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Farmers respond to rallying cries as winter forage crisis looms

The NFU warned ‘at the very least’ payments must be made as soon as possible after December 1 or delays could prove ‘fatal’ for businesses.

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Farmers respond to rallying cries as winter forage crisis looms

Farmers have rallied in response to the looming winter forage crisis but pressure was now on the Government to follow the example of other European countries and give the sector a much-needed cash injection.

 

It came as producers in Scotland were offered a lifeline of interest-free loans set against the money due to them under the Basic Payment Support (BPS) scheme.

 

There were calls for early payments in the rest of the UK with the NFU warning ‘at the very least’ payments must be made as soon as possible after December 1 or delays could prove ‘fatal’ for businesses.

 

Concerns over straw supplies have eased as arable farmers reacted to calls from the livestock industry and higher straw prices by baling more.

 

But feed availability this winter and grass growth was the major concern for livestock farmers.


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Action needed to ease cashflow headaches

Industry leaders called for Government action to help ease farmers’ cashflow headaches as concerns about winter feed stocks spiral.

 

And a banking chief has urged farmers to communicate problems they were facing and consider the long-term effects of decisions made now.

 

The UK and Welsh Government have both said they recognised the difficulties the weather has caused, with Wales ‘exploring the possibility’ of advance Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments.

 

The UK Government had responded to calls by making some derogations on Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes, which farmers will have to apply for.

 

In Wales, there were a number of management options under the Glastir schemes, with Government assessing requests on a case by case basis with particular consideration on issues including sward heights and stocking rates, winter fodder and bedding and access to water.

 

Scottish farmers will be offered interest free loans, set against the money owed under BPS, with a similar scheme in 2017 delivering payments of more than £317 million to more than 13,500 farmers.

 

Hopeful

In England, the NFU was hopeful Defra Secretary Michael Gove was considering the response of Scandinavian, Irish and German governments to support farmers.

But the Irish response, which includes measures to part fund transportation of fodder could have an impact on the UK market if lower haulage costs encouraged UK farmers to sell to Ireland.

 

Forage Aid founder Andrew Ward hoped the UK would consider similar schemes.

 

He added the charity had received an influx of calls from farmers facing diminishing feedstocks and urged farmers to ‘keep talking’ to other farmers and charities and consider alternative feed sources.

 

Potential impact

AHDB Dairy highlighted the potential impact of feed costs on milk volumes, suggesting if nothing else changed its milk to feed price ratio suggested a rise of 10 per cent in concentrate costs would lead to a 2-3 per cent drop in volumes.

 

Cull cow numbers have also increased by 19 per cent as farmers sought to destock to ease the burden.

 

HSBC regional agriculture director in Wales and South West Euryn Jones emphasised farmers needed to make their bankers aware of the problems they were facing.

 

Cashflows were being hit by increased feed costs and falling livestock prices as farmers looked to sell animals earlier than planned.

He suggested reassessing cashflow projections, taking into consideration additional purchases and the price they may be facing when feed contracts come to an end.

 

Mr Jones added, where possible, farmers should consider the impact of decisions on the future.

“It is really important that it is not at the expense of future performance,” he said.

 

The egg industry has called for an immediate rise in prices with British Free Range Egg Producers as producers small margins meant it was easy to turn a profit into a loss as feed prices soared by 50 per cent.

 

A Defra spokesperson said: “We have taken a number of steps to assist farmers in the hot weather, including flexibility on water abstraction licenses. We also support the initiatives being taken by the sector, including through organisations like Forage Aid and the NFU’s fodder bank, and encourage farmers to make use of these.

 

“We continue to monitor the situation and remain in close contact with the NFU and other farming organisations."

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