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Report claims greater action required to prevent irreversible outcomes for farming

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Farming needs to urgently scale and pace the adoption of nature-based solutions for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss or face an uncertain future, warns the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

The new Rethink Farming report presents evidence that farming with nature can restore natural assets and improve resilience to a warming world.

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Ahead of COP26, the Rethink Farming report presents research with evidence from 18 case studies revealing how farmer-led innovation and nature-based solutions can positively impact farm businesses.

The report highlights practical on-farm action for restoring the natural environment so farming can weather the worst of increasing climate shocks. It argues how continued deterioration will impact the livelihoods of farmers if the sector doesn’t transition to regenerative practices.

The report concludes how farming with nature can maximise returns, offer viability in changing markets, increase profitability through reduced inputs and ensure a more adaptable landscape.

The NFFN is calling for greater ambition from farmers and policymakers to fully utilise the sector’s key role in helping reach Wales’ net-zero target by 2050 and calls for greater action across farm and croft holdings to prevent irreversible outcomes if the trajectory of climate change continues.

Hilary Kehoe, Wales Chair, Nature Friendly Farming Network, says: “As Wales sets forth future farming policies and outlines funding for environmental restoration, we stand on the precipice of transformational change. But it’s in farmers’ best interests to start acting on climate change and nature recovery now, where on-farm action can make businesses more resilient.”

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“We know that farming is contributing to ecological disruption. And the science is clear – we have 10 years to avoid the worst effects of the climate emergency. Simple solutions can have the greatest impacts in preparing farming for what’s to come.”

“Owning or managing land is a privilege, and as such, we have a moral obligation to help address the challenges we face. It’s not just farmers, it’s everyone.”

The report also includes research of 726 of the NFFN’s public and farmer members, revealing overwhelming concern about how climate change and biodiversity loss will affect UK farmers. Public support calls for the sector to do more to address these twin challenges.   

  • Over nine in ten farmers (92%) are concerned about the effects of climate change on their business, with eight in 10 concerned about biodiversity loss
  • Nearly all (97%) of farmers think consumers need to be better educated about the value of natural assets on farms, including how successful management of natural capital is a public benefit
  • Over nine in ten think food labels should clearly identify production measures
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) do not think the industry is currently equipped to deal with the challenges of climate and nature loss, at the same time as sustainably producing food
  • Over nine in ten people (98%) want farming to do more to address climate change and biodiversity loss
  • Two thirds (75%) of farmers are concerned that net-zero targets could drive woodland creation that threatens natural habitats and contributes to biodiversity loss if not implemented by a “right tree right place” place approach

The research also reveals over eight in ten people (86%) want to support farmers who are creating wildlife habitats and restoring soil health. Six in ten want to support carbon storage (61%), improved water quality (64%) and high-welfare farming (66%). Over nine in ten (96%) want to see public money support farmers who are implementing restorative measures covering soil health, biodiversity, carbon-storing and water quality. Nearly all (96%) want environmental standards that mitigate climate and restore nature to be enshrined in law.

The report calls for mandatory labelling for both domestically produced and imported food, with a robust and transparent labelling regime that promotes traceability and encourages the adoption of climate-friendly farming through consumer-led incentive.

The report is endorsed by leading environmental organisations including the Soil Association, Plantlife, Woodland Trust, RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Woodland Trust and more. Sustain, Farm Wildlife and the James Hutton Institute have also contributed to the report with supporting statements.

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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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