NFU CYMRU has urged Welsh Government to consider a ‘workable alternative’ to reducing nitrates from agriculture to prevent further extension of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) in Wales.
The Union has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, to reiterate earlier commitments to provide the resources required to support the development of such a solution as an alternative to NVZ proposals that could see the percentage of NVZs in Wales rise from 2.4% to 8% – or even a leap to an all territory approach covering the whole of Wales.
The Cabinet Secretary is expected to make an announcement on the NVZ designations before the end of 2017.
The new option put forward by NFU Cymru has been designed by farmers and builds on an off-set scheme that has been operating successfully by a group of First Milk dairy farmers in the Cleddau Catchment in Pembrokeshire. The approach requires farmers to select mitigating measures appropriate to their system. The scheme is recorded, audited by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and meets the strict requirements of the Environmental Permitting and Habitats Regulations – on average each participating farm is saving a tonne of nutrient annually.
This model has significant potential to be developed and could deliver measurable reductions in nitrates, well above those modelled for the NVZ Action Programme, as well as broader environmental benefits.
Speaking ahead of the Welsh Dairy Show in Carmarthen, NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “We are clear that any new designations will have a significant impact upon the businesses of farmers and, severely hit the rural economy of these areas. The costs associated with implementation vastly outweigh the benefits to water quality. Farmers do, however, recognise their role in improving water quality and have developed a workable solution that has the potential to deliver far more than can be achieved through the NVZ Action Programme.
“The measures suggested with this approach address diffuse pollution issues and also provide habitat improvement. Developed in partnership, we believe they are likely to engender the confidence and ‘buy-in’ of the farming community – our own survey work shows significant willing from Welsh farmers to address the issue of nitrate pollution and improve water quality.
“This proposal is a workable alternative to the options currently on the table and delivers farmer-led solutions that bring environmental benefits – something that all parties share a vested interest in achieving; also aligning with Wales’ new legislative framework which presents opportunities and the flexibility to move forward and make progress on water quality issues on a different basis than previously.
“An alternative approach, rather than an unwieldly EU directive, will enable us to develop, grow and realise NFU Cymru’s vision of a productive, progressive and profitable industry that will deliver jobs, growth and investment for Wales and we have extended an offer to the Cabinet Secretary to join us on a visit to farms in West Wales to see the benefits of this approach for herself.”
WHAT IS AN NVZ?
An NVZ designation places a series of restrictions on farmers’ ability to use certain types of fertiliser on their land at prescribed times of the year. The aim is to reduce the effect that run off from agricultural land has on the environment.
The effects of nitrate pollution on the aquatic environment can be significant. High nitrate concentrations can cause a deterioration in water quality and disturb the ecosystems of rivers and other watercourses. Over enrichment of water can lead to a depletion of oxygen levels leading to a loss of marine life and causes increased toxic and non-toxic algal blooms, which make the situation worse by reducing water transparency. Nitrate pollution can reduce not only the diversity of plant life but also damage fish and shellfish stocks, as the algae consume the available oxygen suffocating other life.
In the worst case scenario, anaerobic (oxygen-starved) conditions cause toxic bacteria to thrive and can create ‘dead zones’.
In order to tackle the threat posed by nitrate pollution, in 1991 the European Union adopted rules governing nitrate pollution and sought to regulate the extent of nitrate pollution entering the environment.
WG APPROACH LACKS EVIDENCE
FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr Hazel Wright, who has been representing the Union in the review process, said: ‘‘The FUW has been involved in the NVZ review and has made successful representations on several designations, which resulted in their removal from the discrete areas option of the consultation.
“However, the number of proposed new designations remain a concern and the FUW continues to reiterate the operational and financial impacts those designations would have upon farms that reside within an NVZ area. Given such costs, there must be full justification for any proposed increases in designation.”
Two options outlined in the consultation include the continuation of the discrete approach to designation or the designation of the whole of Wales as a NVZ. A continuation of the discrete approach would see an increase in the amount of NVZ designations in Wales rise from 2.4% to 8%. This would mean significant changes to NVZ designation in counties such as Pembrokeshire, Carmarthen and Anglesey.
“The FUW remains resolutely against the option to apply the action programme throughout the whole of Wales as this would require all landowners to comply with the NVZ action programme measures.
“There is a distinct lack of evidence for a whole territory approach and the difficulties and costs associated with regulatory compliance for farms whose land does not drain into nitrate polluted waters, makes this option both unwarranted and unreasonably excessive,” added Dr Wright.
Shoppers prefer to buy Welsh
EIGHT out of 10 Welsh shoppers believe food and drink from Wales is Great Quality, Great Tasting and they would always buy Welsh if the price is right.
These are some of the key findings of a new report by Food and Drink Wales on the ‘Value of Welshness’.
Shoppers outside of Wales believe Wales is known for good quality food and drink and would like to support Welsh food and drink. 29% would like to see more Welsh food and drink in their shops.
Wales is more associated with naturalness than GB.
The scope for growth in Welsh products is substantial and there is strong shopper support for food and drink from Wales. The evidence suggests Welsh branding sits well with, and enhances GB branding.
Promoting Welsh food and drink, both nationally and globally, is a top priority for the Welsh Government and increasing numbers of Welsh brands are being recognised around the world. This was highlighted by the recent BlasCymru / TasteWales event, which featured buyers from as far afield as Hong Kong, the UAE and the USA.
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths welcomed the findings of the report. She said: “In recent years Welsh food and drink has gained a growing and well-deserved reputation for uniqueness and high quality. This is reflected in the fact 14 Welsh food and drink products have now been awarded coveted ‘Protected Food Name’ status.
“We have an ambitious target to grow the industry by 30% to £7b by 2020. Although there are undoubtedly major challenges ahead, not least our impending exit from the European Union, I am confident we can overcome them if we continue to promote the unique, special nature of our produce.
“This report shows there is strong support for food and drink from Wales and there are definite benefits for Welsh brands by using ‘Welshness’ to enhance their proposition inside and outside of Wales.”
Andy Richardson, Chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board said: “It is very encouraging for us as an Industry Board to see that this research highlights the importance of Welsh provenance and underpins the confidence we have in our food and drink sector. We are proud of what our businesses produce and the research findings from the Value of Welshness is testimony that consumers feel the same.”
PGI Welsh Beef asks ‘are you beef body ready?’
PGI WELSH BEEF has launched a new marketing campaign featuring Wales international rugby union player Dan Lydiate to promote a more ‘real world’ approach to health and strength.
The campaign subverts the contentious ‘are you beach body ready?’ advert, which caused a storm of controversy following its appearance across London tube stations in 2015. The original campaign, launched by a protein supplement brand, was accused of promoting unhealthy body image and this campaign looks to demonstrate how a natural diet can improve health.
Nutritional therapist, Sharon Ling Dip NT mBANT & CNHC comments: “Our bodies need the correct combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats to function well. Protein, in particular, is essential for growth and repair in the body and is a key building block for bones, muscles, cartilage and skin.
“Lean, red meat is a good source of dietary protein and when eaten in moderation, can form part of a healthy diet. It contains a number of essential B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium.
“An advantage of grass-fed beef is that it tends to be lower in overall fat, with a slightly higher proportion of omega 3 than conventionally fed cattle. It also tends to be higher in vitamin E and beta-carotene which improves its overall nutrient profile.”
Lydiate, who prior to his top level rugby career grew up on a farm in Llandrindod Wells, appears in traditional farming attire in front of a herd of Welsh Beef cattle, alongside the strapline ‘are you beef body ready?’
Shot at Vians Hill Farm in Vale of Glamorgan, the new advert will feature on outdoor advertising space in Cardiff during the Autumn Internationals, and as part of a digital campaign on PGI Welsh Beef’s Facebook page and Twitter profile. This will include an opportunity for people to win tickets for Wales’ final Autumn International against South Africa, by filling in the blank in the sentence “I need to be #BeefBodyReady because ___”. Example answers might include ‘I eat Welsh Beef’, or ‘I work a 12-hour shift before coming home to feed my three children.’
The digital campaign additionally promotes content on eatwelshbeef.com, with commentary from nutritional therapist, Sharon Ling and information on how Welsh Beef can be featured as a source of protein in a healthy diet.
Rhys Llywelyn, Market Development Manager at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), commented, “There are so many ‘protein added’ products on the market. We wanted to highlight that with Welsh Beef, protein comes as standard. This campaign provided us with a fun and light-hearted approach to supporting the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet that includes Welsh Beef. Dan was the ideal candidate to front our campaign, where his farming background and profession perfectly embody real world health and strength.”
Success against ‘late blight’
A POTATO modified to resist the devastating disease ‘late blight’ has proven a brilliant success, says BBSRC-funded scientists based at Norwich Research Park.
The team, led by Professor Jonathan Jones and part of BBSRC’s Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI), have introduced a blight-resistant gene from a wild potato to its close relative, the popular Maris Piper.
Blight is a globally serious problem. It was a significant contributor to the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s and, in the 20th century, became the subject of biological weapons research owing to its ability to utterly decimate crops.
“The first year of the Maris Piper field trial has worked brilliantly,” said Professor Jones. “We’ve observed resistance to late blight in all the lines.”
Crop losses due to late blight are still significant, and with an increasing global population with complex nutritional needs, greater steps are needed to be taken in order to improve agricultural sustainability and food security.
“We have the technology to solve the problems that affect many people’s livelihoods,” said Professor Jones. “Crop diseases reduce yields and require application of agri-chemicals, and this field trial shows that a more sustainable agriculture is possible.”
This new blight-resistant gene introduced to the Maris Piper offers the promise of furthering its crop strength, and even the possibility of avoiding the use of chemical fungicides in its cultivation altogether.
First introduced in 1966, the Maris Piper was the result of a potato breeding programme based in Cambridge. The key benefit of this ‘new’ potato was its resistance to potato cyst nematodes. Now fairly common in UK supermarkets, the Maris Piper is considered a good ‘all-rounder’, and is particularly popular for making chips and crisps.
Field trials at Norwich are continuing, and next year the team will begin to explore the genetic traits that can improve tuber quality. The team hope to produce a crop that is less prone to bruise damaging – a problem that currently causes losses of around £200 per hectare – and help improve the quality and sustainability of the UK’s potato crop.
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