Gleanings - AF Weekly news summary
9th August 2023

Here’s what’s caught our eyes and ears in the agri news from UK and further afield in the last week.

Bovine TB – Scottish and Welsh farmers calling for badger cull 

Both Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian report on the plight of Pembrokeshire farmer Steve Evans, who has lost  28 cows (26 in calf) to bovine TB (bTB). He has criticised the Welsh government for not doing more to help farmers, including a targeted culling of badgers. There is no cull in Wales, and the government are steadfastly refusing to allow one, despite 16 other Pembrokeshire farms testing positive for bTB in six weeks, before Mr Evan’s positive reactors. 

He is joined by the chorus of Scottish farmers who protested against the ban on badger culling implemented in 2022. Whilst Scotland has been officially bTB free since 2009 there are isolated outbreaks, and Scottish farmers argue that the status has been maintained by controlling badger populations.

DEFRA has declared the English cull a success, with studies showing between 37% and 66% reduction in cases of bTB in cull areas, and by the fourth year a 50% reduction in the number of herds losing their TB free status. With this type of outcome, it is no wonder that Welsh and Scottish farmers want to have culling as an option to control the spread of bTB.

Welsh Government confirms 10% tree planting target  

As if the bTB issue wasn’t enough of a worry, our Welsh friends now look set to lose 10% of their agricultural land to compulsory tree planting as reported by FarmingUK, Farmers Weekly, Cambrian News and many others.

The Welsh Government is finally publishing details of their Sustainable Farming Scheme, and it is tying future agricultural payments to the planting of 10% of farm acreage with trees.

AF - CamelThis sounds similar to other drastic plans we have seen recently, like the proposed Irish cattle cull reported in these pages on 20th July. Whilst their intentions are certainly good, both these proposals sound like they have been thought up by a committee of politicians and civil servants, and urban ones at that.

As Sir Alec Issigonis said “A camel is a horse designed by committee!”

Brexit checks? What Brexit checks?

The New European, The Guardian and the BBC all report that the Brexit checks on fresh farm produce coming to the UK from the EU have been delayed for the fifth time.

The decision to suspend plans to enforce the controls, which have been applied to British exports into the EU since January 2021, is due to be announced any day.

The delay is intended to give the Government and exporters from the EU more time to prepare for the checks, widening divisions between our own and EU producers. Why do EU businesses continue to have a free pass, whilst UK firms have to endure the costly and time consuming red tape?

Predictably, fearing shortages of high margin continental specialities, retailers support the delay. Their tone deaf concern is that many EU food businesses are not ready for the new requirements, and some small producers of specialist products, such as cheese, were not even aware of the new requirements!

Meanwhile farmers, along with the rest of UK plc, eagerly await the emergence of the much vaunted (in 2016) benefits of Brexit.

Young Organic Farmer’s success 

AF were delighted to read that Alex Parkinson, a Farm Manager at AF Member RB Organic Ltd, has won the Young Organic Farmer of the year award from Organic Farmers & Growers. The news was reported in Farmers Guide, Eastern Daily Press, and the Organic Research Centre website among many others.

ORC trustee chairman Donald Peck said “What came across was his enthusiasm, technical knowledge – much of it picked up on the job – and willingness to experiment.”

And our Tweet of the week is …