Weekly roundup: Floods, Brexit and ‘flu

So, what’s happening in the world of UK agriculture this week?

Floods

Shocker: it’s been raining in the UK this winter.

Unfortunately, it’s been quite heavy, and as farmers are currently prohibited from dredging waterways on their land, the drainage ability of agricultural land has been compromised leading to some heart-rending consequences for farmers, e.g. cattle spending the night with water up to their bellies and sheep being simply washed away; and obviously farmers can’t drill crops into land covered by water.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has announced plans to allow farmers to dredge water courses on their land without need prior approval from the Environment Agency, though opinion is split amongst farmers.

A Farmers Weekly poll of 135 respondents showed that 59% were in favour of farmers being paid to “store” the flood water on their land to avoid flooding in more populated areas.

It reminds me of the same situation 2 years ago which resulted in many Politicians in Wellies Staring at Floods. It seems we have very short memories when it comes to these situations.

The ‘Brexit’ and agriculture

This is the biggie.

Last week at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) the Defra secretary Liz Truss admitted that if the UK were to leave the EU there was currently no plan for agriculture. (Read her speech here)

With news this week that the Rural Payments Agency will fail to meet their target of paying 82-85% of claimants by the end of January, there are questions as to whether the government would manage agriculture any better than the EU currently does.

Opinion amongst farmers is mixed between hope for a more independent agricultural policy, and the view that the EU provides us with many markets, and it may be ‘better the devil you know’.

For a short video showing some personal views from farmers and industry spokespeople, see: fwi.co.uk/eu-exit-video

Bird ‘flu

A cull of 40,000 birds is underway at Craigie’s Poultry Farm in Dunfermline after discovery of a ‘mild’ strain of the H5N1 avian influenza, quite distinct from the pathogenic strain found previously. Three other cases have been reported in the UK in the past 14 months.

EU legislation on on-farm antibiotics

Draft EU legislation will make it compulsory for the use of on-farm antibiotics to be recorded, in an effort to combat microbial resistance to antibiotics. It is hoped this will lead to a centralised system, with the same recording protocols used in all parts of the livestock sector.

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