Farming Today

Farming Today

United Kingdom

The latest news about food, farming and the countryside


Farming Today This Week: Weather  

Charlotte Smith is at the Wallingford Monitoring Station in Oxfordshire, run by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. It's been collecting weather data daily for more than fifty years - wind speed, rainfall, sunshine hours, temperature of the air and soil. The information is used to assess long term weather trends, and to inform farmers and others. The centre is also part of a new project using cosmic rays to measure soil moisture over large areas of land. Data is collected from a growing network of stations installed across the UK, and can then be used to predict water availability, and the likelihood of flooding. Caz Graham catches up with a farmer who's land was flooded during Storm Desmond a year ago. And Nancy Nicolson meets a hardy shepherd in the mountains of Scotland where the weather affects everything they do. Produced by Sally Challoner.

Renewable energy in Scotland's Western Isles; sheep farmers respond to PETA's anti-wool campaign.  

Making money from the weather. Will wind energy still pay its way in rural areas despite the drop in subsidies, asks Charlotte Smith. Not, perhaps, in Scotland's Western Isles. A betrayal. That's how political leaders in the Western Isles see the decision to block subsidies for onshore wind there. A fresh consultation was announced last month at Westminster on support for renewables in the islands which could lead to a one billion pound investment. BBC Scotland's rural affairs correspondent Kevin Keane reports from Lewis. This week on Farming Today we're focussing on the ONE thing farmers can't change, but nonetheless famously endlessly moan and commiserate over - the weather! But for some the weather is less of a challenge and more of a resource. Sun and wind can offer farmers an opportunity to create energy. Initially the Government offered incentives to encourage the take-up of renewable energy, though those have changed Merlin Hyman - chief executive of Regen South West, which specialises in renewables, told me that UK weather systems still offer massive potential for untapped power generation. Farmers in the UK have said that a campaign by an animal welfare charity urging people NOT to wear wool is misguided - and could actually end up causing harm to sheep. People for the ethical treatment of Animals, PETA - says people shouldn't wear wool because the animals are treated cruelly. But those that farm them say that if they are NOT shorn, they could well die. BBC South's Environment Correspondent Yvette Austin reports. Among the unexpected things you learn whilst listening to Farming Today: did you know, for example, that in their larval stage, fresh water mussels are free swimming, and rely on sheltering in the gills of fish such as brown trout? Despite that rather clever evolutionary trick - fresh water pearl mussels are struggling in many of England's streams and rivers because of climate change and pollution. BBC South West's Environment Correspondent, Adrian Campbell, has been given exclusive access to some pioneering work in Devon which aims to change that. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

Avian flu arrives in Europe  

Avian Flu arrives in mainland Europe leading to lock-down among poultry farmers and how weather forecasting can help farmers prepare for all conditions. Poultry farmers are keeping their birds indoors after the Government ordered precautionary measures to protect against the spread of the H5N8 strain of bird flu. The disease has been found in poultry and wild birds in 14 European countries, including France, and while the risk to humans is very low there are fears that it could spread to the Uk's birds. The restrictions will be in force for 30 days. This poses challenges for farmers whose free range flocks would usually be largely outside. We hear from William Brisborne who farms geese and turkeys at Nesscliffe in North Shropshire. Moira Burnett is from the British Poultry Council and she explains how the restrictions are affecting farmers and their birds. Anna Hill visits Weatherquest UK at the University of East Anglia to discover how science and forecasting can assist farmers to plan for their agricultural operations: when to sew, when to spray, when to harvest etc. We'll also hear how two farmers from Oxfordshire will be taking their cattle for a blessing in front of St Pauls Cathedral before leading a procession down Ludgate, along Fleet Street to St Bride's Church as part of a seasonal celebration, which will feature cattle, lambs, chickens and farmers from all over the country. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

Deforestation in England, Possible sprout shortage, women in NFUS & farming in high hills  

The Woodland Trust fears that England is slipping towards becoming deforested and a moth is attacking Brussel Sprout crops just weeks before the vegetable's big day! Also today. Member of the Scottish Parliament, Kate Forbes has called for female candidates to step forward for nomination to high up posts in the National Farmers Union for Scotland. The closing date for nominations is Monday 12th December and so there is still time for women farmers to enter the contest. There are fears that we could be faced with a Brussel sprout shortage as over the summer a small moth attacked crops in the fields of Lincolnshire. The majority of brussel sprouts are grown in Lincolnshire and there are fears that supermarkets may have tom import extra sprouts to the UK to make up for the shortfall. All this week we're looking at how the weather affects farmers and agriculture and today Nancy Nicholson meets Paulo Berardelli. Paulo farms in the Scottish Highlands and Nancy discovers how Paulo copes with the wide range of weather conditions that he has to face in the mountains, from high amounts of rainfall to plenty of snow. And there are fears that England maybe slipping towards deforestation. The Woodland Trust and Confor, the trade association for the UK forestry industry, fear that development is leading to large amounts of woodland being felled at a faster rate than it is being planted. Currently only 7 hundred hectares a year are being planted, well below the target of around 5 thousand hectares. Forest cover in the UK is 13%, whilst in England it's 10% - across Europe the average figure is 38%. Anna Hill talks to Austin Brady from the Woodland Trust to find out what can be done. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

Security alpacas, Tackling nitrogen pollution and 12 months on since the Cumbria floods  

A global initiative has been launched to tackle nitrogen pollution. British scientists will lead the $60 million project which aims to find ways to reduce excessive use of nitrogen - it is vital for life on earth, but when released in large quantities it can be highly polluting. Professor Mark Sutton is from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. He's leading the project and told Anna Hill why it's important to manage nitrogen pollution. At the CLA conference in London today farmers and business owners will outline challenges ahead for the rural economy as we move through Brexit. Ross Murray, president of the Country Land and Business Association explains the challenges ahead to Anna. It's a year on from the most extreme winter floods on record to hit the UK and Caz Graham meets Sue Tyson who farms in Cumbria. She was badly affected by the floods and Caz has been to visit her to see how the farm has recovered, and we meet the farmer who has employed a different type of security guard to protect his Christmas turkeys: alpacas. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

Technology, Bees, Our obsession with the weather  

All this week Farming Today looks at the weather and how farmers prepare for the best and worst conditions that elements throw at them. Charlotte Smith talks to weather forecaster from the BBC Weather Centre, John Hammond, and asks him what farmers can do to mitigate ill effects of bad weather and how forecasting is a vital tool for the agricultural industry. We also feature Croptec: an annual exhibition where farmers can discover the latest breakthroughs in technology to help them farm and improve yields. Professor Riccardo Bommarco is from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He explains to Charlotte the role honeybees play alongside other insect pollinators. According to a recent study, Honeybees can squeeze out other pollinators like bumblebees and hoverflies. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

Farming Today This Week: Pig industry, research at Leeds University's farm  

Charlotte Smith visits Leeds University's Pig Research Farm. Professor Helen Miller explains why the new investment they're receiving will help improve standards in the UK pig industry. Since 40% of the UK herd is raised outdoors Professor Miller argues in favour of research being undertaken to support best practice for outdoor pigs, not just those reared indoors. We hear from the pressure group 'Farms not Factories' who are campaigning against what they describe as 'industrial' pig farming, and the discomfort they say it inflicts upon pigs. Reporter Nancy Nicholson hears from a Scottish pig farmer who's encouraged by the opening of a new abattoir in the north-east of the country, the heart of Scotland's pig production. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

The ancient art of letter-writing and Britain's oldest breed of pig  

Today its all about the old fashioned art of letter writing, and we meet the oldest recorded breed of pig in Britain. The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee has written to Chief Executive of the Rural Payments Agency, Mark Grimshaw, to remind him of his pledge that 90% of farmers' Basic Payments Scheme claims in England will be paid by the end of this month. Some farmers are still waiting for last year's money. Neil Parish MP and Guy Smith from the National Farmers Union voice their concerns on the Rural Payments Agency, hoping that this year the money will arrive on time. This week we've been focusing on the pig industry and today Beatrice Fenton meets with Sue Fildes on her farm near Dartmouth in Devon. Sue farms Berkshire pigs. They're oldest breed in Britain and they're now becoming popular in Japan. Also in the programme, the UK's 4 farming unions, along with 71 leading food businesses have written to the Times to set out their stall on Brexit. In it they voice their concerns regarding import and export tariffs and they want continued access to an EU workforce. Presenter: Charlotte Smith Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.


The latest news about food, farming and the countryside. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Sally Challoner.

Pig exports post-Brexit, New Scottish salmon hatchery, Dairy Crest research  

The Brexit effect, sterling and pork exports: Anna Hill hears the outlook for UK pork producers. She speaks to Jean-Pierre Garnier, head of meat exports at AHDB. Last month the DEFRA Secretary Andrea Leadsom highlighted the government's International Action Plan for Food and Drink at the SIAL food trade show in Paris. She identified nine markets across 18 countries for British farming to look at including China, where further growth in pork exports will be sought, as well as India, USA and Canada, China and the Gulf. But will this really mean doors can open for pig meat exports, against tight competition from other EU countries, who may have more clout because they are able to negotiate along side other EU member states? One of Scotland's largest energy companies has just spent three quarters of a million pounds building a new fish hatchery - which will help preserve salmon stocks in one of the finest angling areas in the Highlands. The hatchery in Ross-shire north of Inverness, will produce millions of fry. Scottish and Southern Energy say they've made the investment because their hydro-electric dams bar the way to historic spawning grounds for the fish. BBC Scotland's Craig Anderson reports. One of Britain's leading dairy processors has turned to Harper Adams University in Shropshire to help them develop new products. Dairy Crest has invested four million pounds in a brand new research centre which has already produced a spreadable version of Cathedral City cheese and a new recipe for Clover made with no artificial ingredients. David Gregory-Kumar reports. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Mark Smalley.

The Welsh meat industry needs the single market, says marketing group chairman  

Welsh lamb producers say no entry to the European single market could spell disaster to a brand which is respected world wide. A new report describes how bees should be considered an essential part of farming, not a wildlife add-on. The University of Leeds is set to become one of the world's leading pig research facilities, thanks to £7m of new investment into its farm near Tadcaster. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

Tenant farmer evicted on Isle of Arran; pig industry survey; bee research  

Sybil Ruscoe hears from the Scottish tenant farmers who're being forced off their farm today. BBC Scotland Editor, Sarah Smith, explains why the Patersons on the Isle of Arran have to go. It's due to an anomaly in a law passed in 2003, and seven other tenant farmers will be forced out in the future. All this week, Farming Today's looking at the pig industry. Alistair Driver, editor of Pig World, gives his view of the key issues the sector's currently facing, with markets and prices being uppermost. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe and produced by Mark Smalley.

Farming Today This Week - Innovation in British alcohol  

The British spend £40 billion per year on alcohol with more than half that total going on wine and spirits. It's a growth industry with new vineyards, distilleries and micro-breweries opening all over the UK in recent years. It's the enterprising and innovative producers who are attracting the most attention; the traditional cider houses, a Dorset farmer making milk vodka and the East Anglian distillers using ants to create gin. At the Poulton Hill Estate near Cirencester this year has seen a bumper crop of grapes which are already in the process of being made in to wine. The crop has spent the last two months fermenting in the winery at the Three Choirs Vineyard at Newent. But just what goes in to making English wine to rival the best from France? Presented by Sybil Ruscoe. Produced by Vernon Harwood.

Lord Plumb on farming's future, Nuffield Scholars conference, Ant gin, Juniper crop  

Veteran statesman of UK farming Lord Henry Plumb reflects on the industry's future. Having overseen the UK's entry into the EEC 40 years ago, he considers the years ahead as farmers prepare for a life without EU subsidies. Nuffield Farming Scholarships can be seen as a great opportunity for young farmers and it's their annual conference at the moment in Newcastle-upon Tyne. Scholars receive grants to visit different farm businesses around the world, which could benefit their businesses and the wider farming community. Anna Jones, BBC producer on Countryfile and Farming Today, and herself a current Nuffield scholar, reports from the conference. In parts of the world - and in the jungle on TV - eating insects is part of your diet - but what about drinking them? This week on Farming Today we're hearing about different kinds of UK-produced alcohol: we've already tasted vodka made from milk, beer that's brewed with bread and today we're serving up ant-flavoured gin! They're foraged in Kent and the acid the ant secretes is used as flavouring. Clare Worden has been finding out more at Cambridge Distillers. Also, Tommy Haughton of Beacon Commodities explains why there's a shortage of juniper berries this year, used to flavour gin, as the number of craft-distilleries in UK has doubled over the last six years to more than 230. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe and produced by Mark Smalley.

The Autumn Statement, Food Price Rises and Cider-making  

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has outlined the future for the British economy, but how much of his autumn statement will benefit farming and rural business? The Conservative MP for Wells, James Heappey claims the measures are too 'city-centric'. Now that winter is making its presence felt across the UK, livestock farmers are making sure their animals don't suffer too badly from the drop in temperatures and inclement weather conditions. One dairyman in the Northwest of England has come up with a unique way of keeping his calves warm. As former Sainsbury's CEO Justin King warns of supermarket price rises, Anna Hill finds out how likely the prediction will be. Although cider is considered a summer drink, English producers are at their busiest in their mills and cider works as autumn turns to winter. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Trish Campbell.

Rural Broadband, Bread Beer, Organic Farming in the USA  

Today the chancellor is expected to announce funding for faster broadband - but will rural areas miss out? We visit a brewery making beer made from wasted bread. One of the leading proponents of organic farming in the United States has said he is fighting a battle to save American farm soils. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

DEFRA bovine TB report, Boar contraceptive, Milk vodka  

The latest epidemiological report from DEFRA points to cattle movement as a significant cause of transfer of Bovine TB. It says that in the Midlands inward cattle movement accounted for the majority of cases of Bovine TB in beef fattener herds, and was the source of infection in a third of new cases in herds with fewer than 350 cattle. All this week we're looking at the Alcohol industry and today we hear from a farmer making Vodka from milk. Jason Barber was trying to work out how he could make two pence a litre more on his milk. In Siberia they make vodka from yak's milk, which is what gave him the idea. The curds and whey are separated; the curds go into making cheese and then they extract the milk sugar from the whey, which makes the vodka. Wild boar in the Forest of Dean are on the increase. The District Council is now urging Defra to take action, and some people believe contraceptive darts could be a solution. Communities in the south west, particularly Devon and Somerset, and parts of the north of England have been warned to be prepared for possible flooding and disruption. Nick Miller at the BBC Weather Centre tells us what we can expect from the rest of the week.

Rural housing crisis, British alcohol industry, Spraying drones  

A new report from the Campaign to Protect Rural England says that rural landowners could play a crucial role in solving England's rural housing crisis. This week we're focussing on alcohol all week. According to the Wine and Spirits Trade Association in the UK we spend £40 billion a year on alcohol, 21 billion of that on wine and spirits. We spoke to their chief executive Miles Beale to find out about current trends in the industry. Harper Adams University is trialling Britain's first crop spraying drone. BBC Midlands Rural affairs correspondent David Gregory-Kumar speaks to researcher John Gill who explains how the drone works.

Farming Today This Week: Food Safety  

Charlotte Smith is at Newlyn Farm Shop at Hook in Hampshire, to look into the safety of the food we buy. Here the food chain is short and traceable, as the beef, lamb and pork is reared on the farm and butchered on site. But across the UK there are incidents of food fraud and unsafe practices. We hear from a large poultry processing company which has invested £35m in new technology to tackle the bug which is the most common cause of food poisoning in Britain - campylobacter. Ben Jackson finds out what rules and regulations apply when you go from supplying meat to farmers markets, to supplying national supermarkets. And Anna Hill is at a food lab where scientists check DNA and other samples to find out where an animal was reared - even whether a chicken was intensively farmed or free range. We also hear from the head of Food Crime at the Food Standards Agency. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Sally Challoner.

Photosynthesis, Green gas, Food forensics  

Today scientists are unveiling what they describe as a breakthrough which could increase crop yields by 15%, simply by better harnessing the power of the sun. Researchers at Illinois University have used GM technology to improve photosynthesis - the process of converting sunlight into food. The renewable energy company Ecotricity is launching Green Gas Mills - aiming to create a network of anaerobic digesters all fed with grass and each producing biogas which would be put into the gas network. We speak to the company's founder Dale Vince. This week we've been taking a closer look at food standards and testing. Since the horse-gate scandal in 2013, retailers have been keen to back up the claims on their labels in-store, about where their food is from. So they now regularly send off samples to be tested in the lab. But how can a laboratory discover exactly where food is produced, and to what standard? Anna Hill went to meet Alison Johnson, managing director at Food Forensics, which uses the same techniques as police forensics and archaeological research to analyse food. For some British farmers growing bird seed is proving a useful additional crop. Nicholas Watts is a keen ornitholgist who farms in Lincolnshire, and his hobby turned into a business 20 years ago when he began growing small amounts of bird seed. Over the years, demand has grown and he's now giving several hundred acres of prime arable land to growing bird food. Howard Shannon reports. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Emily Hughes.

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