Farm News 164

Sales of new season lambs have got off to brisk start. Volumes, at the early sales are up by over 60% on last year. Despite this supplies in Europe remain tight so prices are holding firm. Good prices and future feed costs are tempting producers to sell animals earlier and at lighter weights than usual.

Trade talks between the EU and South American producers (Mercosur) are unlikely to be concluded before the end of 2011. EU farmers are concerned that increased access to European markets for beef and poultry, in particular, will have an adverse effect on their finances.

The role of DEFRA in animal disease research was expanded this week with the launch of a new global initiative funded by the EU. DEFRA will lead the project in addition to its current role as leader of a similar project covering EU member states.

Drax, the power station operator has set up an experimental farm to further investigate how crops grown for energy can be improved. Miscanthus and different cereals will be trialled. Drax already has the capacity to use 100,000 tonnes of pelleted straw in its power generation.

Farm visits by the public and school children in particular are being promoted by LEAF and FACE, two leading organisers in this area. Advice and seminars are available to farmers on how to go about organising such visits and the arrangements that will be needed to accommodate visitors.Insurance implications.

Continuing problems with the supply of seasonal labour have led HM Revenue to double the number of enforcement officers it employs. They will target gangmasters operating outside the rules and failing to pay tax. They will also offer free checks to farmers on the credentials of prospective gangmasters.

Gloucester and Hampshire constabularies are the latest to highlight the increase in rural crime. With thefts of machinery and equipment rising, both are focusing more attention on rural areas and are building crime prevention partnerships with farmers.

After a gap of over four years, another attempt is being made to initiate a government enquiry into the alleged adverse human health effects of organophosphate sheep dips. Previous investigations have failed to prove a link.

EU agricultural exports rose by 20% in value last year to a record €91bn, just behind the world leader, the USA, with €92bn.