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Tesco dairy farmers and WWF team up to tackle climate change and improve herd health

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An innovative trial to offer UK dairy farmers attractive subsidies that support growing feed more sustainably for their livestock, has been launched by Tesco and WWF. 

Through the scheme, created to help reduce the environmental impact of the average shopping basket, 15 farmers in Tesco’s Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG) have been given an 80 per cent seed subsidy to plant herbal leys – a soil enriching grass mix of plants, legumes and herbs which is used as feed for dairy cows.

The seed mix has a number of benefits over conventional grass fields including:

  • Increase on-farm biodiversity: different plant species attract a range of insects and pollinators, as well as birds and other wildlife.
  • Reduce carbon footprint: some of the legumes take in nitrogen so do not need as much artificial nitrogen fertiliser to grow. Over time, they also sequester more carbon in the soil than conventional ryegrasses.
  • Improve soil health: different plant species have varied and deeper rooting structures than conventional ryegrasses. This in turn increases resilience in the face of adverse weather conditions like drought.
  • Improved water quality: improved root structures minimise soil erosion and fertiliser run-off.
  • Improve animal health: different plant species provide nutritious food for the animals and can even increase immunity from some diseases.

Even though cows are responsible for two per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, given Britain’s love of milk, finding a way to reduce the carbon emissions associated with dairy farming, while also increasing biodiversity could lessen their environmental impact.

The herbal leys trial is part of a wider set of measures being introduced by Tesco, designed to emphasise the importance of cutting carbon emissions and improving biodiversity on farms.

Tesco dairy farmers have reduced their carbon emissions by 6.5% since 2016. Tesco has now introduced a new emissions reduction target with the aim of helping TSDG farmers reduce their emissions by a further 10% by 2025. Plans to improve soil quality, water usage and biodiversity will also be implemented on each TSDG farm.

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Among the first to take up the trial are farmers Amie and Chris Lovatt, who run a farm near Macclesfield in Cheshire. 

 Amie Lovatt said: “We jumped at the chance to be included in the trial as it’s important that we all have to find the balance between producing affordable and healthy food and looking after the environment we live in.   

 “We believe that herbal leys could provide a perfect answer to that as not only will they improve soil health and structure thanks to their deep roots but are also less reliant on artificial fertilisers.”

 Tesco Agriculture Manager, Tom Atkins said: “We’re immensely proud of the work our dairy farmers do and the great quality milk they provide to our customers.

“We want to ensure we’re doing all we can to continue to support our farmers and, in this critical decade for climate and nature, help make our dairy farms some of the most sustainable in the world. We will continue to work with our farmers to both reduce carbon emissions and continue to increase the amount of biodiversity on farm. We will also be working together on more innovative initiatives like our herbal leys project, which should bring huge benefits in terms of soil health and biodiversity.”

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So far 15 farms are involved in the project, and if this initial project is successful, there could be an opportunity for more TSDG farmers to take part with Tesco and WWF looking to subsidise seed costs for the next two years.

WWF Sustainable Agriculture Specialist, Callum Weir said: “UK farmers have an important role to play in bringing back nature to our landscape via sustainable farming practices. Nature-based solutions such as herbal leys can play a role in tackling climate change and help support WWF and Tesco’s shared goal of halving the environmental impact of the average shopping basket.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society launches 2022 Student Bursary Award

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Would you like some extra financial support to assist with your chosen college or career path? Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Student Bursary Award is now open for applications.

The £1,000 bursary is open to all qualifying students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects clearly allied to agriculture. 

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The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of a panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

The last winner of the award was 21-year-old Gracie Morris, of St. Davids. A former pupil of Ysgol Croesgoch and Ysgol Dewi Sant, Gracie was in her fourth and final year at Harper Adams University studying BSc agriculture with crop management at the time of winning the award.

Gracie said, “It was an honour and a privilege to have been awarded the Pembrokeshire County Show student bursary award in 2019. The bursary enabled me to undertake research towards my final year dissertation on biofumigation to control Rhizoctonia solani in potatoes.”

“The bursary allowed me to be financially secure during my last year of studies. Most of my spare time was spent researching for my dissertation so having a part-time job alongside university was not not possible for me.”

Gracie recommends qualifying students apply for the award.  She said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

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Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicants’ family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

Rob James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “A panel of independent judges, chaired by a representative of the society, will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”

To enter, students must submit a dissertation of 1,000 words entitled ‘How the bursary will assist my career progression.’

Further details and the entry form can be found on the website: www.pembsshow.org or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is Friday, 1 July 2022.

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Tractor queues could lead to penalty points

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A warning for farmers this Easter Bank holiday weekend as police will be on the look-out for long queues disrupting the holiday traffic.

Leading farm vehicle insurance firmQuotezone.co.uk, which compares insurance quotes for farmers, says police forces will be especially aware of the Highway Code’s Rule 169 this weekend, as record crowds could be headed for their country road trip.

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Rule 169 says road users must not create or hold up a long queue of traffic; the rule pays special attention to those driving a large or slow-moving vehicle – potentially making tractor drivers high on the list to gain police attention.

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, says holding up more than six cars could risk 3-9 points on a driving licence, and a fine of up to £5,000.

He comments: “Traffic jams could be more numerous and longer as holidaymakers avoid foreign trips due to the chaos and cancellation at airports and ports – with the addition of mass rail engineering works ruling out alternative transport closer to home.”

If tractor drivers find they are creating queues, the Highway Code and police forces advise that they pull over, where safe, and allow traffic to overtake, as frustration can lead to dangerous manoeuvres to try and bypass farm vehicles.

The police will also be looking at motorists with caravans, trailers and horse boxes who will need to be conscious of how their driving is affecting other road users. Sensible measures such as checking mirrors, and showing reasonable consideration for other road users should avoid prosecutions.

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Greg Wilson continues: “Farmers are incredibly busy and it’s not always possible to pull over but it’s really important to be as safe as possible on the roads and also safeguard finances. 

“Penalty points could see insurance premiums increase by as much as 25% for 6 points – given tractor insurance can be rather expensive, it isn’t worth the financial risk or potentially losing a driving licence if the new penalties push total points to more than 12.”  

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Farming union hits out over Welsh and UK Government’s lack of engagement on Ukraine supply chain crisis

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has, for a second time, written to the Welsh Government urging them to instigate actions within their control to alleviate some of the pressures of the Ukraine war on Welsh farmers and consumers.

In response to the initial letter sent to the Welsh Government on 4th March 2022, in which the Union requested a roundtable meeting with them and other stakeholders to discuss such issues and possible actions, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd stated that the Welsh Government did not believe such a meeting was appropriate.

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FUW President, Glyn Roberts
(Image: FUW)

In his letter of reply, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We are acutely concerned at the failure of both the Welsh and UK Governments to engage with the supply chain early on in order to explore immediate actions that will help mitigate problems that are having an impact now, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year and at least into 2023.

“Such impacts are affecting and will continue to affect not only farmers, but also consumers, and this is therefore an issue not only for the food and farming industry but also for the Welsh and UK population as a whole.”

Mr Roberts also highlighted the need for the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group on which the Welsh Government sits to take a more proactive approach and share information in a more timely manner, stating:

“It is worth noting that the last set of minutes published on the UK Government website relates to a meeting held on 8th February 2022, many weeks before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”

“I know you will be aware of the impacts being reported across the supply chain, whether in terms of cooking oil, fuel, feed or fertiliser, and predicted shortages, for example of eggs, and we fully appreciate that with regard to many of these there is little if anything that the Welsh Government can do,” wrote Mr Roberts.

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“However, there certainly are actions that can be instigated by the Welsh Government to alleviate some pressures for Welsh farmers which will benefit consumers over the coming months and years, and while these may be limited we believe it is incumbent upon the Welsh Government to act now in order to do what it can to assist farmers, food producers and consumers,” he added.

(Lead image: FUW)

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