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‘While representing a significant challenge, Brexit presents an opportunity to shape the direction of the industry to benefit future farming generations in Wales.’

That was the message from NFU Cymru President John Davies, who addressed industry stakeholders and fellow members during an NFU Cymru session with Welsh Government at the annual NFU Conference at the ICC in Birmingham today (Tuesday 20th February).

As part of his address in one of his first major engagements as NFU Cymru President, John Davies used the Welsh Agriculture: Embracing Change for Success session to emphasise the importance of the UK Government securing a deal with the EU27 that enabled farming in Wales to prosper.

“The £7bn Welsh food and farming industry is heavily reliant on free and frictionless trade with our nearest neighbour and this must remain following our departure from the EU in March 2019,” he said.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed commitments by Secretary of State Michael Gove to focus on supply chain policies and his acknowledgement of the need for an appropriate balance between devolution and common UK frameworks post Brexit.

Speaking at a National Farmers Union conference in Birmingham, Michael Gove gave a number of commitments to English farmers, while also acknowledging the need for Brexit to be considered in terms of entire supply chains which operate across the UK.

Responding, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “In light of Brexit, there is an understandable focus on farming, environmental and land use policies, but the FUW has been arguing for entire supply chains to be considered - be it the supply chain for food, carbon, green energy or wildlife.

“Farmers are key links in lengthy supply chains which involve all sorts of industries and deliver a host of public benefits - not least the food which arrives daily on supermarket shelves. We need holistic Government policies which deliver benefits for consumers and fair rewards for farmers, and interventions where there is market failure.”

A proposed five-fold increase in licence fees for farmers and contractors to dispose of waste water after dipping sheep is a potential threat to the high animal welfare standards that producers in the UK pride themselves on, says the National Sheep Association (NSA).
 
Treating with organophosphate dips is an essential practice to kill certain sheep parasites, particularly scab mites. As appropriate to their potential impact on human health and the environment, farmers must hold a Certificate of Competence to use the dips and an Environment Agency Disposal Licence to handle the waste water afterwards. NSA is therefore opposing a disproportionately large increase in the cost of applications and renewals processed by the Environment Agency after April 2018, taking a new licence to more than £2,000.

Government announces a range of measures including compulsory milk contracts and £10m collaboration fund to provide greater security for dairy farmers

A ‘collaboration fund’ of up to £10 million has been announced today (16 February) as part of a series of measures to help farmers and small producers compete and thrive alongside larger businesses in the food supply chain.

The fund will be designed in consultation with the farming industry and will work by bringing together those interested in co-operation. These groups will be supported by the funding to formally establish, develop or expand, so that farmers and growers can take advantage of new market opportunities to help their businesses thrive. Collaboration between farmers can bring substantial economic benefits, enabling farmers to benefit from economies of scale, share knowledge and jointly market their produce.

Farms businesses are left with just over 14 months to get themselves ready for new VAT rules, requiring them to keep digital records.

Last year the Government decided to delay plans for introducing Making Tax Digital (MTD) for income tax until at least April 2020, to give businesses time to prepare and adapt for the changes.

However, HMRC are pushing ahead with plans for Making VAT Digital (MVD) and plan to introduce the changes from April 2019 for any business over the VAT threshold of £85,000.

NFU are particularly concerned with the changes, which mean farmers will need to make sure they have access to software compatible with HMRC’s systems.

Many rural areas are struggling with upload speeds of less than 2mbs. Michael Parker, Head of Tax for NFU, said:

Meat bodies in England, Wales and Scotland agree £2m 'Brexit fund' while talks continue over long-term fix for the levy system. 

Britain’s red meat levy bodies are to share a £2m marketing and research fund that's been set up as a temporary measure while the levy system is redeveloped.

Funded by England’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the cash will pay for collaborative activities on behalf of levy payers in Wales and Scotland as well as England.

The AHDB agreed the deal with Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) after 12 months of talks.

It is only intended as an interim scheme until the inequities of the current levy system are addressed.

As levies collected at the point of slaughter, Welsh farming is penalised because of the dearth of abattoirs in the country.

Following the announcement last week that the Government will consult this spring on potentially banning the live export of farm animals, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has pledged to robustly defend what is a legitimate and important activity for the UK sheep sector.
 
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “NSA remains opposed to any ban on live exports. We cannot see how it could operate, as it would go against all government policy on trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The suggestion that movements across water should be banned, rather than all live exports, is similarly illogical as sea transit causes no welfare problems and ending it would decimate essential UK trade and devastate many island communities.
 
“A far more intelligent solution, and one that NSA would like to see more thorough exploration of, is the proposed industry assurance scheme for live export routes.”
 

The FUW's annual farmhouse breakfast campaign has come to an end for another year

Across Wales in late January, scores of farmers sat down for communal breakfasts to put the world to right and raise thousands of pounds for charity.

The FUW estimates its 24 breakfast events – many with multiple sittings – raised a total of £13,000. This, it said, was the “equivalent of a year’s farm income”.

Beneficiaries will be the union’s two charitable causes, Alzheimer’s Society Cymru and The Farming Community Network.

FUW president Glyn Roberts said the union’s 2018 farmhouse breakfast campaign had been an unmitigated success.

Though TB in Wales is still a big problem for industry, with thousands of farmers suffering the emotional turmoil and financial hardship which accompanies the disease, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Since 2009 the number of new TB herd incidents reported in Wales has followed a broad downward trend, with the number of monthly cases dropping from about 100 to just over 60.

It is hoped the establishment of low, intermediate and high TB areas across Wales, which came into effect in April last year, will continue to push incidence levels down by allowing the disease to be tackled in a more targeted way.

For more see: https://www.fginsight.com/news/news/tb-in-wales-a-complicated-disease-picture-51858 

NFU Cymru is asking for applicants for a new intake of proactive, enthusiastic young farmers to be part of its Next Generation Policy Group.

Farmers, aged 40 and under, from all sectors and all counties of Wales are invited to apply to join the group and to represent the future of the industry. In addition to working with NFU Cymru Policy Advisers and officeholders, on key policy issues such as Brexit and Rural Development, members of the group will also get the opportunity  to travel to Cardiff Bay and London to meet with government at all levels.

This will be the second intake for the group, which has a two-year term, and provides an opportunity for young farmers to engage with top decision makers, as well as the opportunity to meet similar groups in Ireland and England.

Australia beckons for Neath accountant and world bowls champion Laura Daniels who has been picked to represent Wales at the Commonwealth Games.

By day Laura works at accountancy firm WBV Ltd, which she combines with being a six-time world bowls champion.

The Games, which take place every four years, will be held in April on Australia’s Gold Coast, and Laura will be playing in both the singles and pairs bowls competitions.

No stranger to international success, 32 year-old Laura is the current Ladies Singles Champion of Champions and World Bowls Ladies Pairs title holder, and in total she has won four indoor and two outdoor world titles.

She has represented Wales at the European Championships, the Hong Kong Classic, Atlantic Championships (twice), World Bowls, and most recently the 2017 Champion of Champions.

The search starts for Wales’ next generation of rural leaders and entrepreneurs

Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, today (Tuesday, 23 January) officially launched Farming Connect’s prestigious personal development programme, the Agri Academy 2018, at the Farmers’ Union of Wales annual farmhouse breakfast at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay.

The Agri Academy, now approaching its sixth year and with 165 alumni, brings together some of the most promising people making their way in the agricultural industry today.  

Regularly quoted by past candidates as ‘life changing’ this unique programme which takes place over three short, action-packed study periods and overseas visits, gives individuals selected the inspiration, confidence, skills and networks they need to become future rural leaders, professional business people and entrepreneurs. The application window for this year’s programme, will be open from Tuesday 23 January to Friday, 30 March 2018.

For more see: https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/posts/farming-connect-agri-academy-2018%E2%80%A6have-you-got-what-it-takes-be-rural-leader-or-agricultural 

Following an unsuccessful appeal by HMRC, farmers should be able to continue to reclaim VAT against purchases of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements.

HMRC argued against farmer, Frank Smart, that the VAT incurred on the purchase of his BPS entitlements had a direct and immediate link to the subsidies which the taxpayer earned as a result. However, the Court of Session in Scotland rejected the appeal, relying on a line of cases decided by the European Court of Justice.

While all were in agreement that the subsidies were outside the scope of VAT, the key test was how the income from the subsidies was being used. In this instance, Mr Smart of Frank Smart & Son was investing in his taxable farming activities, which included construction of wind turbines to generate electricity for the National Grid and new cattle sheds. If the subsidies are invested in ongoing taxable activities, then no input tax restrictions should apply.

Farmers and rural business owners are invited to next month’s ‘Your Future, Your Farm’ event, which will see Richard Corbett, a partner with Roger Parry & Partners, join a panel of experts imparting advice on topics such as diversification, succession planning and other options for the future of farming businesses.

Members of the audience will be able to listen to the discussions and ask their own questions at the end of the event. Attendance is free of charge and will be held on Thursday, 15 February 2018 at Welshpool Livestock Sales, Buttington, near Welshpool, starting at 6.30pm. A free buffet will be held after the discussions and a cash bar will be open.

Roger Parry & Partners’ Richard Corbett said, “The audience will be a ‘fly on the wall’ to discussions between Stephen Kenyon, senior agent at NFU Mutual Welshpool and the panel of experts. Hopefully farmers and rural business owners will find it a very interesting evening being able to listen to advice from professionals, who deal with these types of issues on a day-to-day basis.”

Farmers from Pembrokeshire have raised money to help city kids build a new vegetable garden at Farms for City Children, at Lower Treginnis, St David’s.  

 

The money (£502.67) was raised through a variety of activities including a raffle and donations at the Farmers’ Union of Wales stand at the 2017 Pembrokeshire County Show and a pre-Christmas bingo.

FUW Pembrokeshire CEO Rebecca Voyle said: “ I am really pleased that the money we have raised will be put towards the re-developments which they have planned for their vegetable garden in 2018 including new polytunnels and seed beds. For the children who come here for a week with their schools it is an intense, ‘learning through doing’ experience of a different life. Many children may not know where their food comes from and have limited opportunities to explore the outside world, so a new vegetable garden to help them understand how their food is produced is definitely worth supporting.”

Children’s author Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare founded Farms for City Children (FFCC) at Nethercott House in Devon in 1976 to offer urban children from all over the country a unique opportunity to live and work together for a week at a time on a real farm in the heart of the countryside.

Roger Parry & Partners’ are urging rural landlords to be aware, and get prepared for, new energy efficiency rules currently being consulted on and due to come into force on 1 April 2018.

A government consultation on the minimum level of energy efficiency in the private rented sector opened recently but isn’t due to close until just two weeks before the rules come into force in April.

From 1 April 2018 it will be illegal for a private landlord to let a property with an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating lower than E to a new tenant.

ADAS recently estimated the cost of a scour outbreak in a 100-cow suckler herd (assuming 90 calves born) to be £5,794*. Consequently, it definitely pays to prevent any infectious calf scours gaining a foothold on any beef unit.

For more see: https://www.fginsight.com/news/news/winter-calf-health-plan-to-prevent-scours-in-beef-calves--49026 

NFU Cymru has welcomed a commitment to a national food policy and recognition from the Secretary of State that food production is ‘at the heart of all farming businesses’ announced at Oxford Farming Conference this morning.

NFU Cymru has also welcomed a commitment for Defra to champion high quality domestic food at home and abroad.

NFU Cymru President Stephen James said that the commitment shown in Michael Gove’s speech is a positive signal for the farming industry, and he looks forward to seeing the details on this.  

Mr James added that Welsh farming has a unique role in producing a safe, affordable and high quality supply of food as well as caring for 80% of the Welsh countryside.

Employment

The National Living Wage for employees aged 25 and over will increase from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour from April 2018.  The National Minimum Wage rates will also increase as follows:

  • From £7.05 per hour to £7.38 per hour for 21 to 24 year olds.
  • From £5.60 per hour to £5.90 per hour for 18 to 20 year olds.
  • From £4.05 per hour to £4.20 per hour for 16 and 17 year olds.
  • From £3.50 per hour to £3,70 per hour for apprentices.

General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”)

The GDPR will come into force on 25 May 2018. This has the aim of providing tighter controls and over the collection, storage and processing of personal data.  This will effect in particular the providers of services and goods.

Good wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year

from everyone at AgriWales.

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