FarmWeb News 08/07/2013

Birds Eye has promised to use only British and Irish beef in its burgers from the end of June 2013 and to extend this policy to all other red meat products and ready-meals by the end of this year.

Industry commentators are predicting a late harvest this year with many crops, particularly oilseed rape, producing low yields. World cereal prices have fallen recently, but the price of straw remains high and its availability after harvest, for bedding, is concerning livestock farmers.

DEFRA has announced a proposed new plan aimed at eradicating TB from the UK over the next 25 years. The country will be divided into high risk, low risk and edge areas each with its own appropriate TB control measures. One feature is a reduction in compensation for any farmer whose poor bio-security contributes to an outbreak.

The broad outline of the future CAP has been agreed but much detail is still to be added. In 2015 a new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be introduced  which is likely to lead to differing regimes in England, Wales and Scotland. Also, farmers have been advised to budget for a 5% reduction in support in each of 2013 and 2014. Milk quotas will end in March 2015 and sugar quotas in September 2017.

Provisional figures from the HSE show that 29 workers lost their lives in work related accidents in the year to March 2013 compared to 35 in the previous year. However, agriculture still remains the most dangerous industry in the UK recording almost 20% of deaths. NFU Mutual has launched its latest safety campaign, Farm Safety First.

Despite a call from DEFRA for more GM research in Great Britain,  the extent of resistance to it was disclosed by a recent survey with only 61% of farmers and 21% of consumers in favour.

In the latest round of Government spending cuts the DEFRA budget has been reduced by almost 10% to around £1.9bn.

Plans to merge Natural England and the Environment Agency have been shelved after a review of their individual activities. Each will retain its current statutory responsibilities.

The project for rolling out high-speed broadband to rural areas is now almost 2 years behind target. The government made £530m available to county councils in 2011 to move the project on, subject to the councils matching any funds applied for. Only 9 of the 44 councils are likely to meet the 2015 target. BT is now the only contractor working on the project, others having dropped out.