FarmWeb News 31/12/2012

The National Audit Office has criticised the fragmented nature of government farm monitoring.  In the period 2011/2 nine different bodies made 114,000 visits to English farms to check on compliance with subsidy rules and for disease monitoring and testing. The total cost was £47m and much of the information collected was duplicated.  The NFU (E&W) complains that little effort has been made to streamline the inspections as has already been done in Scotland.

A month after announcing its exit from the UK, Vion has announced that the pork processing operation has been the subject of a management buy-out securing 4,000 jobs.  Negotiations on the sale of the poultry and red meat divisions continue with Tesco agreeing limited support to producers to guarantee supplies in the interim.

The Food Standards Agency has advised that routine BSE testing of cattle intended for human consumption can now cease.  There have been no cases of BSE for three years.

The ten thousandth Higher Level Stewardship scheme in England has been signed bringing the total land covered to 977,000 hectares.  Two thirds of English farm land is under one of the stewardship schemes.

British pig farmers are concerned that 13 European countries will not be able to comply with the sow stalls ban that comes into force on 1st January 2013 and have called for Government and EU action.  Stalls have been banned in Britain since 1999 and the resulting higher cost of production puts producers at a disadvantage as 60% of the pig meat we consume is imported.

The OFT high profile prosecution of Tesco, in 2011, for colluding with others to fix cheese prices, has suffered a blow as an appeals tribunal has rejected much of the evidence.  A significant reduction in the £10m fine looks likely. The OFT has already paid libel damages of £100,000 to Morrisons.

Following further consultation the Government has confirmed that the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales will be abolished in October 2013 along with 31 subsidiary committees.  The Boards in Scotland and Northern Ireland will remain.