Authorities are concerned that bird flu may return to the UK this year following a number of outbreaks in continental Europe. Over 50,000 birds have been culled in Bulgaria and the Netherlands and the disease has been found in wild birds on the migratory route from Germany to the UK.
A Bill to ban the live export of animals for slaughter has been put before Parliament and the sponsors are hopeful of gaining support for it. The bill would become law after Brexit as current EU trade rules prevent such a restriction. An attempt, in 1992 to introduce restrictions was overturned by the European Court.
The row over the weed killer, glyphosate, continues. The temporary eighteen-month licence expires at the end of the year and the proposal for a ten-year licence did not get enough support in the EU Council. A shorter licence period looks likely. Glyphosate is the most widely used weed killer and its use is backed by the UK and fifteen other countries.
With bank borrowing by Scottish farmers at a record high, the Scottish Government has launched a support scheme which offers up to 90% of the CAP entitlement as an advance on the actual payment, which will come later. The scheme is worth £254m and seeks to address the delays and errors in the much-criticised CAP payment system.
The Government has confirmed that the migration advisory committee is looking at the likely impact of Brexit on agriculture and the need to reinstate a seasonal agricultural workers scheme. Employers want a trial scheme introduced, now, to alleviate current labour shortages and head off a bigger problem after Brexit.
The Chancellor has been warned that any further increase in IPT would have a disproportionate adverse effect on rural dwellers who need their own transport. IPT has risen from 6% to 12% since 2005 and adds around £100 to the overall household insurance bill. For larger farming businesses with vehicles, machinery, buildings and stock, IPT can cost £1,000.
The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, a new independent body, was launched on 1st November with the two-year aim of helping to create a “safe, secure and sustainable” food system after the UK leaves the EU. Its initial report highlights some of the existing strengths and weaknesses of the current system. The UK is a net exporter of meat, a global leader in food manufacturing but over 50% of fruit and vegetables are imported and 90% is picked by EU-born workers.
A leading think-tank has outlined the opportunities that exist for the UK, post Brexit, to take the lead in aligning a market orientated agricultural policy and subsidy policies with climate and environmental concerns. It sees little prospect of change in the EU agriculture model even though it absorbs 40% of the EU budget.
Figures from NFU Mutual show the cost of farm fires rose by 26% to £44m, last year. This year has seen a spate of large fires including 300 tonnes of woodchip, 700 bales of straw and an estimated £150,000 of straw in one of the largest ever fires. The east and south east of England are the worst affected areas.
Dairy farmers, across the EU, are insisting that their sector remains in a chronic poor state because the CAP has no mechanism to deal with damaging market breakdowns. Despite recent price rises, the market is subject to volatility and frequent crises with a deficit between production costs and prices averaging around 20% over the last five years.
Further talks on the future re-licensing of the weed killer, glyphosate, ended in disarray when EU member states were again unable to agree. The original proposal for a ten-year licence was reduced to five years but this has also met with opposition from France and others. Scientific evidence and a recent long-term study in the USA show no clear link between the chemical and cancer.
A new test for bovine TB is being trialled. The blood test detects live bacteria in the blood or milk and is faster, more specific and more sensitive than the existing skin test. The test can also distinguish between a vaccinated and infected animal with results produced in a matter of hours compared with the existing three-day wait, reducing the likely spread of the disease.
Defra has unveiled plans for consultations on a new independent watchdog to ensure that environmental standards are maintained, post Brexit. The move has been cautiously welcomed by farming and environment groups as leading to an agricultural regime that is more suitable and specific for the UK.
CCTV will become mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England next year following the results of a consultation paper. The law is likely to come into force in the spring and will require CCTV in all areas where live animals are present. The move is supported by vets and the industry.
UK milk production rose by 5.2% in September giving a year to date rise of 2.4%. Production across the EU is up 3.3% which is forecast to lead to downward pressure on prices. The UK is the third largest producer in the EU after Germany and France.
Reproduced with kind permission from NIG FarmWeb