4th December 2020


Rural Rap

MPs HAVE CONSIDERED THE SCOURGE OF ILLEGAL HARE COURSING IN A DEBATE INTRODUCED BY KENT MP, reports the Countryside Alliance.  Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, introduced the debate following complaints from farmers in his constituency.  The debate allowed MPs to highlight the damage which this activity causes in rural communities, and to push the Govt for action. MPs noted the derisory levels of fines and highlighted the work of the Hare Coursing Coalition.  The Govt acknowledge the scale of the problem and said that Defra is working closely with the Home Office.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS UNVEILED PLANS TO BAN THE EXPORT OF LIVE ANIMALS, reports the Kent Messenger and the BBC.  Live exports run frequently from Ramsgate, with protestors a regular site by the harbour approach.  Campaigners argue that the animals frequently suffer excessively long journeys, and Defra Secretary, George Eustice, has now revealed plans to ban such exports, which includes an eight-week consultation seeking views on how to better protect animal welfare during transport.  Previously, EU rules prevented any changes to this trade, but Brexit has paved the way for the plans.  The move would make the UK the first in Europe to end the practice.

AN ECONOMIST FROM CANTERBURY HAS BEEN REWARDED BY THE CLA, reports the Kent Messenger.  The CLA gave the President’s Award 2020 to Professor Alan Buckwell, who sits on its Kent branch and national policy committees.  He is a former professor of agricultural economics at Wye College, and was briefly seconded to the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture, working on the EU’s CAP.  The President’s Award is the CLA’s way of showing its appreciation to those who go the extra mile.

THE FIRST SOUTH EAST AGRICULTURE TRADE SHARE OF THE YEAR WILL RETURN NEXT YEAR ON 21 APRIL, reports the Kent Showground.  After two successful years, Farm Expo will return in April 2021 at the Showground.  The show is happening on a later date to normal as a result of Covid.  Last year Farm Expo welcomed 2,500 visitors and over 110 trade stands.  It is hoped that 2021 will offer even more diversity.  Current plans to make the event “Covid Secure” include wider aisles and a one way system.  The team are also working to make it a flexible event, so that it can adapt to any restrictions or guidance in force at that time.

ENGLAND’S COUNTRYSIDE WILL CHANGE RADICALLY AFTER BREXIT, reports the BBC among others.  There will be more trees, meadows and wetlands – and fewer sheep and cows – as controversial EU farm subsidies are phased out.  Farmers will get grants for protecting heritage farm buildings and stone walls; expanding hedges; capturing carbon in soils and cutting pesticides; natural flood management including restoring river bends; landscape recovery, restoring peatland and planting new woodlands; reducing antibiotics; improving animal health and welfare.  The change will mean upheaval for farmers, and some may be unwilling or unable to adjust.  Ministers have confirmed that there will be a lump-sum payment for those who decide to retire with dignity.

THE AVERAGE FAMILY FARM IN ENGLAND WILL SEE SUBSIDY CUTS OF OVER 50% BY 2024, reports Farming UK.  Defra has launched its “path to sustainable farming” roadmap, with changes which will be brought in over a period of seven years.  Farming groups have responded with concern over the move towards cuts to direct payments, which will be reduced starting from the 2021 BPs year.  Businesses who receive £30k or less p.a. will see their subsidy fall by 5%, followed by a gradual increase to 50% by 2024.  Those who receive up to £150k will see cuts of 65%.  George Eustice said that “we want farmers to access public money to help their businesses become more productive and sustainable, whilst taking steps to improve the environment and animal welfare, and deliver climate change outcomes on the land they manage.”

THE NEW SYSTEM OF SUBSIDY FOR AGRICULTURE SEEMS TO REPEAT THE BUREAUCRATIC ERRORS OF THE EU SCHEMES, argues the Telegraph.  Jamie Blackett, a farmer, writes that he had hoped that the “UK would accomplish the radical NZ style transformation of British agriculture needed to give farmers the opportunity to earn a fair wage in the global market place, and to do so by actually producing food.”  But, he maintains, instead the Government’s approach to farming is now the same as the EU’s – that farmers should be paid “just enough to stay in business in order to curate the countryside” within carefully prescribed guidelines.  Instead, he writes, “The Brexit vision has been hijacked by the green blob.”

THE ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY HAS APPEALED FOR ENTREPRENEURS TO JOIN THE FARMING INDUSTRY AS SUBSIDIES ARE PHASED OUT, reports the Times.  Entrepreneurs with new ideas for more productive and sustainable farming will be helped to join the industry under changes to agricultural policy being introduced in England.  Addressing farmers, Eustice said that existing farmers want to retire or leave the industry would be helped to do so with “dignity” by being offered a lump-sum, releasing land for new entrants.  The new plans aim for all farmers by 2028 to be “running sustainable businesses that do not need to rely on public subsidy.”

THE VALUE OF THE UK FORESTRY MARKET HAS REACHED RECORD LEVELS FOLLOWING AN “ASTONISHING YEAR”, reports Farming UK.  Competitive bidding has seen average values rise considerably.  In 2020, just over £200m of forestry properties were traded, a 58% increase year on year, and the highest value traded on record.  The average cost of a forest property more than doubled from £1.56m in 2019 to £3.28m in 2020.  There was a 39% increase in forestry values per stocked hectare.  Most properties were sold above the guide price.  There has also been an increased interest in younger restock sites as opposed to more mature forests.

THE UK’S OSR PLANTINGS HAVE FALLEN TO THE LOWEST LEVELS SINCE 1986, IN PART DUE TO TOUGH WEATHER CONDITIONS, reports Farming UK.  At 318,000 ha, growers appear to be showing increased caution about the crop’s economic viability and pest prevalence.  Meanwhile, better drilling conditions this autumn have led to a resurgence in winter wheat plantings, with the area earmarked for wheat sitting at 1.815m ha, up 28.3% on last year, but in line with the five year average.  Winter barley has also seen an increase in intended area, while spring barley has fallen.  Oats continue to increase as do other cereals.

FARMERS ARE BEING ASKED TO SPEND 30 MINUTES RECORDING THE BIRDS THEY SEE ON THEIR LAND, reports Farming UK.  The Big Farmland Bird Count will return in 2021, and organisers are asking farmers and land managers – who look after 71% of Britain’s countryside – to join in.  The project helps show which farmland birds are benefitting from conservation efforts while identifying the species most in need of help.  The count, run by the GWCT, is scheduled for 5-14 Feb.

FARESHARE, A CHARITY WHICH HELPS FARMERS TO HARVEST, PACKAGE AD TRANSPORT SURPLUS PRODUCE, HAS BEEN CHOSEN FOR THE TIMES CHRISTMAS APPEAL.  The charity contributes towards the extra costs of harvesting surplus or unwanted crops – such as sprouts which aren’t the correct size for the supermarkets – and distributing the food to almost 11,000 frontline charities and groups.  It is then turned into meals by school breakfast clubs, lunch clubs for older people, homeless shelters and women’s refuges.  Last year FareShare rescued 24,074 tonnes of surplus food and provided more than 57 million meals.  A FareShare scheme called Surplus with Purpose has provided grants of up to £50k to help growers cover the cost of harvesting their surplus produce, which can also help keep farm labourers in work.  To donate, visit thetimes.co.uk/christmasappeal.



RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk

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