FarmWeb News 18/12/2013

The campaign by the farming community to ban sky lanterns has been strengthened by a large fire in Gloucester. Over 50 caravans were destroyed in the blaze believed to have been caused by sky lanterns, dozens of which were released from a clubhouse on the site.

The pilot badger cull in Gloucestershire removed 40% of the estimated population. The scheme, originally planned to last six weeks, was extended by a further eight weeks and the target reduced from 70% to 58%. A report on the culls will be published next year. The NFU (E&W) has confirmed its support for future culls in areas of high TB incidence. Stricter rules on cattle movement and testing have been announced and some MPs have called for a Parliamentary debate before more culls are initiated.

DEFRA plans to force farmers to replace ageing slurry stores have been shelved. The plans related to all stores built before 1991 and would have affected 20% of existing stores. Instead, there will be a programme of individual surveys and assessments.

The CLA is calling for a change in legislation to make it easier for footpaths, across farms, to be diverted. The current process is protracted and costly. A dairy farmer recently lost a ten-year battle to divert a path away from his busy and dangerous stockyard despite support from his local authority and ramblers.

A total of £1.48bn was paid out to over 95,000 English farmers on the first day of the Single Payment window, earlier this month. This is the best ever performance of the Rural Payments Agency and comes after many years of criticism of their poor administration procedures.

Tesco has announced the introduction of two-year supply contracts direct with beef producers. Initially, the contracts will be with 100 English and Welsh farmers and are designed to rebuild confidence in the red meat trade after the horsemeat scandal.

Exports of British meat and animal products, to countries outside the EU, continue to increase with the announcement of a £45m per year deal to export pig semen to China, the world’s largest pig producer. Chinese farmers are keen to improve bloodlines with high quality British stock. The deal follows the recent £100m three-year agreement to export beef and lamb to Russia.

The Welsh Government has announced the introduction of electronic tagging for sheep as from January 2015, the same time as the English scheme takes effect. The Welsh system will follow that which has been in place in Scotland for some time.