FarmWeb News – 10/01/2019

The HSE has reminded farmers that a new series of inspections will begin soon. The safety record in farming remains poor with 33 fatalities in 2017/8. The inspections will include specific attention to the risks associated with machinery, livestock, falls from height and children.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is launching a new series of “Country Focus Reports” to highlight opportunities for exports. Initial reports are on the key markets, USA, China and Japan with the latter announcing a lifting of the ban on beef and sheep meat imports from the UK. The Japanese market is forecast to be worth over £25m annually to UK beef producers.

The Defra Secretary, Michael Gove again insisted that animal welfare and production standards would be defended post-Brexit, at a recent farming conference. However, despite pressure from farming leaders he has declined to include written safeguards in the Agriculture Bill currently going through Parliament.

British milk production rose by 8m litres to 1,040m litres, in December, the highest figure for 20 years and ahead of expectations. Production levels are expected to fall back in coming months due to a 1.6% reduction in the milking herd, rising feed costs and downward pressure on prices.

Defra has announced a ban on the outdoor use of metaldehyde from Spring 2020, to protect water courses and wildlife. The chemical is the most commonly used slug control product for oilseed rape, cereals and potatoes. Despite the ban in the UK, it remains licensed for use in other EU and non-EU countries. Other, more expensive options are available, but growers complain this will put them at a commercial disadvantage.

Various sectors have raised concerns over the proposed £30,000 minimum salary requirement for skilled migrant workers seeking five-year visas. Abattoirs are particularly vulnerable with an average of 75% foreign workers most of whom are skilled but do not reach the proposed minimum wage. Efforts to attract British staff, over the years, have failed.

Defra is to hold a consultation on changes to agricultural tenancy legislation following consideration of the likely impact of Brexit by a cross industry group. Changes to the 1986 and 1995 Acts governing tenancies are recommended together with a reform of taxation and other measures.