Farming Today

Farming Today

United Kingdom

The latest news about food, farming and the countryside


Animal welfare, Bristol veterinary school, Inside an abattoir, Kosher and halal rules for animal slaughter  

Experts from the University of Bristol Veterinary School explain how they are researching into methods aimed at improving animal welfare on the farm. An examination of the ethics involved in kosher and halal slaughter of animals. And a report from inside Scotland's largest slaughterhouse Presented by Charlotte Smith Produced by Alun Beach.

German government meat ban, US animal welfare standards, New broccoli research  

Why a meat-free diet is becoming a controversial issue in the German elections. Charlotte Smith speaks to the BBC's Berlin correspondent, Damien McGuinness. He explains that earlier this week, Barbara Henricks, Germany's environment minister, announced that the government would be instituting a ban on meat at official functions held by the Ministry of Environment, citing the environmental burden of meat production as the reason for the ban. However, not everyone's happy. Currently the UK is importing more than 50% of the fruit and veg we eat. So, the discovery by scientists of a new strain of broccoli which doesn't need a cold winter to produce the 'florets' we eat, could make broccoli growing in the UK all-year round. That would reduce imports and make us more self-sufficient. Anna Hill reports from the John Innes Centre to meet Dr Judith Irwin, the scientist who discovered this - quite by chance! Defra's Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, has assured UK farmers and consumers that imports of food from the united states post-Brexit will not lead to a reduction in food quality or welfare standards in Britain. We've heard garish descriptions of US beef reared with growth hormones and their chicken meat routinely washed in chlorine, so as we've spent the week looking at animal welfare standards here - we thought we'd find out what the standards are there. Dena Jones is Director of the Animal Welfare Institute in the States, which campaigns on this issue. She explains that there are virtually no national legal standards in the US for animals raised for food. Also, while many of Britain's farmers are this morning dealing with the effects of Storm Doris, one in Cumbria is taking a big step towards making his business more resilient, after it was badly hit by Storm Desmond, almost 15 months ago. Raisgill Hall near Tebay was damaged by river flooding that swept through the lambing-shed, and thousands of tons of mud that slid down a hillside behind, and into the farmyard. The farmer, Steve Dunning, has just built a new lambing shed, about 300 metres away across the valley AND 20 metres higher up - well out of reach of any future flood waters. BBC Radio Cumbria's John Bowness went to meet him as Steve prepared to move his flock into their new home. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

Halal and stunning livestock; Green Party vision for farming post-Brexit; Business Rates  

Can the killing of animals without stunning be humane? All this week on Farming Today we've been talking about animal welfare in farming. On Tuesday we visited Scotland's biggest abattoir to find out if animals suffer at the point of death. There, as is standard practice across the UK, animals are stunned before slaughter. But some religious groups don't allow that: for some strict Jews or Muslims animals must be killed without stunning. Sally Challoner hears about the strict Kosher and Halal rules that require the animal to be alive at the moment of death, and how stunning can stop the heart, particularly with the equipment used on larger animals like cattle. So far we haven't heard much detail on the government plans for rural Britain post-Brexit. Although we understand that 25 year plans for both the environment and food and farming have been written and are ready to be launched DEFRA hasn't yet released them. Into the void steps the Green Party which has commissioned two reports and come up with 'radical plans' to shape the future of farming: scrapping direct payments based on land, paying farmers for safeguarding or improving the environment and introducing VAT on meat. Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South-West of England, tells Charlotte Smith why payments need to be for the good of all. Rural businesses in England are readying themselves for what's being described as "the largest changes to business rates in a generation" As you're probably aware businesses across the country are up in arms about this, as it's the first rise in seven years and so in many places will be quite a jump. Beccy Barr reports. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

NFU Conference 2017  

Anna Hill is at the NFU Conference in Birmingham, where farmers were hoping for more details of a post-agricultural agricultural policy from the keynote speaker, the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom. In the event the only new announcement was the promise of a 75% bridging payment for farmers who haven't had their EU subsidy by the end of March. Mark Smalley asks a major poultry farmer whether British animal welfare standards could be compromised if the UK reaches a trade deal with other countries where standards are lower. Produced by Sally Challoner.

Council Tenant Farm sell-off, annual organic report & animal welfare in the slaughterhouse  

Herefordshire County Council is selling off its entire stock of farms, despite a report it commissioned, which advised against doing so. A report published by the Soil Association, which supports organic farming, shows sales of organic food have risen, but aren't yet back up to pre-recession levels. And Farming Today visits a slaughterhouse as part of a week long look at farm animal welfare. Presented by Anna Hill Produced by Alun Beach.

UK sugar beet industry and farm animal welfare  

It's a sweet time for sugar beet farmers, according to an industry leader, not just because he predicts an excellent harvest but also he says he sees enormous opportunities in the coming year. Also the RSPCA tells Farming Today it would like to see farm subsidies redirected towards improving animal welfare when the UK leaves the European Union. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe Produced by Alun Beach.

Farming Today This Week - Care in the countryside  

Can health and social care in rural areas ever be as good as the services available in big towns and cities? Some think that isolated communities, higher costs and an older population put rural dwellers at a disadvantage when it comes to GP provision, hospitals, social care, mental health support and public transport. While the Government insists that local decisions determine where social care budgets are spent, increasingly volunteers, community groups and charity have helped keep some services going. In the Shropshire village of Prees, the community faced losing its family doctors' surgery when the resident GP retired and the building reverted to being a private home. Then a local businessman came forward to fund a new medical centre staffed by NHS doctors. Ray Grocott also used his pension pot to build eight bungalows for over-75s in need of new homes. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe. Produced by Vernon Harwood.

Irish police farm raid, Archers symposium, James Herriot in Moscow and retired farmers  

A cross border police raid in Ireland looking for evidence of stolen livestock, a university conference discussing issues on the radio soap opera the Archers, an exhibition devoted to the author and vet James Herriot has opened in a Moscow museum and a report on sheltered housing provision for retired farmers in Scotland Presented by Paul Murphy Produced by Alun Beach.

Rural mental health; Rabbit farming  

This week Farming Today examines care in a rural environment, today mental health is in the spotlight. We hear from the young wife of a farmer who took his own life and how she has set up a charity in his name to help others. And a row over a proposed rabbit farm highlights how the planning system can cloud the real issues, that two sides should communicate better to ensure farming is of a high welfare standard. Presented by Paul Murphy Produced by Alun Beach.

Icelandic Fishing Strike, Community Hospitals and Tenant Farmers in Cambridgeshire  

A strike by Iceland's trawler crews is having a knock-on effect in Grimsby, with a 90% drop in the amount of fish being brought into the town for processing. There are now fears of UK job losses, supply shortages and a rise in the price of fish and chips. Questions are being raised over the quality of care offered to NHS patients in rural areas. With some community hospitals closing and a move to treat more people in their own homes, there are worries that social isolation and unsuitable housing will hamper recovery. Council-owned farms have been sold off in many areas recently but it appears that Cambridgeshire is bucking the trend. Eight tenancies are on offer on the county council's estate at the moment as the authority insists it has a long-term commitment to agriculture. Presented by Caz Graham. Produced by Vernon Harwood.

Sheep Worrying, Rural Bus Routes and Disused Oil Rigs  

Dog attacks on sheep could be putting a financial strain on farmers after figures point to a rise in insurance claims from livestock owners. NFU Mutual says sheep worrying is at record levels and the full cost to the industry could be approaching £1.5 million. The loss of bus services in rural areas has been a concern for decades but could routes run and funded by the users be the way forward? In some places community transport schemes are filling the gap left by councils or bus companies and already they account for 8 million journeys a year. As oil rigs in the North Sea come to the end of their useful life, environmental groups are divided over what should happen to the huge structures. Some want them removed from the waters off the coast of Scotland while others say leaving them could actually benefit the eco-system. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe. Produced by Vernon Harwood.

Rural care, geothermal heating and cider making  

What sort of social and healthcare services can people living in rural areas realistically expect, and how do these services compare with those available to people living in towns and cities? Farming Today begins a week of reports on the issue. A study in Worcestershire examines whether geothermal energy - water heated miles below the surface of the earth - can be used to heat homes and businesses. And what's the difference between cider and cyder? Presented by Charlotte Smith Produced by Alun Beach.

Farming Today This Week: Agricultural Imports and Exports  

What does Brexit mean for UK agricultural imports and exports? Charlotte Smith visits Royal Portbury Docks near Bristol to find out as she learns about the scale of animal feed imports and grain exports. James Reeson is Bristol Port Company's manager for agricultural goods, and demonstrates the vast scale of their import / export operation. walking her through some of Europe's largest sheds, which will receive high protein soya feed from North and South America and many other livestock feedstuffs. Charlotte also meets David Doyle, Trade Export Manager for Openfield, a coop that exports UK grain via Portbury Docks. All of this is against the backdrop of Brexit and the unknowns it carries. Government figures show exports of agricultural products are worth £18 billion a year to the UK, with Ireland, France the USA and the Netherlands our biggest markets. Whisky, salmon, cheese and lamb our most popular products. But in most areas we import more than we export - the exception is drinks, thanks largely to the export figures for Scotch whisky. 'Fruit and vegetables' has the largest trade deficit. Defra figures show that in 2015 imports cost £9.1 billion while exports were worth £1.0 billion, giving a trade gap of £8.0 billion. As we've been hearing recently, when those imports don't happen, lettuces and other vegetables get rationed. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

Avian flu, Billy goat meat, Brexit imports and exports  

The rules put in place because of the bird flu outbreak are changing at the end of the month and we assess the impact on two neighbouring farms, one will return to free range the other's birds remain cooped up. Demand for goats milk and cheese is growing here in the UK, but what to do with the unwanted Billy goats? Farming Today reports from a farm raising them for meat. And a farmer who produces 3m head of lettuce a week explains how he will deal with the demands of exporting and importing his produce post Brexit. Presented by Charlotte Smith Produced by Alun Beach.

Welsh Brexit row, Cider exports, NFU neonicotinoid application, Natural Capital Committee report  

The Welsh agriculture committee is angry about a perceived snub by the UK farming minister George Eustice, Farming Today reports on the difficulties surrounding exporting cider, the NFU makes another application to use neonicotinoids to control pests and the Natural Capital Committee releases its report advising the government on managing the environment post Brexit Presented by Charlotte Smith Produced by Alun Beach.

Farmers struggling to recruite migrant workers, New NFUS President, Wild boar in Forest of Dean  

UK farmers struggling to recruit migrant workers are offering improved accommodation, such as plush caravans and BBQs. Linsey Smith meets the Lincolnshire farmers who're upping their offer in order to entice the dwindling numbers to work on their farms. Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that she's setting up an expert group to look at farm support after Brexit. NFU Scotland has just appointed their new President, Andrew McCornick, who farms in Dumfries - and it might be a bit of a baptism of fire. He joined me from the NFUS conference. I asked him how confident he is that Scottish farmers will get their voice heard. As Brexit approaches, British farmers and food producers are considering the potential for our exports and the threat of more imports. It's something we're looking at all this week on Farming Today. Even some comparatively small nations have managed to find a significant place on the world market for their food, as illustrated by farmers in Tanzania. They've teamed up with a not-for-profit foundation, funded by a multi-national trading company, to supply goods to the Americas, Asia and Europe: including the UK. Our reporter Anna Jones has been traveling through East Africa on her Nuffield Scholarship. She joined the foundation's boss Poorva Pandya, and her field work team, in a remote region of Tanzania. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Mark Smalley.

Bird flu restrictions flouted  

Farming Today has uncovered evidence of backyard flocks still being allowed to roam free, despite the government ruling that all poultry must be housed, because of the threat of avian flu. There have been eight outbreaks of the disease over the last three months, with thousands of birds destroyed to prevent it spreading. Since December all poultry keepers, whether commercial or back-yard, have had to house their birds indoors. There is a potentially unlimited fine for those who flout the law. Sally Challoner has been to the Brecon Beacons to hear how sheep farmers are hoping to future-proof their businesses for a world outside the European Single Market. Many fear an influx of cheaper New Zealand or Australian lamb imports as the UK negotiates new trade deals. But one farmer believes Welsh Lamb will be able to compete if it's marketed here as superior in quality, taste and welfare standards. And an energy company has threatened to take the National Trust to court over its refusal to allow the company to test for shale gas on its land. Ineos Shale wants to test the site at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, but the Trust says it disagrees with fracking for shale. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Sally Challoner.

Livestock health and fewer disease surveillance centres in England; food import and exports after Brexit  

Farmers and vets say they're concerned that government cuts to disease surveillance centres are leaving livestock vulnerable. DEFRA has closed 7 regional 'disease surveillance centres' and is cutting £80 million from the animal health budget. Some claim less surveillance means more risk of diseases spreading across the country before they're spotted - particularly new and exotic strains. Jon Cuthill from BBC South's Inside Out programme has been investigating. All this week on Farming Today we're looking at the UK's agricultural imports and exports. Government figures show exports of agricultural products are worth 18 billion pounds a year to the UK, with Ireland, France the USA and the Netherlands our biggest markets... and whisky, salmon, cheese and lamb our most popular products. But in most areas we import far more than we export - the exception is drinks, thanks largely to the export figures for Scotch whisky. Charlotte Smith speaks to Simon Ward of The Policy Group, an organisation that uses policy and pricing analysis to develop theories on how Brexit might impact the agricultural industry. A new test is being developed, which can identify TB infection from the blood, or milk, of cows. If it works as expected this is obviously big news in the fight against bovine TB, which costs £100 million a year and has led in England to the controversial culling of badgers. The test is being developed by The University of Nottingham and its also hoped it will solve the problem of differentiating between vaccinated and infected cattle. Dr Cath Rees, Associate Professor in Microbiology at the University of Nottingham, tells Charlotte why this is a new approach. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

Sheep Industry  

Charlotte Smith is on a sheep farm on the edge of the Brecon Beacons to assess the health of the UK sheep industry. She meets farmers Kate and Jim Beavan who are currently lambing 1400 ewes on their land just outside Abergavenny. It's the busiest time of year for sheep farmers, and keeping the ewes and lambs healthy is a top priority. We hear from the marketing manager at the levy organisation Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), Rhys Llewellyn, who talks about the potential difficulties of achieving a good trade deal for Welsh Lamb post Brexit. The Beavans' vet Vicky Fisher is also on the farm to talk about the recent threat from the midge-born disease Schmallenberg. It's not been seen in the UK for several years but there are fears that it's taking hold again. Schmallenberg causes lambs either to abort, or to be born with terrible deformities. Charlotte also has a go on Kate Beavan's lambing simulator - and finds it's not as easy as it looks! Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Sally Challoner.

Europe's reforming the CAP - again; Potato seed storage; Welsh sheepdogs  

Europe's reforming the CAP - again, just two years since the last reform. Charlotte Smith asks whether we should care. But with Brexit looming, maybe UK farmers should pay particular attention to the detail since, once outside the Single Market, they may well be wanting to sell into it. The international seed bank in Norway - which preserves the most essential and important seeds from around the world - received its first deposit of plant genetics from a UK institution: potato seeds from the James Hutton Institute. The samples from the institute's Commonwealth Potato Collection were sealed up and sent to the facility in Svalbard, which holds the world's largest collection of crop genetic material. BBC Scotland Science Correspondent Ken MacDonald went along to learn more about the importance of potato preservation. As part of our look at the sheep industry, today we consider the humble Welsh Sheepdog. 20 years ago, the breed had almost died out, but thanks to a specialised identification and breeding programme, numbers are starting to increase. Mariclare Carey-Jones has been to meet the Secretary of the Welsh Sheepdog Society, Adeline Jones. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

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