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Farming Today

  • 23/04/24 - Land mines in Ukraine, trees on farmland and peatland re-wetting

    <p>Around 38 million acres of Ukrainian farmland has now been rendered too dangerous to farm by Russian mines. According to the charity the "Mines Advisory Group", there have been more than a thousand mine accidents in Ukraine since 2022 - with farmers making up one of the largest single groups of casualties. We hear from the man in charge of clearing land mines there.</p><p>Farmers can be paid to integrate tree-planting into their farm management plans through Government schemes like Countryside Stewardship. We visit two farmers in the Lake District who are being advised by The Woodland Trust on how trees and food production can go hand in hand.</p><p>And an environmental charity in Germany, which invests in projects around the world, is donating more than a million euros to re-wet peatlands in England. We speak to NABU about what the UK offers.</p><p>Presented by Anna Hill Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons</p>

  • 22/04/24 Public perception of commercial forestry, the state of UK woodlands, feral pigs in Scotland.

    <p>Today trees: from Welsh Government plans to get them planted on farms, to the ever missed English planting targets and the recent cuts to the budget for planting in Scotland, trees are the subject of much debate in rural areas. Despite our fondness for them and need for timber, we still don't like commercial forestry. Foresters warn the public's perception is hampering efforts to grow more timber. We get an overview of the state of British woodlands.</p><p>The Scottish Government wildlife agency NatureScot has been holding advice sessions on wild boar and providing help for farmers and crofters dealing with them. Concerns are growing about the damage they do to grazing areas. It's claimed they kill and eat sheep and lambs, and farmers believe the Government should have taken action years ago. </p><p>Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Beatrice Fenton.</p>

  • 20/04/24 - New Welsh Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary, unlawful game licences and dairy pollution

    <p>Wales' new Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs says his first job it to listen to farmers. It comes after unrest and large protests in Wales by farmers, angry about the Welsh Government's approach to farming. In particular, the way its tacking TB in cattle, stricter rules on pollution and the Sustainable Farming Scheme, which will replace EU subsides in Wales and requires farmers to plant trees on 10% of their land. We put their concerns to Huw Irranca-Davies.</p><p>The UK Government has admitted that it unlawfully issued some licences for releasing game birds last year. The campaign group Wild Justice challenged the licences granted in the Deben Estuary in Suffolk and Breckland in Norfolk. While DEFRA concedes that it didn’t follow Natural England's advice and that the assessment it carried out wasn’t in line with the rules – it strongly refutes Wild Justice's claim that the decisions 'were tainted with the appearance of bias'.</p><p>And we visit a farm in Herefordshire where they rear tens of thousands of worms to sell for live bird feed, for improving the soil, and for composting.</p><p>Presented by Charlotte Smith Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons</p>

  • 19/04/24 River pollution from dairy farms, new border checks for food, pumpkin diversification

    <p>Most UK dairy farms are failing to meet environmental regulations aimed at protecting rivers from pollution; so says the campaign group River Action which has used freedom of information requests to find new data. It says dairy farms are one of the biggest causes of river pollution. The National Farmers' Union says farmers are getting better.</p><p>Companies importing food to the UK say the Government's plans to bring in physical checks for food coming from the EU is going to lead to higher prices, and eventually less choice. </p><p>All this week we're talking about diversification, and for farms which are near towns or cities attracting visitors onto the land can be profitable. We hear how a Devon farm has diversified into Halloween pumpkins.</p><p>Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Beatrice Fenton.</p>

  • 18/04/24 Government admits it broke rules on gamebird releases, vegetable oil harvest down, worm diversification

    <p>The Government has admitted that it unlawfully issued some licences for releasing game birds last year. The campaign group Wild Justice challenged the licences granted in the Deben Estuary in Suffolk and Breckland in Norfolk, saying that ministers had ignored the advice from the wildlife regulator Natural England, and that a proper assessment of the impact hadn't been carried out. By law under the Habitats Directive there must be an assessment of the impact of any release near Special Protected Areas, and advice from Natural England must be taken into account for a licence to be granted. While Defra concedes that it didn’t follow Natural England's advice and that the assessment it carried out wasn’t in line with the rules, it strongly refutes Wild Justice's claim that the decisions 'were tainted with the appearance of bias'.</p><p>A new assessment of the UK vegetable oil harvest has been made and found that oilseed rape production this year could be reduced by as much as 38% compared to last year, partly due to less area planted but also because of the wet weather. Added to that, production of olives in Southern Europe is also facing climate challenges, and the price of olive oil has shot up.</p><p>Some farmers coping with challenging weather will be thankful if they have income from a diversification on the farm. All week we're hearing how farms are running extra businesses alongside their core work. Tens of thousands of worms might not be the first thing you’d think of to help a traditional farm survive. But near Hereford, the Gorringe family have set up a sideline which is helping prop up their arable and beef business. </p><p>Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.</p>

  • 17/04/24 - Wet weather food impacts, farm microbrewery, tenant farmers and seabird dawn chorus

    <p>A total wipe-out of crops is now a possibility for some farms - it follows the record rainfall over recent months. Crops on thousands of acres of highly productive land have been destroyed and even now fields are too boggy for machinery to harvest or plant crops for the months ahead. So what impact will this have on our fresh produce supply chains?</p><p>Tenant farmers "can't be left to go by the wayside" - that's the message from the NFU Tenant Farmer Conference. English farmers who rent some - or all - of the land they work face many challenges at the moment. From landlords taking land back for solar farms or the ELMs environmental schemes, to rising rents and the phasing out of subsidy payments under the basic payments scheme or BPS.</p><p>And we visit a former dairy farm where cattle barns have been turned into a microbrewery, a taproom and a wedding venue.</p><p>Presented by Charlotte Smith Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons</p>

  • 16/04/2024 - New Welsh rural affairs cabinet secretary, River Wye pollution and farm diversification

    <p>After farmers held protest against post-Brexit agricultural policy in Wales, is the new Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs ready for the challenge? In his first interview for the programme, Anna Hill asks him about the 10% tree policy, how they plan to tackle bovine TB and whether they're doing enough to clean up Welsh rivers.</p><p>The Government has published its long awaited River Wye Action Plan, which includes the doubling of grants for farm slurry stores and up to £35 million worth of funding for poultry manure combustors. Campaigners say the river is in an ‘ecological death spiral’ and blame the spreading of manure from intensive chicken farming onto fields in the catchment, resulting in pollution going into the river. Research led by Lancaster University showed that 70% of the excess phosphate in the Wye, comes from agricultural waste.</p><p>And many farms have ventured into retail and hospitality in the hope of selling some of their produce direct to customers. We visit a farm which has gone one step further, and as well as having a farm shop, butchery and cafe, it also rents farm buildings to other small businesses.</p><p>Presented by Anna Hill Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons</p>

  • 15/04/2024 Trail hunting, diversification, climate-resistant hops

    <p>Changes to farm support payments after Brexit, increasingly unpredictable weather, not to mention a cost of living crisis means farmers are relying more on additional income streams to boost their farm profits. We’re going to be looking into farm diversifications all this week, and while you might think the most common sources of extra income would be accommodation for tourists and things like farm shops, in fact letting out buildings for businesses and producing solar energy were the top two diversifications in 2022 - 23, according to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. </p><p>It's an election year and the controversial topic of hunting is being raised again; the Labour Party has vowed to ban hunting with dogs completely in their first 5 years of government. Fox hunting’s been banned in England, Wales and Scotland for twenty years now, but hunting groups are allowed to lay a ‘scent trail’ for hounds to chase. Trail hunting is controversial, with some hunts accused of using it as a smokescreen for hunting foxes. Just last month one hunt member in Wiltshire was sentenced for helping throw a live fox to hounds, and a different hunt, in Warwickshire, was charged over the alleged death of a fox. But a leading wildlife campaigner and hunt saboteur says he thinks one hunt in Sussex is now paving the way for how trail hunting could be done around the country in a pared down and more open way. </p><p>New varieties of organic hops that are resilient to climate change are being trialled by British beer makers. The Innovative Farmers Hop Trial aims to boost the cultivation of UK crops after falling production levels.</p><p>Presented by Caz Graham and produced by Beatrice Fenton.</p>

  • 13/04/24 - Farming Today This Week: Changes to flood payments, bird flu in cattle and SSSIs

    <p>Changes have been made to the UK Government's Farming Recovery Fund after the NFU reported "major issues" with the scheme. The Fund was announced back in January, to provide up to £25,000 to farmers affected by Storm Henck to go towards repairs to their land. Four months later, this week the Government opened that fund to applications...and almost immediately some farmers reported problems... </p><p>We are still in the midst of the worst Avian Flu outbreak we have ever seen - the highly infectious strain of the virus has reached every continent except Australia. Now, dairy cows on several farms in the USA have been infected with bird flu and a farm worker there has also tested positive. We hear from a virologist about what it could mean for farmers here.</p><p>And who should decide whether an area of land is of such great environmental importance it should be given legal protection? Currently, it's the Government’s advisor for the natural environment "Natural England", which has the power to designate Sites of Special Scientific Interest. But a group of Conservative MPs wants that to change - with the final decision being made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs instead.</p><p>Presented by Caz Graham Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons</p>

  • 12/04/24 Financial impact of extreme weather on farms, sustainable pork labelling, upland sheep farming vs conservation.

    <p>A new report has put a price on how much the changing climate is affecting farmers. Commissioned by WWF Cymru, looking specifically at Wales, it estimates that extreme weather events are already costing farms tens of millions of pounds a year. Can hill farming and conservation work together? Since taking over the tenancy of a Lake District farm in 2011, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has drastically reduced the number of sheep grazing on the hills, focusing instead on nature and land restoration. It's been a controversial move, attracting some fierce criticism. Labelling on pork products is not particularly helpful for people wanting to make informed choices about what to buy; that's according to what's been described as the largest study of its kind by researchers at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Sao Paulo. They evaluated different methods of pig farming, assessing each systems' impact on biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, use of antibiotics and animal welfare, and found that none of the farm types performed consistently well across all four areas.</p><p>Presented by Steffan Messenger and produced by Beatrice Fenton.</p>

Agri Assist

  • In the know: Our summary of the impending changes to direct support that Brexit will bring.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: The Government announces that levels of farm debt are rising. Some fare better than others.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Feed-in Tariff to close.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Read our summary of the recent case of Moore v Moore that is another cautionary tale about proprietary estoppel.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Read our summary of the recent case of Wild v Wild, which concerns whether or not an asset is owned by a partnership or an individual partner.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: The law regarding plant nurseries and national non-domestic rates is clarified.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Read our summary of the recent case of Gee v Gee, concerning proprietary estoppel.
  • Agri Assist launches In the know​​​​​​​ to keep those working in the rural sector up to date with the latest cases and relevant issues.
  • ... as is! Our new sister website aimed at helping farms and rural businesses is here at
  • Agri Assist is born. We are delighted to launch our site dedicated to helping rural businesses in financial difficulty.