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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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Food & Drink

Swansea to host major international conference on sustainable approach to food pest control

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Feeding a growing population while reducing the environmental impact is an urgent challenge, but a major international conference at Swansea University will help by bringing together experts in integrated pest management.

They will discuss new approaches to managing insect pests which will cut reliance on harmful chemical insecticides.

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Pests destroy up to 40 per cent of global crops and cost $220 billion in losses, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Climate change increases the threat further as it makes it more likely that invasive pests can move into new territory.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is based on the principle that environmental issues and food production are inextricably linked.

It aims to encourage healthy crops with the least possible disruption to agricultural ecosystems. It focuses on natural pest control mechanisms and involves biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools being used together in a way that minimises economic, health and environmental risks.

To be effective, IPM also requires different sectors to work together, especially industry, academia and regulatory authorities.

Technology has transformed the field of pest control in recent years. Drones, electronic sensors, robotic crop inspectors and satellite imagery are becoming widely used to protect crops.

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Against this background, the Swansea event could not be more timely. The aim is to bring together everybody involved in the agribusiness chain, to present and discuss new innovations and how they are being implemented in crop protection.

Entitled “New IPM: A Modern and Multidisciplinary approach to Crop Protection”, the conference runs from 12-14 September. It is being hosted and organised by Swansea University in partnership with the International BioControl Manufacturers Association UK.

Amongst the topics that will feature are:

• Pest and disease monitoring
• Increasing plant growth and resilience
• Biopesticides – natural alternatives to chemical pesticides
• How different natural pest control measures can work together for greater impact
• Strains of microbes that have been identified but not yet fully assessed for their potential
• Networking and funding opportunities

The main conference programme runs on 12th and 13th September. This is followed on 14th by a networking event, organised by Swansea University’s Research and Innovation Services, which will be an opportunity for academics and businesses to forge links, with sessions on funding opportunities from UK and EU sources.

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Professor Tariq Butt of Swansea University, who is organising the event, said: “IPM is essential if we are to protect our food supply and our environment, which are two sides of the same coin.

“The problem is that too often IPM discussions focus on individual elements, such as the role of beneficial species or biopesticides, rather than the whole picture.

“At a practical level implementation of IPM relies on a whole set of accurate, timely and appropriate information, passed to a properly trained decision-maker who, ultimately, has access to a pest-management toolkit that is fit-for-purpose.

“To make all of this happen, it requires a combined effort and the collaboration of industry, academia and the regulatory authorities.

“This conference will provide an opportunity for representatives from all of these stakeholders to communicate and build productive relationships. This will help us develop a new approach to IPM, which is essential if we are to succeed in protecting our food and our environment.

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“We will also be revealing plans for the region’s first Natural Products BioHUB, a collaboration between industry and academia to develop new natural products and businesses, creating jobs and training opportunities.”

Dr Ian Baxter of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association UK (IBMA UK) said: “IBMA UK is delighted to be co-organising this event with Swansea University. The last two years have been particularly challenging for all of us, but this has not been reflected in a slow-down in the rate of technology adoption by growers – if anything, it has been expedited by the obvious pressures on resources.

“This is a perfect moment to get together and exchange information on the latest advances in New IPM.”

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Tourism

Farming union urges Welsh Government to grant holiday let exemptions to diversified farm businesses

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to Welsh Minister for Finance and Local Government, Rebecca Evans MS urging the Welsh Government to seriously consider an exemption from the revised letting criteria for diversified farm businesses.

In his letter, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “To date, the FUW strongly believes that the implications for diversified farm businesses have not been fully considered while making the decision to increase the number of days a property is actually let from 70 to 182 days during any 12 month period to be eligible for business rates.

“It should be remembered that the Welsh Government has encouraged farmers to diversify over recent years to make farm businesses more resilient in light of future changes to agricultural support policies, and that in what is believed to be the vast majority of cases, the conversion of farm buildings into dwellings has only been possible for self-catered accommodation purposes under Section 106 conditions.”

FUW say that it is clearly understood from its members that for many diversified farm businesses, actually letting self-catered accommodation units for at least 182 days per year will be practically impossible given the nature of farming – which generates the largest proportion of income for such businesses – and the sheer competitiveness of the holiday let market.

“In light of the above and given that farmers who have genuinely diversified into on-farm accommodation provide the same type of accommodation as speculators from urban areas who invest in properties to let them out, and people wanting a second home who subsidise payments by letting it out as an AirBnB or something similar without reducing Welsh housing stocks or causing house prices to rise, such businesses must be supported in light of current and future challenges rather than being burdened with further barriers and stricter thresholds,” he said.

“Therefore, now that the Welsh Government has decided to increase the letting criteria to 182 days, the FUW would stress the need for self-catering accommodation units which are located on agricultural holdings or subject to Section 106 conditions to be exempt from such changes.

“I urge you as Minister for Finance and Local Government to seriously consider the above as you keep measures to address the impacts associated with second homes and short-term holiday lets under review and seek to avoid any unintended consequences,” he added.

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(Lead image: FUW)

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Food & Drink

Welsh food supplier and contract caterer launch ‘sustainable food chain’ collaboration

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Castell Howell Foods is collaborating with Wales’ largest independent contract caterer, Just Perfect Catering Ltd, to devise a lower carbon menu – and create a sustainability blueprint for suppliers and customers.

Working with Castell Howell suppliers – Authentic Curry, Llaeth Y Llan, Radnor Hills and Celtic Pride Premium Beef – the initiatve will also focus on other elements of sustainability in the supply chain, such as biodiversity and nature stewardship, community engagement and reduction of plastics.

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The need to rise to these challenges has been recognised by the Welsh Government, which in 2020 launched the Food & Drink Wales Sustainability Cluster. The Cluster supports and helps develop sustainable business practices across Wales’ agri-food industry and aims ‘To make Welsh Food & Drink the most sustainably produced in the world, and shout about it.’

Likewise, agricultural industry stakeholders are focussing more on sustainability themes, including NFU Cymru Net Zero 2040 commitment and Hybu Cig Cymru- Meat Promotion Wales’ environmental blueprint for the livestock sector (The Welsh Way).

The partnership wants to integrate the supply chain, whereby suppliers, stakeholders, intermediaries and caterers’ targets are aligned in a structured programme. Several of Castell Howells’ suppliers and customers are already on a journey to build sustainability into their businesses. Moving forward with this aim, the partnership with Just Perfect creates a blueprint for suppliers undertaking such steps.

Kathryn Jones, Sales Director at Castell Howell Foods, said “The sustainable food movement has become a driving factor in consumers’ decisions to ensure that our resources can continue to provide food to feed the growing population today and in the future.

“The food and beverage industry faces unique challenges regarding sustainability. We look forward to collaborating to address these issues.”

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Established in 2009, Bridgend-based Just Perfect contract Catering have become the market leaders in operating and supplying workplace contract catering service to many of the largest and most prestigious worldwide brands and clients across Wales.

Louise Owens, Director at Just Perfect Catering, said “Since the inception of Just Perfect Catering, our focus has been on how sourcing food from Wales impacts the local economy and communities. Also, how this translates to an assurance of high quality, fully traceable food for our customers.

“This underpinning ethos, with an unrivalled commitment to using Welsh produce, has ensured that we continue to lead in our industry.

“Over 90% of our produce comes directly from Welsh suppliers, and we’re excited to be expanding this further by strengthening our partnership with Castell Howell and their network of Welsh suppliers.”

The first phase of the Castell Howell supply chain initiative includes working with the Rees family at Bryn Helygan Farm, Pendoylan, as they work towards the NFU’s Net Zero 2040 target.

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The Vale of Glamorgan farm has been a Celtic Pride Premium Beef supplier for several years, and farmer Ed Rees said, “’We believe that Welsh farming is one of the most sustainable systems in the world. Our cattle are extensively reared, and we manage some 50 acres of woodland and extensive hedgerows.

“Measuring our environmental impact and understanding how to manage and reduce works towards NFU Cymru’s Net Zero 2040 target. We look forward to seeing how this will be communicated to the end-user.”

Simultaneous work with Authentic Curry Company, Llaeth Y Llan, and Radnor Hills will aim to establish a responsible supply chain and promote these benefits on menus developed by Just Perfect Catering.

Business in the Community (BITC) will deliver the scheme’s training and monitoring.

Sue Husband, Director BITC Cymru, said, “We are pleased to be working collaboratively with Castell Howell Foods to deliver social and environmental benefits at scale while creating business value. Together we are working with Castell Howell’s supply chain to equip them with information and support to help them make more sustainable choices.

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“Responsible businesses across Wales could follow the example of Castell Howell and use their purchasing power to select and engage suppliers and business partners to foster local economic growth while driving resilience and environmental sustainability.”

Lead image: (Left to right) Ed Rees (Bryn Helygan Farm), Edward Morgan (Castell Howell Foods), Louise Owens (Just Perfect Catering), Tony Lyon (Just Perfect Catering), Peter Barnwell (Castell Howell Foods). (Image: Nick Treharne)

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