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News from AgriWales - A blog about everything and anything that's happening

New report prompts the Welsh Government to reassess the help that less efficient farmers need.

Some dairy farmers in Wales have never made a profit on the milk they produce and survive on subsidies alone, a new report has found.

Even in boom times, the worst performing farms have production costs that are the “beyond levels the milk price has ever reached”.

A report published this week on the state of the Welsh dairy industry shows that in 2016-17, when milk prices were low , three-quarters of farms were unprofitable, with the worst-performing 25% making an average loss of 14.2p per litre (ppl).

The reports’ authors said the findings “suggest there are some fundamental problems with the structure of many farms and possibly the industry”.

Director and Joint Head of Corporate at JCP Solicitors, Michael Williams, will be running a workshop to provide an overview of the main duties owed by company directors, this event will explore the potential liabilities they may face and what they can do to protect themselves.

The workshop will also include discussions in connection with the following areas: 

  • Duties under the Companies Act 2006
  • Transactions with directors and conflicts of interest
  • Disclosure, approvals and ratification of breaches of duty

    North, West and central Scotland, West Wales and Cornwall this winter are predicted to experience high levels of fluke incidences, according to records collected by NADIS over recent months.

    For more see: 

    The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group has launched a new website today (Thursday 1st March) to provide a one-stop-shop for practical information on controlling sheep parasites.
    SCOPS is an industry-led group that recognises one of the biggest challenges to the future health and profitability of the UK sheep industry is resistance to the animal health products used to control parasites. It offers sustainable control strategies to help farmers, vets and health advisors work together to tackle both internal and external parasites. From stomach worms to liver fluke, blowflies to sheep scab, the new website provides practical advice for all farming situations.
    Lesley Stubbings, independent sheep consultant, speaks on behalf of the SCOPS group. She says: “The new site is easy to navigate and hosts a wide range of tools, with more to be added over the coming months. Information is clearly signposted according to different parasites, with good links between topics where there is crossover, such as considering multiple challenges when introducing new stock to your farm. Diagrams, videos and downloadable resources all help to distil important messages into bite-sized chunks.

    Annual sales of Welsh produce rise 42% as the retailer expands its local supply chains.

    Shoppers in Wales appear to be falling back in love with Welsh food and drink as local supply chains are improved.

    This morning The Co-op revealed an astonishing 42% year-on-year increase in sales of Welsh produce at its 160 food stores in Wales.

    The figures included a near 20% rise in demand for Welsh Lamb since the retailer extended its backing for British agriculture last May.

    The convenience retailer now offers more than 500 Welsh-made products, from beef to bread.

    Rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths said the Co-op’s commitment to Welsh produce was a boost for rural communities.

    Title deeds are paper documents showing the change of ownership of property and land.  They can include documents such as conveyances, wills, mortgages and leases.  When a property is registered for the first time with the Land Registry, although they receive the original title deeds, they are not stored with the department.  The Land Registry creates scanned copies of some documents and returns all the original deeds once registration is completed to whoever lodged the application, which is usually a solicitor or conveyancer acting on behalf of a purchaser. 

    If you are trying to establish the whereabouts of the original title deeds, they could be with the solicitor who acted on your behalf when the property was bought or with the mortgage company, assuming you have a mortgage.  If the property had already been registered with the Land Registry when it was bought, the seller may not have handed over the original deeds as there is no legal requirement for them to do this.

    Farmers are being reminded that they must be aware of the new data protection laws coming into effect in May.

    The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018. The new laws are designed to ensure that businesses store any personal data safely and securely. This is any information which identifies a living individual.

    For farming businesses, this will include details of employees, customers, contractors, suppliers or business partners.

    The new law requires businesses to think about the data they hold. In basic terms, don’t take on more data than you need, don’t keep it for longer than you need and don’t use it for purposes beyond what you agreed.

    While there are hefty fines for non-compliance, farmers should also consider reputational damage. In a digital world, trust is everything and your customers and suppliers need to know that you can be trusted with their data.

    Robert, PhD student at Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), reports on how grazing replacement heifers is an efficient way to reduce the cost of rearing whilst achieving 24 months calving. A recent study demonstrates that Holstein heifers’ can exceed live weight gains of 0.80kg per day from grazed grass alone.

    Calving heifers over the age of 24 months increases rearing costs by £2.87 per day, making this the second largest cost on a dairy farm. But despite the considerable cost and its impact on fertility and future performance, youngstock rearing is still overlooked on many farms. Grazed grass provides the desirable high protein low-fat diet to ensure targets weights are hit and to avoid heifers becoming over-conditioned. So, maximising the utilisation of grazed grass, the cheapest source of high-quality feed on farms, to achieve growth targets will improve efficiency and profitability of heifer rearing.  

    Many factors can effect grass growth and utilisation, including initial grazing date, pre-grazing covers, pasture allowance, stocking rate, nitrogen use and grazing infrastructure. When managing heifers at grass their highly selective grazing nature needs to be considered as this can reduce grass utilisation.

    According to data from Genus, the proportion of artificial inseminations using dairy semen has been declining for a number of years. On the whole, this is offset by an increase in the use of sexed (sorted) semen, which helps to deliver a relatively stable flow of female calves for replacements. However, back in 2015/16 the use of sorted semen also reduced, mainly due to the poor financial situation at the time. As a result, we saw a drop in female calves entering the GB herd in 2016/17, and this is expected to impact on milk production over the coming year.

    ‘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: 

    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.

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