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East Midlands NFU Policy Update No 605. 4 August 2011

In this edition: Solar farm developments; NFU Harvest Survey; Time for real change in dairy; New cattle passport; Sheep and goat register; EBLEX lamb roadshow; NFU acts on B&Q; Fertiliser security; NFU Waterwise survey; Water white paper; Unmanned rail crossings beware; Abstracting high summer flows; Epitrex; BBC Three Young Farmer of the Year; IPPC newsletter; House sparrow decline.

East Midlands - Solar Farm Capital of UK?

Several large scale solar farm developments have started supplying electricity into the national grid in the past few weeks. What is reported to be the largest in the UK was opened with much fanfare and national publicity at Hawton near Newark, farmed by NFU member Roger Pykett. With over 21,000 solar panels on 30 acres of former quarry land it is hoped that the site will provide enough energy for 1,300 homes. The “fast track” project was built in cooperation with Conergy and Lark Energy and was completed only six weeks after receiving planning consent. The project was a race against time to meet the deadline of 31st July imposed following the review of the Feed in Tariff incentive payments. Close on the heels of the Hawton site one at Marston near Grantham came on stream a few days later. The project was built with the cooperation of Dutch company Oskomera and Lark Energy and consists of 19,500 solar panels mounted on frames across 30 acres and will generate enough energy to power 1,100 homes.  In both cases the projects have been broadly supported by the local communities and District Councils. Elsewhere, sites at Stow, near Lincoln, Fen Farm, near Conisholme and at Long Sutton, in South Lincolnshire add up to about 100 acres of solar power from farmland in the region.

NFU Harvest Survey 2011

The NFU annual harvest survey was launched last week and we are inviting members to participate. Following the dry spring and a year when the press has again been overflowing with views from government leaders, scientists, farming and NGOs about the significance of making the most out of our productive acres, having good reliable data on how the harvest has gone is vital, if nothing else to balance any other claims made in the trade. If you would like to participate, please click here.

Time for real change on dairy

The Efra Select Committee has called on government to ensure that British dairy farmers have fairer contracts and greater strength in price negotiations. NFU comment.Read more...


New cattle passport: Hit the handbook or risk a hit in the pocket

Keepers have been issued with a step-by-step BCMS handbook in time for the 1st August new cattle passport next month. We’re urging farmers to take careful note. Read more here...DEFRA sheep and goat holding register

Defra has published an Excel workbook version of the Defra sheep and goat holding register for English keepers. It is designed to replicate as closely as possible the layout and design of the printed version that keepers are used to. Keepers can download it from Defra’s website. Click this link. This page also contains the PDF version of the printed register.   Printed copies are obtainable through the Defra library on 020 7238 6575, quoting reference PB13281.

Eblex lamb roadshow at local markets

The EBLEX lamb roadshow will be touring English markets this month to help producers gain a greater understanding of the key markets. It will be at Thrapston on August 11th and Bakewell on 5th September.
Click here for details...NFU acts on dropped B&Q suppliers

Hard on the heels of the B &Q action last week to axe several suppliers at short notice the NFU has secured special access to the capital’s biggest wholesale markets for growers affected by B&Q’s decision. Growers are being given the opportunity through an exclusive extension of the Business Development Manager Programme, funded by the Greater London Authority and managed by the NFU. It aims to increase the supply of local, regional and sustainable food by working with market traders and businesses within the supply chain.
NFU chief horticulture and potatoes adviser, Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, described B&Q’s actions last week as “disgraceful”. “A number of growers are understood to have been left with thousands of pounds worth of stock on their hands as a result of B&Q’s actions and will be desperately seeking alternative outlets for their produce. As a result of this extension, these growers will exclusively have the chance to access London’s biggest wholesale markets.”  Given that the Groceries supply code of practice does not apply to the ornamentals sector it raises again the question of the need for a voluntary code of good trading practice for flowers and plants. This is something which the NFU will actively pursue.

NFU advice: Fertiliser security: The dos and don'ts

Ammonium nitrate is both a major constituent of agricultural fertiliser and a favoured ingredient in explosives used by terrorists. Large quantities of AN fertiliser are used in farming and it is important for the general public, and everyone with a legitimate interest in the substance, that it does not fall into the wrong hands. To that end, the NFU, government and fertiliser manufacturers have developed a ten-point guide to help advise farmers on safe storage. Click here for the link to NFU onlineNFU Waterwise survey - very relevant in East Midlands

We're asking members how much water they use, what they do to conserve it and how they think climate change will affect resources. The NFU Waterwise Survey takes place every five years and is particularly apt this time around following three dry winters and this spring, the driest on record. With a water white paper looming this is even more important. The better the data we get, the stronger our lobbying arguments and advice. It is hoped that survey results can be used to highlight what is being done by British farmers to keep rivers and streams flowing, to show how much water they use and expose any hopes or fears they have towards future water security. Take the survey on line here.

Water White Paper - Mixed bag

The publication of the Water White Paper is delayed until December 2011. The White Paper is expected to focus on securing sustainable water supplies and incentivising water conservation. Agriculture Minister Jim Paice MP has stated in Parliament that the Government will use the White Paper to outline plans to reform the abstraction licensing regime in order to help farmers invest in storage, and enable farmers with reservoirs to top them up during any summer surges following summer storms. Further changes to be outlined in the Water White Paper include:

  • Significant increases in the cost of water, depending on geography and scarcity;
  • Plans for legislative protection for those who cannot afford increased water charges;
  • Proposals for a new long term structure for licensing water abstraction. These will include measures to help comply with Water Framework Directive obligations and aim to ensure the future sustainable management of water catchments;
  • Greater freedoms for abstractors, especially farmers to trade water resources, greater regulatory flexibility for Ofwat, to encourage innovation by water companies;
  • Increased competition in the water sector reducing the role of Ofwat in price setting and increasing the role of market forces.

A mixed bag, therefore, and the NFU will be lobbying before and after the publication of the White Paper.

Unmanned railway crossing beware

We have received an approach from the British Transport Police about an increasing number of reports from Network Rail signallers of farmers not conforming to the requirements of user controlled level and farm crossings in the Nottinghamshire area. As they rightly point out non-notification to railway signallers of slow or large moving traffic over level/farm crossings, could be catastrophic if machinery gets stuck on level/farm crossings and permission to cross not have been granted. Our attention has been drawn to the Fiskerton area in South Nottinghamshire, but this applies equally to anywhere in the region. Please think about your safety and that of rail users.

Applying to abstract high summer flows

The NFU has a short briefing on the Environment Agency’s action to help farmers and growers applying to abstract high summer flows to fill winter storage reservoirs.  The key date to note is that the 1 September 2011 is the deadline for applications. NFU members are advised to contact their local EA area office for advice on the availability of 2011 summer high flows.

NFU potato lobby success on Epitrix

NFU led lobbying on behalf of the UK potato industry, has successfully pressed the European Commission to take early measures to combat the Epitrix Potato Flea Beetle. As the pest has serious implications for UK potato growers, the NFU has been coordinating industry efforts, including consultations and awareness raising efforts with UK and EU supply chain organisations, to lobby for emergency legislation to prevent spread of the pest. We have now persuaded an EU standing committee that the pest posed a serious threat and there was strong support to introduce emergency measures against it.  Draft legislation will now be drawn up essentially to ensure that any potatoes being moved from the infested areas of Spain and Portugal are free of the pest and any soil (through washing or brushing).  This may be accompanied by need an improved system for identifying consignments and a requirement for surveys in all member states. 

Are you young, talented and a farmer?

BBC Three’s "Young Talent of the Year" is a show that celebrates the millions of young British workers whose skills deserve recognition. Following the success of the last two years, the BBC are now on a nationwide hunt for young and talented farmers between the ages of 16 and 25, who can be true ambassadors for their trade, are up for a challenge and want to showcase to the world their skills. In the last two years they have found talented Butchers, Fishmongers, Plumbers and Chefs, but this year they are looking for farmers. We are currently scouring the country to find the best young farmers out there. Eventually 100 will be invited to an audition. Here they'll face a written test on their occupational expertise, and they'll also be interviewed by industry experts to ensure they have the knowledge and potential to be BBC Three's Young farmer of the Year! Complete the application form by visiting:

IPPC latest newsletter

Latest newsletter is availableto view here and covers four yearly review; site identification notices; compliance core link to subsistence fees; new position statements; pig and poultry assurance; new dust guidance; AD plants and ammonia reduction techniques.

House sparrow decline

After some widely reported comments made at the Game Fair about CFE and set-aside, we were interested to receive the following link to U-tube that at least made us smile. Click here to U-tube

The next Policy Update will be on Thursday 11 August 2011. Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, neither the NFU nor the author can accept liability for errors and omissions.

Last updated: 5 August 2011