holiday accommodation," said the union's business development director Emyr James.

"Some of them have done so after acting upon past government advice which encouraged diversification into the tourism industry. Today's announcement will come as a welcome boost for both the agricultural and tourism business in Wales."

The Union was also pleased to see no further increases in fuel duty following the last increase in March.

"Another increase today would have had a direct impact on the cost of production at a time when the country needs business to flourish," said Mr James.

The Chancellor's intention to increase VAT to 20% should not directly impact upon the agriculture sector as food is to remain exempt. "But in wider terms it could pose a cash flow problem for some farmers and affect the consumer''s disposable income available to spend on purchasing better quality cuts and products," said Mr James.

Another worry for the industry would be the further government departmental cuts announced by the Chancellor. Mr James added: "Time alone will only tell whether these departmental cuts, which include DEFRA, will have a direct impact on the agricultural industry in Wales.

"One thing is for sure, it is imperative that the economy continues to grow so that we can trade ourselves out of this recession."

The Farmers' Union of Wales today described a European Parliament decision to demand mandatory country of origin labelling of food as a major step forward in the union's lengthy campaign to protect the high quality of Welsh produce.

"Farmers in Wales have good reason to want all producers to ensure labelling is accurate and unambiguous," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

"In the past few years imported meat has been the subject of a number of mislabelling incidents which could have tarnished the quality image of food produced in Wales and the union was compelled to highlight the mislabelling of Argentinian rump steak - displaying the British flag and British farm standards logo - at a major supermarket chain in Bangor.

"The store said the mislabelling was a mix-up and was quickly corrected after it was pointed out by the union. Another FUW member in Snowdonia revealed how meals served to children at a local school included food said to be '80% Welsh Beefburgers' but the labels on the boxes stated they were manufactured by a company in Hull."

During yesterday's debate in Strasbourg around two thirds of UK MEPs agreed to back a clear demand to send a strong political message in favour of mandatory country of origin labelling to the other EU institutions.

Their amendment urges "the country or place of provenance shall be given for the following: meat; poultry; dairy products; fresh fruit and vegetables; other single ingredients and meat and poultry and fish used as an ingredient in processed foods".

Their decision will now be passed onto EU governments in the Council of Ministers for approval. "We hope the Council of Ministers will now agree with the commonsense approach of MEPs to this matter and offer no more opposition to the measure," Mr Vaughan added.

A high-powered delegation from the Farmers' Union of Wales today raised a series of issues with Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones during a two-hour meeting in Aberystwyth.

High on the agenda was the controversial Glastir land management scheme which was also discussed at length during the union's annual general meeting last Monday when the Minister addressed anxious delegates.

"Glastir dominated the debate at the AGM so we were duty bound to raise several issues about the scheme with the Minister again today," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

"As a union we still maintain that a 12-month deferment of the scheme is warranted but we are pleased that the Minister agreed to look at certain specific aspects that were raised with her today."

The meeting also touched upon a range of other issues including TB, CAP reform and the disproportionate penalties imposed on farmers for relatively minor errors on their IACS/SAF forms.

The Farmers' Union of Wales today welcomed the outcome of a National Assembly inquiry which refused canoeists' requests for free open access to Welsh rivers.

Instead, the Assembly's sustainability committee called for voluntary access agreements by landowners, a licensing system for those using unpowered craft on inland waters and a fee for those making a profit out of water-related recreation.

FUW land use and parliamentary chairman Richard Vaughan, who gave evidence to the committee's inquiry, said the union was concerned at the impact any increased, unmanaged access to inland waterways would have on adjacent farmland as there had been several trespass incidences across farmland by users wishing to reach or leave an inland waterway.

"We believe the committee has made a sensible response to the canoeists' demands and we welcome its recommendations which support reasoned discussion on access issues," he said.

"The union is totally opposed to a statutory approach to access to inland waters as it believes there are major farm management issues associated with such a proposal, given the amount of inland water within Wales.

"The FUW strongly believes that if the Assembly is seeking to improve access to any part of the countryside and want to encourage landowners to participate in voluntary arrangements, it must seriously consider ways in which to reduce the liability burden on farmers.

"Feedback from our members suggests that working in partnership and increasing dialogue will prove far more constructive than the introduction of blunt policy instruments which will foster resentment and conflict between all parties.

"It is also important to ensure that all relevant parties are involved in discussions to ensure that any agreement reflects the commercial and environmental priorities identified for that particular waterway."

Mr Vaughan stressed that the FUW is not opposed to water-based activities. "In fact, we have members involved with diversified enterprises that encourage canoeing, kayaking etc, through voluntary agreements, provision of infrastructure and access points to and from the water.

"Many farmers are also actively involved in their local angling associations and much voluntary time, effort and resources are put in by individuals to maintain and enhance the environmental value of the areas they manage.

"Similarly, landowners may incur costs in maintaining waterways which abut their property. Therefore, it would seem only equitable that recreational users, who do not wish to be party to voluntary arrangements, should be required to pay a license fee to the Environment Agency, to help them maintain the resource they enjoy.

"This method would provide revenue to the Welsh economy and assure landowners that licensing comes with a code of practice, which would highlight the need to access or leave waterways on designated rights of way, and provide all users a stake holding in waterways which would act as justification to preserve and enjoy."

Powys farmer Gareth Vaughan was re-elected with a handsome majority for the seventh successive time as president of the Farmers' Union of Wales during the union's grand council meeting in Aberystwyth this afternoon (Monday, June 14).

"I'm delighted to be re-elected as president once again and I look forward to driving forward the aims and ambitions of the FUW for another year in what is expected to be a challenging time for the industry as the Common Agricultural Policy is reviewed," he said.

"The past year has been yet another busy time for the Union in terms of representing members' interests in discussions with organisations and politicians at all levels.

"Our dairy industry has faced a difficult period over the past twelve months, due to a fall in milk prices and the collapse of Dairy Farmers of Britain, but the favourable Euro-Sterling exchange rate has had a significant positive impact on livestock prices and Single Payments.

"However, the current financial climate is still a cause for major concern and all eyes are now on the new UK Coalition Government.

"But in Wales the idea of such co-operation is not new, as devolution has forced parties from across the political spectrum, whether in Government or opposition, to work together to tackle major issues and moves such as the Welsh bTB Eradication Programme stand as testament to the way in which cross-party co-operation can lead to a mature consensus over matters of importance."

Born in Llanidloes in 1941, Mr Vaughan attended Manledd Primary and Llanidloes High Schools. He left at the age of 15 to work on the family farm, and joined Llangurig Young Farmers Club where his interests included public speaking and drama.

He runs a traditional beef and sheep unit at Cwmyrhiewdre Farm, Dolfor, near Newtown, in partnership with his wife of over 40 years, Audrey, and 12 years ago his daughter Catherine and son-in-law Brian joined the business.

Over the years the family has carried out extensive improvements, with shelter belts, new buildings, land drainage and farm road layouts. Some 2,000 metres of new hedgerow has been planted with the aid of grants from Radnor ESA.

Other hedge improvements were undertaken with the assistance of the Countryside Council for Wales.

Mr Vaughan has been an active member of the FUW for many years. He was chairman of the Newtown branch in 1988-89 and Montgomeryshire county chairman from 1991-93.

He has represented the county on the union's grand council and land use and parliamentary committee, the British Wool Marketing Board, the Meat and Livestock Commission liaison committee and the Agricultural Dwellinghouse Committee.

He was elected as the north Wales member of the FUW's national finance and organisation committee in 1998 before being elected vice president in 2000, deputy president in June 2002 and president in June 2003.

Mr Vaughan places great importance on supporting the local community and is involved with his local agricultural show, new hall committee and other local charities.


By Marian Jones on Jun 16, 10 04:39 PM

bryan award (56).JPGA national charity with 150 years service of support for people working within the farming industry and a Powys farmer were presented with awards recognising their contribution to Welsh agriculture during today's Farmers' Union of Wales annual general meeting.

This year The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) - who received the union's annual "External Award" - commemorates 150 years of unbroken support for the farming community and Bryan Jones - who plays an active role in the FUW at county and national level - was presented with the union's "Internal Award".

Since it was founded RABI has helped many thousands of Welsh farmers, farm workers and their families in times of need and last year, in Wales alone, it spent £282,103 on beneficiaries - almost 10 times more than the total fund-raising income of £29,368 from Welsh counties.

Nationally, in 2008 RABI paid grants totalling £1.6m to 1,503 retired and disabled beneficiaries including 184 working families who received a total of £287,758 either to relieve severe hardship or through the Gateway project.

RABI's formation can be traced back to a letter written to The Times in 1859 by Essex farmer John Mechi who appealed to all farmers to link themselves together as volunteer canvassers. He wrote: "Not profit but charity is the mainspring of your efforts and desire to help those who are helpless, comfort those who are comfortless and support the aged, shelter the homeless and befriend and instruct the innocent and unprotected orphans..."

Today RABI continues as custodian of that vision. Every year it provides around 1,000 Christmas hampers to beneficiaries and continues to support elderly couples, widows, widowers and people of any age who are disabled, along with families struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Jones has farmed at Coed y Parc, Caersws, since 1973 when he took over the tenanted dairy holding. He also farmed in partnership with his parents at Cefn Farm, Hyssington, and both farms are now run in partnership with his wife Susan and their son Andrew.

They run a 70-cow pedigree Friesian Holstein herd plus followers and a flock of 300 Texel and North Cheviot X ewes.

Mr Jones first became a delegate on the FUW's milk and dairy produce committee in 1988, serving as chairman, from 1990 to 1994, at a time of major change with the break up of the then Milk Marketing Board.

As a tenant farmer, he was FUW Montgomeryshire branch's delegate on the union's tenants committee. He was elected the committee's chairman in 1994 and led the union's opposition to the introduction of farm business tenancies.

Mr Jones was elected a vice president of the FUW in 1995 and served on the central finance and organisation committee until 1998. He has given evidence, on behalf of the FUW, to the House of Commons' rural affairs committee in relation to problems in the dairy sector and the BSE enquiry.

In 2003 he gave evidence at the European Parliament in Brussels on a debate relating to the dairy sector.

Mr Jones has represented and continues to represent the FUW on a number of government bodies, such as the Milk Quotas Advisory Group, Industry/Government Working Group on Animal Identification and Registration leading to the establishment of the British Cattle Movement Service, the Milk Quotas Experts Group, and the Bovine Industry Working Group.

He was awarded the FUW/HSBC award for outstanding service to the Welsh dairy industry in 2006.

Mr Jones is a past director of Farmore Farmers and AF Farmore and represents Montgomeryshire on the Genus Advisory Committee. He is a member of Powys Local Access Forum and past vice chairman of Montgomeryshire Local Access Forum.

Mr Jones recently took part in the WAG/HCC sheep EID trials.

bryan award: Gareth Vaughan and Bryan Jones.


By Marian Jones on Jun 16, 10 09:48 AM

Richard Vaughan.JPGMeirionnydd farmer Richard Vaughan is a new face on the Farmers' Union of Wales' powerful central finance and organisation committee.

Mr Vaughan, aged 46, takes over as the committee's North Wales special member from S4C TV's Ffermio presenter Alun (Elidyr) Edwards who stepped down due to his broadcasting commitments but remains chairman of the union's agricultural education and training committee.

Mr Vaughan, of Pall Mall, Tywyn, was elected during the union's annual general meeting in Aberystwyth on Monday June 14.

He has already been chairman of the union's central land use and parliamentary committee since 2006.

He was FUW Merioneth's county chairman between 2007-2009 and has recently worked assiduously leading the union's representations on the Welsh Assembly Government's controversial Glastir land management scheme.

He is a member of the Meirionnydd Royal Welsh Agricultural Society's Advisory Committee and represents the county on the Membership Committee in Builth Wells. He also sits on the Council of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society.

He is a former chairman of the Meirionnydd Grassland Society and also vice chairman of Tywyn Town Council as well as other associated committees.

Pall Mall Farm is situated on the A493 north of Tywyn. It is one of two holdings, totalling 550 acres, and is farmed by Mr Vaughan and his wife Dwynwen. Most of their land is at Pant y Panel and Prysglwyd at Rhydymain, near Dolgellau.

A flock of 750 Welsh Mountain Sheep is kept, together with 150 ewe lambs replacements. Around 200 ewes are crossed with Texel and Suffolk rams, and the remainder with Welsh Mountain. Approximately 60 store cattle are kept and fattened over the summer.

Mr Vaughan is well qualified to speak on the Glastir Scheme, since his farm was one of the first to join the Tir Cymen Scheme when Meirionnydd was chosen as a pilot area in the early 1990s. It benefited greatly from the scheme and the farm is now in its sixth year in the Tir Gofal Scheme.

As part of these schemes, capital works have been carried out, including stone walls, fencing, hedging, tree planting, wild life ponds and even an otter den.

Pall Mall Farm has been successfully diversified over the last 40 years. Outbuildings have been converted, two chalets built, and a caravan site established which, by today, has around 100 units.

Mr and Mrs Vaughan have also developed a successful business purchasing and renovating houses in Aberystwyth to be let out as flats and bed-sits. Mr Vaughan sees this as an important part of the business which brings in valuable extra income without taking him away too often from his farming activities.

Meanwhile, all the other six members of the finance and organisation committee - president Gareth Vaughan; deputy president Emyr Jones; vice presidents Glyn Roberts, Eifion Huws and Brian Walters; and South Wales special member Lorraine Howells - were re-elected.

Welsh farmers today raised their reservations about the difficulties they face in gaining entry to the Welsh Assembly Government's Glastir agri-environment scheme with the new chairman of the Countryside Council for Wales.

Morgan Parry, who was appointed in March, told Farmers' Union of Wales land use committee members he was keen to learn from farmers and wanted to build on the good relations set by his predecessor.

The committee's chairman Richard Vaughan said the meeting was an opportunity to meet Mr Parry and raise some of the concerns members have such as the Glastir scheme's accessibility issues.

"We are keen to maintain a dialogue with Mr Parry because at the end of the day we have to work together. Our objectives and goals are the same.

"We both want a healthy environment but we also want a sustainable and profitable farming industry," added Mr Vaughan.


NOTE TO EDITORS: The attached picture show FUW president Gareth Vaughan (centre) welcoming Morgan Parry on his first visit to the union's Aberystwyth head office and Richard Vaughan (left).

Increases in farmgate prices which properly reflect rises in wholesale prices for dairy produce are now long overdue, FUW milk committee chairman Eifion Huws claimed today.

Figures published by DairyCo last week revealed the wholesale prices of both butter and bulk cream rose by almost 70% in the 12 months to May 2010 while skimmed milk powder and mild cheddar rose by 30% and 12% respectively during the same period.

"In just the last month, the price of butter has increased by £400 per tonne and both mild cheddar and bulk cream have risen by £150 per tonne," added Mr Huws.

According to DairyCo, UK commodity prices have benefited from a rapid rise in European price levels, despite a slight rise in the value of Sterling against the Euro over the past month and butter prices are now are now £100 higher than the record price of £3,300/tonne seen in 2007.

Bulk has also benefited from rising export and domestic prices due to limited availability and strong Continental demand.

"It is high time that the primary producer started seeing some of this money being passed back in order to engender industry confidence," said Mr Huws. "Welsh Assembly Government figures suggest a fall in dairy farm incomes of 11% over the past year, so we are really looking to the dairy processors to make up for this fall."

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