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Welsh farming union slams ASDA for withdrawing 100% support for British Beef

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has written to ASDA regarding the supermarket’s decision to step away from its pledge to source 100% fresh British beef just weeks after implementing the pledge.

The letter comes after farmers from across Wales contacted the union to express their anger and disappointment.

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The FUW has met with representatives from ASDA on a number of occasions throughout the pandemic to discuss the importance of supporting Welsh and UK producers at a time when global food supply chains were most volatile. 

Therefore, the commitment to source 100% British dairy, potatoes and fresh beef following the sale of a majority stake of the retailer had been welcomed.

In a letter to ASDA, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Nevertheless, the recent decision to withdraw the pledge to source 100% fresh British beef after only two months of doing so has come as a shock for FUW members, particularly given the fact that other major retailers have committed to maintain such promises despite current market conditions.”

While the UK red meat sector has experienced buoyant prices over the past twelve months, Mr Roberts wrote, this must be considered in the context of cuts having already been made to farm support payments in England, increased input costs, supply chain issues which ASDA will also have experienced and uncertainties surrounding further red tape, future agricultural support and the impact of trade deals.

“For example, during the week ending 1st January 2022 the GB deadweight price for all cattle was on average 10% higher year on year whilst GB fertiliser prices in November 2021 were on average 153% higher than 2020 levels.

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“In light of the great deal of uncertainty and volatility facing the UK agricultural industry, the FUW would urge ASDA to reconsider its commitment to sourcing 100% fresh British beef in order to provide certainty to UK producers that they won’t simply be replaced in future,” wrote the Union President.

ASDA meanwhile blamed an increase in prices for its move away from British Beef.

A spokesperson for the supermarket said: “We know that it is important to our customers that the beef on our shelves has been produced to high welfare standards and is affordable,” ASDA said.

“Unfortunately, the price of British beef has risen and whilst we continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible for our customers, these increases are significant.

“All fresh beef in our premium Extra Special tier is and will remain 100% British and all of our fresh beef will be sourced from farms in the UK and Republic of Ireland. This allows us to provide quality products which caters to all customer budgets.’’

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(Lead image: FUW)

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Farming

Gower agriculture scheme given tractor boost

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Volunteers at a community agriculture scheme in Gower are planning to buy a tractor to help reduce manual labour – thanks to house-builder Persimmon.

Big Meadow CSA, based in Llangennith, has bagged £1,000 through Persimmon’s Community Champions scheme.

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Persimmon donate up to £64,000 every month to good causes across the UK, including up to £4,000 in Wales.

Big Meadow CSA runs twice weekly volunteer days for people of all walks of life, ages and abilities, providing hands on experience of growing food and working the land. A small tractor will allow the volunteers to spend less time cultivating the two-acre field by hand.

Abbi Mason, of Big Meadow CSA, said: “We are very grateful to Persimmon Homes for their generosity. We provide 70 organic veg boxes to the local community every week. We also work with schools and youth groups, providing education on health, positive food choices and the importance of thriving ecosystems.

“To continue our work we need to invest in some small scale machinery. A small tractor will allow us to spend less time cultivating and more time working with the community and youth groups.

“Our mission is to maximise soil health and we need our soil covered as much as possible – this is possible with a compact tactor.”

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Sharon Bouhali, sales director at Persimmon Homes West Wales, said: “We’re pleased to be able to support Big Meadow CSA with this donation through Community Champions. There are so many great projects going on in our area and this is one such example.

“I hope the compact tractor will help the team with their work.”

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New housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds against avian flu

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flock of hens on green field

The Chief Veterinary Officers for Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed to bring in new housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza following a number of confirmed cases across Great Britain in recent weeks.

The new housing measures, which will come into force on Monday 29 November, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

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Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease and this can lead to cases in poultry and other captive birds.

Housing measures have been in place for parts of North Yorkshire since 21 November following a number of confirmed and suspect cases of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in the area.

Public health advice remains that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find and instead report them to the relevant helpline below. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next five days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and put up additional housing where necessary.

The additional housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in across Great Britain as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 3 November 2021 and in Northern Ireland on 17 November 2021.

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The introduction of housing measures means that from 29 November, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue taking extra precautions to keep their flocks safe. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.

The Chief Veterinary Officers from across all four nations have worked together to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of the UK.

In a joint statement the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 29 November onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

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Poultry keepers must now do the following:

  • house or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds
  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

These new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.

If you find dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77. For further information see our advice to the public.

Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in Wales on 0300 303 8268, in England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. In Northern Ireland contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840. Keepers should familiarise themselves with our avian flu advice.

Avian influenza is in no way connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is not carried in poultry or captive birds.

(Lead image: Alexas Fotos / Pexels.com)

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Welsh Government launches refreshed TB eradication scheme

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A refreshed TB Eradication Programme will build on the positive progress already made in Wales which has seen a 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 according to Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

Her statement comes as she launched a 12-week consultation on proposed enhancements to the programme.

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The TB Eradication Programme sets out the Welsh Government’s long term vision for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales. The programme is based on the four key principles of infectious disease control: Keep it Out, Find it Fast, Stop it Spreading and Stamp it Out.

A regionalised approach to TB eradication was launched in 2017 creating Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas and policies have continued to be refined, reacting dynamically to the changing disease picture, whilst responding to the particular challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The consultation launched today includes proposals on:

  • The TB testing programme in Wales to help further reduce the risk of the spread of TB such as testing protocols specifically, at this stage, in relation to the Pre-Movement Test.
  • Informed Purchasing and its aim to encourage keepers to provide TB information about cattle they wish to sell and for keepers to make wise purchasing decisions.
  • Payments for cattle slaughtered as a result of TB, to ensure the system is fair and proportionate, and reflects the financial resources available.

The Minister has also announced badger trap and test work in persistent herd breakdowns will be phased out from this year as the limited sample size and short follow-up period provide limited meaningful results to gauge the impact of interventions on cattle TB.

Work will be completed on existing farms but new ones will not be recruited into the process. Funding saved from phasing out of this work will see a further £100,000 made available initially for expanding badger vaccination across Wales.

In addition, a review will take place on options to supplement veterinary capacity for TB testing through greater use of appropriately trained and supervised paraprofessional staff.

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A new Task and Finish Group will consider the best ways of communicating with cattle keepers, to help them to protect their herds, and also throughout a TB breakdown. They will consider the potential role for TB Champions in Wales and farming and veterinary organisations have been approached for nominations for membership of this Group.

It is also the intention to continue the All Wales Badger Found Dead Survey to increase knowledge on the disease in badgers.

Speaking in the Senedd, Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “Bovine TB has a devastating impact on the farming industry and we must do all we can to protect our cattle herds from this disease.

“We have seen good progress since our programme was first established, with long term decreases in incidence and prevalence. The 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 shows our programme is making a real difference to farming families and businesses.

“A key aim of our Programme is the rapid, accurate, early identification of infection and we strive to improve TB diagnostics, embracing new research and being open to new validated tests.

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“Collaboration and partnership working, taking ownership and recognising we all have a role to play are key to the success of our Programme.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop said: “We remain steadfast in our commitment and determination to rid Wales of a disease which has far reaching repercussions throughout the Welsh farming industry.

“Year on year we have made enhancements to our programme and introduced many fundamental policies which changed the TB landscape across Wales and laid foundations for the future.

“We continue to support the development of a deployable cattle TB vaccine with a test to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals to be in place by 2025.

“Cattle vaccination has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease and we will be engaging with the TB Centre of Excellence to plan its most appropriate deployment in Wales.”

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The Sêr Cymru Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis for Wales was established at Aberystwyth University in 2018 bringing together international expertise with the aim of providing underpinning scientific evidence to support eradication of the cattle disease.

Professor Glyn Hewinson, Head of the Centre at Aberystwyth University, said: “We met with the Minister over the summer and have provided advice over the past months. I am pleased to see some of our recommendations are being incorporated into future development of the programme. The Centre here at Aberystwyth University will continue to provide a strong scientific base for Wales and engage with all stakeholders as we all strive to find new and better ways of combatting this devastating disease.”

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