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New Year messages: Farming leaders set out their priorities for 2016

Market recovery, the prompt delivery of Basic Payments and real progress in tackling bovine TB loom large in farm leaders’ wish lists for 2016.
Meurig Raymond
Meurig Raymond

NFU president Meurig Raymond

In his New Year message, Mr Raymond highlighted how tough 2015 had been. "We’ve experienced a very difficult cash flow crisis within the industry and recovery may be some time off," he said.


But there were ‘some substantial steps forward in 2015, he added, including decision to allow farmers up to five years tax averaging, the Annual Investment Allowance of £200,000, new legislation to tackle fly-grazing, the emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments and new tractor and trailer weight and speed limits.


Looking ahead to 2016, he said the prompt delivery of BPS payments and Countryside Stewardship to farmers would ‘continue to be high on the list for us’, while the NFU would push for improvements on both schemes.


He added: “Bovine TB remains a huge problem for beef and dairy farmers across large parts of the country.


"The success of this year’s cull operations, in areas where the disease is rife, shows we are moving in the right direction.


"In 2016 we will keep pushing Defra for full implementation of the 25-year TB eradication strategy as quickly as possible.


"I still see the total human misery this disease causes for farmers and their businesses and the NFU remains dedicated to stopping the spread and ultimately eradicating this disease."


On Europe, he noted the EU’s ‘huge’ influence on farming but said the NFU needed more information on the implications of the in-out referendum before stating its position.


"It’s vital we know the facts before casting the vote that could completely change the way our industry works," he said.

NFU Cymru president Stephen James

Mr James called for the Welsh Government to ensure its £1 million Rural Development Programme was easily accessible to farmers and designed to improve the industry’s competitiveness and profitability.



"Transformational change can only be achieved if the RDP delivers real and practical support to thousands of Welsh farmers."


He also called on the Government move away from its ‘presumption in favour of regulation’, citing the threat of changes to Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil (SSAFO) regulations, oil storage rules and new NVZ designations as evidence ‘of this appetite to over-regulate’.


On bTB, Mr James highlighted the 25 per cent increase in cattle slaughtered and 9 per cent increase in new herd incidents in Wales.


“TB remains arguably the greatest threat to our cattle herd and no eradication plan is worth the paper it is written on without an acceptance that the disease must be eradicated from wildlife as well as from cattle,” he said.


“Politicians can no longer hide behind badger vaccination as their approach to dealing with the wildlife reservoir and they must now clearly set out their plan for effectively dealing with the issue in wildlife."


He added: “The market place remains challenging with milk, lamb and cereal prices impacted by a range of global factors that are beyond our control.


“NFU Cymru has and will continue to meet retailers, food service providers and public procurers to press for a clear commitment to supporting the industry, while seeking to ensure our products clearly labelled within a fair and transparent supply chain.”

NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie

Mr Bowie described the pressure around all businesses in 2015, regardless of sector, as ‘unprecedented’.


“The root of our problems remain creeping costs, volatile and depressed markets, and damaging uncertainty over the timing and value of new CAP support payments,” he said.


"On CAP, we have repeatedly stressed that the shift to an area-based system, with gold-plated greening and all, would be challenging and that the traditional December CAP payments run could not be delivered by Scottish Government.


“By the end of this year, only a quarter of Scottish farmers and crofters will have received 70 per cent of their support payment with others receiving part payment in January, February or March.


"In truth, no one knows when they will be paid."


He called for change within wider supply chain to help address farming’s problems.


"Working with fellow UK farming union’s, we have spent much of 2015 delivering a unified and coherent message that risk and reward up and down the food chain needs to be shared more fairly.


"In times of food deflation, producers – regardless of what they produce - cannot be left carrying the can for retail price wars."


He concluded: "In its current vision document for farming in 2025, Scottish Government talks about a ‘green, innovative and profitable’ industry.


"They have their priorities the wrong way around and from 2016 onwards there must be a concerted effort by all parties to deliver an agricultural industry that, first and foremost, is profitable."

Farmers Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts

For Mr Roberts, the major challenge in 2016 is likely to be the euro-sterling exchange rate which is the main factor in terms of the fall in livestock values and has a direct impact on CAP payments.


He said: “For the dairy sector there seems to be little hope matters will improve significantly without major changes in global demand and trading patters – not least with regard to China and Russia.


“We must be realistic about such factors and the degree to which they are outside our control – but it is also imperative that where positive actions are possible, whether by our own governments or key players such as retailers, these are taken."

CLA president Ross Murray

Mr Murray said there were more than half a million rural businesses employing 2.3 million people in England and Wales.


He said: "Our main focus for 2016 will be to ensure that MPs, Ministers and others recognise that the countryside is full of rural businesses, whether farming or doing many other activities, which are modern, diverse and innovative and play a critical role in their communities and the national economy.”


Other CLA priorities include ’ensuring as many payments as possible are made by the end of January, and that the more complex claims follow very swiftly’ and improving the BPS application and payment processes for 2016.


He described housing as a defining issue of 2015, which will continue into 2016. "There must be a cohesive local housing plan within each county to provide more housing of all types and tenures if rural communities are to continue to flourish," he said.


On planning, he said: “The current perception that the landscape must be ‘preserved in aspic’ is still too widespread."


He also stressed the importance of delivering of the Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps for every rural home and business, as promised by the Prime Minister.


"The lack of fast, reliable connectivity in the countryside is one of the greatest barriers for rural business growth," he said.


"Neither can we forget that mobile communications can be equally vital and need improvements also.”

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