by Gareth Parry, FUW Policy Communications Officer
Future of Agricultural Support
Whilst we continue to work remotely from home as all FUW offices remain closed, we must consider the positive implications that relying almost entirely on technology for regular communication has. One of which includes the opportunity for the FUW to meet virtually with Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government’s Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on a fortnightly basis, whereby physical meetings in Cardiff had only been possible every three months.
Despite the task of reshuffling busy calendars, these meetings have provided us with the chance not only to discuss the long‐ standing burdens such as Brexit, the UK Agricultural Bill, the UK internal market and the future of agricultural support, but also to highlight many of the underlying issues that we currently face as an industry in Wales.
Many of you will be aware that Welsh Government published a consultation entitled Su stainable Farming and ou r Land: Simplifying AgriculturalSupportonJuly31.However,despiteit not being a one hundred page plus MK III edition of the 2 0 1 8 Brexit and ou r Land and 2 0 1 9 Su stainable Farming and ou r Land consultations on shaping a Sustainable Farming Scheme based on the principles of ‘public money’ for ‘public goods’, do not be fooled by it’s subtle heading.
Schedule 5 to the UK Agricultural Bill includes powers for the Welsh Ministers to amend and extend retained direct EU legislation and modify legislation relating to the Rural Development Programme (RDP). Welsh Government is proposing to continue with the existing CAP regulatory framework until new agricultural support schemes are available ‐ probably after
2 0 2 3 ‐ while making some changes that are in some areas relatively minor, and in others significant ‐ particularly with regard to Pillar 2 and the principles which underpin the RDP.
The first half of the consultation document ‐ up to question seventeen ‐ sets out eleven proposals for making adjustments to the current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) from the 2 0 2 1 scheme year until the new Sustainable Farming Scheme is developed and implemented. Despite the consultation document providing for an ‘easy’ read, many of these proposals such as setting the BPS ceiling annually, separate cross‐border payments, changes to requirements for late supporting documents and the abolishment of Greening rules and the Young Farmer Scheme raise important questions and concerns which must be considered and addressed before any changes are made before the end of the year.
The second half of the document ‐ arguably the most important ‐ sets out proposals to rewrite the objectives and priorities of the RDP to be inline with the Environment (Wales) Act 2 0 1 6 , the Well‐being of Future Generations (Wales) Act
2 0 1 5 , and the United Nations definition of sustainable land management, including a framework for the sustainable management of natural resources.
As a result, there are grave concerns associated with how these changes to the long‐established EU definition of Rural Development (RD) will impact farm businesses and rural communities, with the changes clearly designed to pave the way for Welsh Ministers to shape it in a way that reflects the principles that underpin their proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme. Such changes could result in damaging consequences ‐ not only to farmers and land managers, but to all sectors within rural communities that receive support through the RDP, particularly if our competitors in EU Countries continue to base RD schemes on a broader set of principles that better assist rural businesses, including farms.
The consultation will be discussed in FUW County Executive meetings throughout September and a response based on the views of committees will be prepared and sent on behalf of the FUW by the closing date of October 2 3 .
BPS Support Scheme 2 0 2 0
Welsh Government has recently announced that the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Support scheme will return for a third consecutive year in order to provide claimants with loans that minimise the adverse impact of delayed payments.
The scheme will pay a loan of up to 9 0 % of the business’ anticipated BPS claim value from December 7 to successful applicants and to those whose full BPS claim is not processed.
The scheme will follow an ‘opt‐in’ process and will be open for applications via RPW Online from September 1 to November 27 2020.
The Welsh Government says there are some instances where a support scheme payment will not be possible and these are highlighted in the guidance on RPW Online ‐ for example, where there is an outstanding grant probate or if penalties applied to the claim will not be covered by the balance payment.
However, while the FUW welcomes the scheme, it has repeatedly lobbied for the maximum number of payments to be processed to allow payments to be released in early December, and where this is not possible for the percentage that is made available in the form of a loan to be variable, so it takes account of potential penalties rather than there being a strict cut‐off of 9 0 %.
Rural Payments Wales (RPW) says it will ensure that claimants whose support scheme applications are rejected are prioritised for processing to ensure that everyone receives either a full or support payment as early as possible.
The FUW would encourage all members to apply for the support scheme or to contact local FUW County staff if they want us to submit the application on their behalf.
Latest Hybu Cig Cymru ‐ Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) figures show that up to the week ending August 15 2020, average New Season Lamb (NSL) liveweight (lw) prices in Wales had fallen by 2 p per kg on the previous week but remained around 4 0 p per kg above the same time last year and the 5 year average due to the gradual return of demand from the foodservice sector. GB prime lamb deadweight (dw) prices stood at 4 6 8 p per kg, 0 .7 p below week earlier prices but similarly remained around 7 0 p per kg above 2 0 1 9 and 5 year average prices.
Total UK lamb throughput for July was up by nearly
1 7 % and average lamb carcase weights were 0 .3 kg lighter compared with 2 0 1 9 levels, suggesting that more lighter lambs are coming onto the market to take advantage of strong prices.
Volume of UK lamb exports totalled 3 8 ,5 7 0 tonnes for the first 6 months of 2020, down by 13% on last year as a result of Covid‐1 9 however in terms of value, exports this year so far have been worth £ 1 9 1 .1 million compared to £187.4 million for the same period in 2019.
Despite heavy disruption caused to the beef industry as a result of Covid‐1 9 , average deadweight prices for England and Wales have returned to levels of normality and remain strong for all categories. For the week ending
August 15 2020, steer throughput fell by 4.8% as average prices increased by 2 .2 p per kg dw. Weekly throughput of heifers, young bulls and cull cows rose by between 2 and 3 % as prices continue to increase on the week ‐ despite for cull cows which fell by 1 .5 p per kg ‐ and trend significantly above year earlier and 5 year average prices.
Total prime cattle throughput during July stood at 177,300 head, up by nearly 10% on last year, despite June exports being down by 1 3 .7 % in volume compared with 2019.
The UK average milk price for June 2020 was 26.89 pence per litre (ppl) according to Defra, 0 .2 1 ppl up on the previous month, and prices paid on non‐aligned contracts were 0 .7 8 ppl below those for aligned contracts in June.
According to figures from AHDB, Welsh milk production is estimated to be 1,976 million litres for 2019/20, 0.2% higher than the level estimated in 2 0 1 8 /1 9 . Of the milk produced in Wales, just 5 2 % is estimated to be processed in Wales ‐ 9 0 2 million litres into cheese and 1 3 4 million litres into other products including liquid milk ‐ leaving
9 3 9 million litres to be transported into England. With help from the £1 million Milk Your Moments
industry campaign, Kantar data shows that at‐home dairy sales were 18.7% higher than in 2019 in the 12 weeks leading up to the middle of June.
The RDP funding for Gwaredu BVD has been extended until March next year. The Union has previously disseminated information on this extension and continues to encourage members to engage in this free testing programme.
BVD continues to be one of the most important diseases of cattle; both for economic and welfare reasons. Cattle that are diagnosed as Persistently Infected (PIs) will shed high levels of virus throughout their lives and will never recover.
BVD management and elimination strategies focus on removing these animals from the herd. Alongside free testing to help cattle keepers know their BVD status, Gwaredu BVD also aims to help farmers identify PI animals where they exist so that they can be removed from the herd. More than 7 ,5 0 0 herds have now engaged in this testing programme.
Over the past few years, the FUW has also been working with other organisations to examine the possibility of BVD legislation in Wales. A draft legislative proposal was presented to Welsh Government last year and work on the rules and regulatory requirements is ongoing. The FUW had hoped for a smooth transition from the end of the RDP funded programme to legislation but this now looks unlikely due to both Brexit and covid‐1 9 .
The FUW continues to wait for the consultation on future BVD legislation and will update members when it is published.