Farm News 179

DEFRA is launching a new “Farming Advice Service” covering professional advice on a range of subjects including cross compliance and climate change. The Service brings together a number of different advice lines under one number.

DEFRA has achieved its best ever record for the Single Farm Payment, made to English farmers, in December. Payments started on 1st December and 87% of claimants have been dealt with in the month comprising £1.4bn paid out to 91,400 farmers. Uncertainty over the future of the euro has led those who opted for payment in euros to convert to sterling as soon as the money is received, rather than wait for a better exchange rate.

The Institute of Animal Health has warned farmers of the continuing threat from animal diseases both endemic and exotic. Diseases have cost the UK £15bn in the last 15 years. A number of diseases have moved into Europe from Africa, Turkey has proved vulnerable and African Swine Fever is out of control in Russia.

The Scottish forestry industry is worth over £1bn per year but is forecasting a difficult future with a shortage of timber for processing in as little as 15 years time. Efforts have been made to counter this with incentives from the Scottish Government aimed at expanding the forested area from 17% to 25% by 2025. However this has met with resistance from farmers who fear the long term effect on beef and sheep enterprises. Sheep numbers declined by over 30% in some areas between 1997 and 2010.

The Government decision to slash the level of support for feed-in tariffs has been declared illegal in a court case brought by Friends of the Earth and two installers. The Government is to appeal this ruling as it still considers the tariffs are too high and not sustainable. Two cross- party committees have already criticised the way the cuts were handled.

DEFRA has finally announced a controlled cull of badgers, in England, to combat the spread of TB in cattle. Two pilot operations will take place in autumn 2012, over a six week period, with the results closely monitored and considered before a wider roll out. The Government has spent £35m on research into vaccines to date, with a further £20m promised over the next five years. Farmers and vets have welcomed the announcement but supporters of the Badger Trust are considering further legal action against it.