Last Chance for Welsh Dairy Farmers

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Dairy farmers in Wales have until this Friday to apply for an aid scheme worth £1,800.

The EU Conditional Aid Scheme is only open to dairy farmers in Wales and, specifically, those that were in milk production with a supply contract on 1 January 2016.

To qualify before the deadline at midnight on Friday 30 June, producers need to complete an online questionnaire with information about their farm business. In return, farmers will receive the payment by the end of September as well as a report, prepared by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), identifying business strengths and weaknesses and a comparison against industry performance indicators.

The link for the questionnaire as well as more information can be found on the AHDB website.

Farms with land falling outside of Wales can still participate in the scheme if the majority of the land is in Wales.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

DEFRA Revises TIFF Estimate

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DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) has now published revised estimates which suggest Total Income From Farming (TIFF) in the UK fell by around 7.5% in 2016. This is significantly different from their original figure of 1.5% reported earlier in the year, with the Government blaming incorrect data accounting for the error in the previous estimate. The TIFF is calculated using income from farm production and subsidies, less costs.

The revised figures confirm the slump in the value of UK farm produce, resulting from falling production and poor prices for dairy and cereal farmers last year. This is perhaps surprising given that there had been some good news with improved productivity in the beef, sheep and pork sectors and the cost of fertilisers and feeds dropping. It seems, however that these factors were not enough to pull back the negative impact of falling revenues overall.

Despite income for farmers having dropped consecutively for the last 4 years, there is optimism that 2017 will see something of a recovery with commodity markets trending upwards at the present time.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Are You Opening Your Farm This Sunday?

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This Sunday, over 1,500 farmers across the UK will be opening their farms for visitors as part of Open Farm Sunday. Although some people are still unaware of what “Open Farm Sunday” is, its widespread appeal cannot be denied. Since its inception in 2006 farmers have welcomed 1.8 million visitors to their farms for one Sunday each year.

Organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), it seeks to encourage farmers to open their farms up to members of the public for a day to share the farm experience.  Farmers are encouraged to plan events that are manageable and should be reminded that they need not put on an extravagant show for hundreds of people.  Activities may include a farm walk, nature trail, tractor and trailer rides, demonstrations, pond dipping, activities for children, a mini farmer’s market or farm shop.

LEAF offer free help and support, including access to local coordinators, practical support and advice regarding issues such as health and safety.

The event gives farmers a great opportunity to share their enthusiasm for farming and offers potential business benefits too, with the opportunity for farms to raise their local profile and improve community relations.

If you would like to find out more about Open Farm Sunday you can log on to: www.farmsunday.org

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

 

Will Brexit Affect the Value of Your Farmland?

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Fears have been expressed by some land agents that agricultural land prices may fall in the UK, as a direct result of Brexit.

It is expected that the amount of subsidies, such as the Basic Payment Scheme, will decline once Britain leaves the EU, causing some farmers to re-consider their financial position.  Many are already struggling to make ends meet and a reduction in subsidy support, combined with a predicted interest-rate rise for borrowing, may result in many being forced to leave the industry.

As a consequence the demand for farmland could fall away, with the price per hectare dropping by as much as £1,000, despite it having remained fairly robust so far, at an average of around £7,500 for bare land.

However, even the experts admit it is difficult to predict the full impact of Brexit, with so many other factors coming into play, such as trade tariffs, pricing and food imports.  Post-referendum predictions of economic doom and gloom have not yet come to pass, so those in the industry would be wise not to panic at this stage.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

The General Election: What Will It Mean For Farmers?

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Following the announcement by Theresa May that there will be a general election in June, industry leaders in the food and farming sectors have called for all political parties to put agriculture at the fore-front of their policies.

The Food and Drink Federation in particular are asking all concerned to make clear their vision for food and farming post-Brexit.  It is important, says the Federation, that any future Government is focused on promoting growth and support in the agricultural sector, delivering a good deal for farmers to be competitive enough to make a substantial contribution to the UK economy.  With international relationships currently under immense pressure, now is the time for the country to look at how we can become more self-sufficient, particularly when it comes to feeding the population.

The Tenant Farmers Association have also delivered a list of priorities which they believe are crucial to ensure our farming industry flourishes as it should.  They include reducing the country’s reliance on imports, highlighting animal welfare and consumer safety and confidence, help with price volatility and long-term security for tenant farmers.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Window for New Farm Business Grant Soon to Open

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Wales Rural Development Program have released the dates for the expression of interest in the new Farm Business Grant Scheme. The window will open on 2nd May and will close 30th June.

The Farm Business Grant Scheme will offer grants of between £3,000 and £12,000 to the successful applicants, in a bid to improve the farmer’s performance in Wales, and provides up to 40% funding towards investments in capital and machinery that have a clear and significant benefit to the farm.

The key areas for investments are cattle, sheep and pig equipment, crop management equipment, energy efficiency and many more.

There are conditions for those looking to apply which, along with more information, can be found here.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

HMRC Agricultural Compliance Checks

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In the rural sector, employers are being urged to check that they are paying the correct minimum wages rates where both the Agricultural Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage apply.  HMRC has launched a programme of compliance checks to ensure the correct rates are being paid and can ask to see any associated records.   This applies to workers in horticulture, agriculture and could include other areas such as, for example, beaters, housekeepers, temporary staff and casual labour.

The Rules

Wales – Agricultural workers must be paid the higher of the Agricultural Minimum Wage or National Minimum Wage

England – Agricultural workers must be paid at least National Minimum Wage unless they signed a contract before 1 October 2013 which entitles them to Agricultural Minimum Wage.

Agricultural Minimum Wage is dependent upon the employee’s job grade and category. Further information can be found on the HMRC website.

Exemptions

Family members who live at the home of the employer and help out with chores or participate in the running of the family business do not qualify for the minimum wage.

However, if your business is a limited company this is a separate legal entity and cannot be considered to have a family or a family home so the minimum wage rules still apply to all employees.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

24 Hours In Farming

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From 5am on 10 August to 5am on 11 August 2017, “24 hours in Farming” is back supported by FG Insight and Morrisons.  The aim of the event is for UK Agriculture to “shout about the industry and why they are so proud to work within it” and to show consumers how much passion and commitment goes into producing the food they eat.  Last year the event reached an audience of 112 million and trended in the Top 5 on Twitter all day.

You can get involved by posting photos and videos on any social media platform using the hashtag #Farm24 to let people know what you are doing that day.  This year, the event organisers are trying to make it bigger and better than last year by encouraging farmers to also host on-farm events, give talks to local groups or arrange interviews with local newspapers or radio stations.

If you are planning on opening your doors to the public, you can click this link to find a quick guide on how to get organised.

Fire Service Appeal To Farmers Planning Controlled Fires

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South Wales Fire and Rescue Service have advised farmers who are planning to ‘burn off’ their land, that they now have a dedicated Wildfire Station to assist them.

While the vast majority of these burnings are done under safe conditions, on limited occasions fires can become too large to manage or out of control with farmers having insufficient resources to deal with them. South Wales Fire and Rescue Service are actively looking to engage with local farmers and can offer advice and practical assistance by carrying out controlled burning for them.

If you would like assistance with controlled burning on your land, please contact the Fire Crime Unit on 0800 731 7287, where they will be able to direct you to the appropriate Station Commander.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Time Narrows to Make Dairy Scheme Claim

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Dairy farmers who were accepted on the EU’s Milk Production Reduction Scheme (MPRS) have until 14th February to submit their claim for payment.

More than 1,800 UK farmers applied to the scheme which offers payments to those farmers who reduced the amount of milk they produced between October and December 2016. The scheme will pay out the equivalent of 12.2p/litre if production levels were cut by the agreed amount.

To find out more about the scheme and to submit your claim visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/milk-production-reduction-scheme-how-to-apply

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.