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.”
Ocean currents affect crop yields
CROP production in Britain will fall dramatically if climate change causes the collapse of a vital pattern of ocean currents, new research suggests.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) brings heat from the tropics, making Britain warmer and wetter than it would otherwise be.
University of Exeter scientists show that, while warming Britain is expected to boost food production, if the AMOC collapses it would not just wipe out these gains but cause the “widespread cessation of arable (crop-growing) farming” across Britain.
Such a collapse – a climate change “tipping point” – would leave Britain cooler, drier and unsuitable for many crops, the study says.
The main problem would be reduced rainfall and, though irrigation could be used, the amount of water and the costs “appear to be prohibitive”.
“If the AMOC collapsed, we would expect to see much more dramatic change than is currently expected due to climate change,” said Dr Paul Ritchie, of the University of Exeter.
“Such a collapse would reverse the effects of warming in Britain, creating an average temperature drop of 3.4°C and leading to a substantial reduction in rainfall (−123mm during the growing season).
“These changes, especially the drying, could make most land unsuitable for arable farming.”
The study examines a “fast and early” collapse of the AMOC, which is considered “low-probability” at present – though the AMOC has weakened by an estimated 15% over the last 50 years.
Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter, said worst-case scenarios must be considered when calculating risks.
“Any risk assessment needs to get a handle on the large impacts if such a tipping point is reached, even if it is a low-probability event” he said.
“The point of this detailed study was to discover how stark the impacts of AMOC collapse could be.”
The study follows a recent paper by Lenton and colleagues warning of a possible “cascade” of inter-related tipping points.
The new study reinforces the message that “we would be wise to act now to minimise the risk of passing climate tipping points” said Lenton.
Growing crops is generally more profitable than using land as pasture for livestock rearing, but much of northern and western Britain is unsuitable for arable farming.
“With the land area suitable for arable farming expected to drop from 32% to 7% under AMOC collapse, we could see a major reduction in the value of agricultural output,” said Professor Ian Bateman, of Exeter’s Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute.
“In this scenario, we estimate a decrease of £346 million per year – a reduction of over 10% in the net value of British farming.”
Speaking about the expectation that moderate warming would boost agricultural production in Britain, he added: “It’s important to note that the wider effects for the UK and beyond will be very negative as import costs rise steeply and the costs of most goods climb.”
The study focusses on agriculture, but AMOC collapse and the resulting temperature drop could lead to a host of other economic costs for the UK.
The AMOC is one reason that average temperatures in Britain are warmer than those of many places at similar latitudes. For example, Moscow and the southern extremes of Alaska are further south than Edinburgh.
NFU-Cymru slam biased Beeb
THE BBC’s Veganville documentary is another example of unbalanced and disproportionate reporting of veganism, according to NFU Cymru.
The three-part documentary series features a group of five vegan activists who attempt to convert residents of Merthyr Tydfil to veganism.
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “It is frustrating that once again a BBC-commissioned programme is acting as a promotional tool for a specific campaign representing only a tiny minority of people.
“A number of claims are made during the Veganville series that are false – not least that the best thing a person could do for the environment would be to immediately turn vegan. NFU Cymru was asked to contribute to the programme, but our dairy farmer featured in less than 6 minutes of over 2 hours and 18 minutes of total airtime while other contributions from the farming industry amounted to short and sporadic soundbites. This is hardly balanced.
“The Veganville series did, conversely, highlight once again that there is a huge amount of public support for red meat and dairy products so it is strange, therefore, that the BBC persists with this agenda of providing so much airtime to this issue.
“The truth of the matter is that red meat and dairy products have an integral role to play in a healthy, balanced diet and remain a staple part of many UK consumers’ dietary choices.
“Consumers can continue to have confidence that food produced by hard-working UK farmers is produced to some of the highest animal welfare and environmentally sustainable standards in the world.
“NFU Cymru has submitted a letter of complaint to the commissioning editor of the programme at the BBC about the lack of balance in this piece. Once again, NFU Cymru is encouraging its members to submit an official complaint via the BBC website if they feel any of its programmes covering food and farming lack the balance that we would expect from our national broadcaster.”
McDonald’s backs Countryside Fund
McDONALD’s UK has entered into a three-year partnership with The Prince’s Countryside Fund, supporting the charity’s work in improving the economic resilience of farming families.
The Prince’s Countryside Fund, set up by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2010, works with farming and rural communities throughout the UK, and to date has provided over £10 million in grant and initiative funding.
Since 2016, the Fund’s flagship scheme, The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme, has supported over 900 farming families to improve their business skills with free training and professional advice, in 60 locations across the British Isles. The programme has a track record of success, with evidence of significant behavioural change occurring – 91% of participating families improve their communication, and 89% have a better understanding of costs as a result of taking part.
McDonald’s works with over 23,000 British and Irish farmers, the partnership with the Prince’s Countryside Fund cements the business’ commitment to their futures, as well as the future of the farming industry.
Thanks to the support of McDonald’s, the Fund is launching the ‘Beef it Up’ scheme in 2020, a series of group workshops aimed at livestock farms in the Farm Resilience Programme alumni network. In order to further strengthen these farm businesses, the workshops will address topics including:
Animal health and welfare
The ‘Beef it Up’ workshops will help farms to continuously improve their practices and sustainability performance, by introducing them to practical steps they can take to immediately make changes to their production systems.
McDonald’s already has a proven track record in sharing knowledge through Farm Forward – an agriculture programme with three aims; to develop skills and knowledge in the industry, raise animal welfare standards and encourage environmental improvements to help create a sustainable future for British and Irish farming.
The partnership marks the latest step in McDonald’s sustainability journey and together with The Prince’s Countryside Fund and the business’ suppliers, the partnership will create fresh new solutions to the big challenges the industry is facing, promoting innovation that aims to futureproof the sector.
Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “I am thrilled that the Fund will be working again with McDonald’s, in order to help us improve the prospects of family farm businesses across the UK at such a critical time.”
Nina Prichard, Head of Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing at McDonald’s UK & Ireland said: “Our supply chain is absolutely critical to our success – we couldn’t serve the food that we’re famous for without the support and hard work of 23,000 British and Irish farmers. This partnership is an important move in supporting them and securing their future – farming is part of the fabric of our society, and we are delighted to be working with The Prince’s Countryside Fund on this resilience programme.”
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