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Farming

Big Farmland Bird Count returns

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JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.

The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.

Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.

“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.

“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.

“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.

“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”

Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.

President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.

She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.

“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.

“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.

“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”

A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

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Farming

Common export rules until 2020

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THE UK’s listed status application has been agreed by the European Union’s (EU) Member States after it met the animal health and biosecurity assurances required for a third country to export live animals and animal products.

This confirmation is part of the EU’s published no deal contingency planning – without it, exports of animal products and most live animals to the EU could not take place in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU.

It also means the movement of equines between the UK and the EU will also now continue in a no deal scenario, offering welcome reassurance to this sector.

Food and Animal Welfare Minister David Rutley said: “This is good news for UK businesses. It demonstrates our very high standards of biosecurity and animal health which we will continue to maintain after we leave the EU.

“If you or your business import or export animal and animal products or imports high-risk food then I urge you to visit our guidance pages on gov.uk for what you need to do to be ready to continue to trade post-Brexit.

“Our top priority remains to deliver a negotiated deal, but it is the job of a responsible Government to ensure we are prepared for all scenarios, including no deal.”

The EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) confirmed the acceptance of the UK’s listed status application on Wednesday, April 9.

National listed status is the EU’s classification for non-Member States and the UK’s application, submitted in November 2018, has passed the high criteria on biosecurity measures for animal health and food hygiene.

UK exports of animals and their products to the EU will need to go through an EU Border Inspection Post and businesses will still require an Export Health Certificate (EHC) and meet its requirements. Our guidance remains to send an EHC with the export consignment and to send a copy of the EHC to the EU importer.

With listed status now confirmed, exporters will need to follow the EU rules for exports from third countries to the EU. Our guidance for importers and exporters is available on GOV.UK.

In a deal scenario, the UK will not need to be listed during the implementation period. To give certainty to businesses and citizens, common rules will remain in place until the end of the implementation period meaning businesses will be able to trade on the same terms as now up until the end of 2020.

Disruption for those businesses which import live animals, germinal products and certain animal products will also be minimised as they will now continue to have access to the TRACES (TRAde Control and Expert System) after the UK leaves the European Union until later this year. TRACES is the system used by importers to notify authorities of such imports from non-EU countries.

As originally planned, imports from non-EU countries will need to go through the UK’s new IPAFFS system from day one.

The National Sheep Association has welcomed the announcement which will allow UK sheepmeat exporters to continue to sell to the EU post-Brexit.

Eleanor Phipps of NSA comments: “NSA is very pleased to hear this news as it means there will be no period of lost trade. UK farmers can rest assured there will remain a market for their products in the EU from the point we leave, potentially as soon as this Friday.”

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Farming

Big agenda for sheep conference

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A NUMBER of the hot topics in food and farming will be up for debate at the National Sheep Association (NSA) Welsh Sheep Event in Glynllifon near Caernarfon on May 21.

As part of the event, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is working with the NSA to organise a series of discussion seminars, with expert keynote speakers from all over Wales and beyond ready to discuss the biggest issues of concern to sheep farmers.

One vital topic which will be addressed is the environmental credentials of Welsh farming.

While some media discussion of livestock farming has focused on its impact on deforestation and greenhouse gases in some parts of the world, HCC and others have pointed out that Welsh farming has a much more positive story to tell.

Rearing sheep and cattle on grassland, as is overwhelmingly the case in Wales, requires much fewer inputs in terms of water and supplementary feed, and grass-based farming systems can help to regenerate the soil and aid carbon sequestration.

Dr Prysor Williams from Bangor University is one of the guest speakers at May’s event. He said; “I’m looking forward to a lively discussion with farmers at the NSA event, bringing out how small on-farm changes can both increase efficiency and the farm’s environmental credentials. There will also be an opportunity to discuss how Welsh agriculture can deliver many environmental benefits compared to other production systems.”

The environment seminar will also include contributions from Glynllifon farm manager Rhodri Owen, and HCC’s Gwawr Parry who will discuss how genetic improvement could help secure a sustainable future for upland sheep farming.

Another session will concentrate on animal health, with a particular focus on how pro-active management of flock health can have a positive impact on farmers’ businesses. HCC’s Dr Rebekah Stuart will be joined on the panel by Dr Neil Paton of the Royal Veterinary College and Dr Peers Davies of Liverpool University, who will respectively discuss sheep scab and ‘iceberg’ diseases which can indicate wider flock health problems.

A third seminar will take a broad view of the future of the sheep sector after Brexit, with industry leaders Phil Stocker (NSA), Tim Render (Welsh Government) and Gwyn Howells (HCC) on hand to discuss the latest developments.

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Farming

WG’s access proposals concern farmers

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FARMERS ‘remain concerned’ over the access proposals contained within Welsh Government’s Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources consultation, says NFU Cymru.

A written statement by Deputy Minister for Housing & Local Government, Hannah Blythyn AM, provides the government’s response to the chapter four access proposals outlined in the 2017 Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) consultation, with a ‘commitment to access reform’.

The Minister has indicated that she will progress significant changes to access rights and facilitate an assumption of non-motorised multi-use on access land and the public rights of way network. This will provide users, such as cyclists and horse riders, with many more opportunities to access the outdoors.

The Minister has also confirmed that minor technical reforms that were widely supported will be progressed as soon as a suitable legislative vehicle can be identified, including enforcing placing dogs on a short fixed lead in the vicinity of livestock at all times of year and amending the technical provisions around creating, diverting and extinguishing rights of way.

The Minister has announced an independent Access Reform Group will be established to consider in detail how the more significant changes to access rights should be implemented including multiuse paths and reducing restrictions on open access land.

NFU Cymru Rural Affairs Board Chairman Hedd Pugh said: “Following the closure of the SMNR consultation in autumn 2017, farmers have been waiting with bated breath to see how Welsh Government would consider the responses and move forward.

“The Minister’s written statement includes a number of non-controversial elements that we look forward to working on with the government, not least the proposals around enforcing short fixed-length leads on dogs in the vicinity of livestock all year round which will go some way to assist with concerns over increasing levels of worrying of livestock in Wales.

“There do, however, remain a number of areas of concerns for our members. Near the top of this list are changes to multi-user access rights on public rights of way and access land, in particular. These changes could see ‘thrill-seekers’, as the Minister has described them, being granted increased rights on farmland across Wales. It is important to recognise that access is not always responsible and it is farm businesses across Wales who bear a disproportionate burden of this.

“The proposals also do little to address farmers’ fears that they could end up incurring increased costs and liabilities as a result of extended access. Most farmers will be able to tell you of cases where anti-social behaviour and dog worrying, for example, has had an emotional and financial impact on their farm and yet they are the ones left holding the bill.

“We are pleased that the Minister confirmed to the National Access Forum meeting in Bangor yesterday that changes will be subject to a full regulatory impact assessment which will be necessary if full costs and impacts are to be understood.

“Farmers understand better than most the positive benefits of time spent outdoors in our wonderful Welsh countryside. Farmers manage over 80% of the land area of Wales, providing the backdrop for the Welsh tourism industry, and Wales is already home to more public rights of way per square km than any other UK nation. We want the public to enjoy access to the great outdoors, but this must be managed in a manner that is safe for the custodians of the land and access users.”

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