Farming Today

Farming Today

United Kingdom

The latest news about food, farming and the countryside


Reducing antibiotics in farming; the agricultural machinery industry; Nominations open for Food and Farming Awards  

As experts in the field of animal health work to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock, we hear from a dairy farmer who swears by giving his cows cider apple vinegar daily. It's believed by some to be a natural antiseptic and immune system booster - able to improve a cow's ability to fend off various ailments including mastitis and foot infections. It's a big issue, with a series of roadshows aimed at pig producers being held this month and it'll also be discussed at a dairy conference in Glasgow. The government wants the use of antibiotics in agriculture cut by a fifth. And nominations for this year's Food and Farming Awards are open - we hear from a judge what they're looking for, and why innovation is so important in food production. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Sally Challoner.

Farming Today This Week: National Parks  

The UK's National Parks serve a vital function, offering all kinds of outdoor recreation for visitors while preserving wild landscapes, but they're also working economies for farmers and rural businesses. Charlotte Smith visits the Brecon Beacons National Park, meeting farmers and staff, whilst trying some sledging in the freshly fallen snow. Chief Executive of Dartmoor National Park, Kevin Bishop, explains that England's National Parks received budget cuts of 43% over the last 5 years, but he says he's reassured that funding is assured for the next few years. We hear a report by Nancy Nicolson about calls for a new national park in Scotland's borders. And Charlotte speaks to two Brecon Beacons farmers, one young, one old, about their relationship with the national park. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

Neonics ban, Overfishing, Planning rules in National Parks  

The view that house building is all but impossible in the UK's national parks is a view that the parks themselves are keen to dispel - so much so, that Pembrokeshire for example has a page on its website dedicated to "planning myths". In Dartmoor National Park in Devon, over the last financial year around 90 per cent of housing extensions and listed building applications were approved, and the numbers of new, affordable homes within the park are creeping up. Fiona Clampin's been to visit a new development in the village of Christow where, unusually, 18 houses have been built to ultra-low energy, or Passivhaus, standards. Our oceans are critically overfished, and Brexit is a perfect opportunity to save our seas. Those are the conclusions of a team of marine biologists from the university of British Columbia. Professor Daniel Pauly has published findings that show the global fish catch is around 50% greater than official estimates over the last 60 years. He says he got to that figure by including all the catches that don't appear in official statistics, including illegal and small-scale fishing. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Sally Challoner.

Neonicotinoids latest; Black Top Milk; Proposed Borders National Park in Scotland  

A new report, commissioned by pesticide manufacturers, claims that a European moratorium on 'neonicotinoid' seed treatments costs the EU oilseed industry E900 million a year. Before the ban they were used to deter pests that attack oil seed rape crops. The new report says the loss is calculated from lower yields, and the addition of extra fertiliser and other pest controls. Neonicotinoids were banned by the EU in 2013 amid concerns that they harm pollinators like bees. Many conservationists want the ban to be made permanent. We hear from the European Crop Protection Association and Matt Shardlow of conservation charity Buglife who strongly contests the findings. All this week we're looking at the UK's national parks. Today, calls for more areas in Scotland to be designated as parks. Nancy Nicolson visits one such proposed site in the Borders and asks what impact this would have on those farming in those areas? And we cover the launch of a new dairy product giving farmers a greater return on milk from 'free range' cows, which spend most of their lives outdoors. 'Black top' milk is the idea of the Free Range Milk Marketing Board. They want to offer shoppers milk with a distinctive black cap which costs twenty five percent more than a standard bottle... with the extra money going direct to farmers. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Mark Smalley.

Dementia in farming families, hare coursing, Brexit negotiations for agricultural trade, the South Downs National Park  

New research published today by the University of Plymouth shows how farmers are affected by dementia. Farmers in Lincolnshire are taking action to stop illegal hare coursing. Sir Richard Packer, former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, describes how he thinks agriculture could be used as an important bargaining tool in future EU negotiations. Howard Shannon visits a vineyard in the South Downs National Park. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

New Roundup Study, Ash Dieback Research, Brecon Beacons National Park  

A new study shows liver disease in rats which have ingested very low levels of glyphosate. But is the science robust enough to re-assess one of the most widely-used weedkillers in the world? Ash trees have been threatened by the dieback fungus, but sequencing the ash tree genome has now shown the UK ash trees are distinctly different from their European and Scandanavian cousins, and are less susceptible to the disease than previously thought. All this week we are hearing stories from Britain's National Parks. Today, we're exploring the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

Avian Flu Housing Order extended; National Parks struggling with reduced funding; DIY broadband  

With the extension of the ban on keeping poultry outdoors until the end of February, poultry keepers count the cost. Caz Graham hears from chicken and turkey farmer Mark Gorton of Traditional Norfolk Poultry. You'll find them from the Highlands of Scotland, to the far west of Wales right down to the south coast representing the very finest British countryside - each year millions of people visit the UK's National Parks; the first one, the Peak District, was designated in 1951 and now there's a total of 15 of these protected landscapes. Their role differs slightly depending on where they are but broadly speaking they aim to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and heritage of an area for public benefit, and we'll be discussing them all this week on Farming Today. One of the biggest issues facing those who run National Parks is paying for them. The 10 National Parks in England are funded by central government and Fiona Howie from the charity Campaign for National Parks tells Caz about the impact of the severe cuts. Producer: Mark Smalley.

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017  

Caz Graham reports from the 2017 Oxford Real Farming Conference, where she speaks to farmers and food campaigners, hearing that farm life beyond Brexit is a common concern. Coilin Nunan of the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics argues that the use of drugs in poultry and pig farming needs to be reduced, while Lynne Davis of the Open Food Network argues that food producers need to receive more of the profits made by agribusiness and the supermarkets. Down the road in a keynote debate at the Oxford Farming Conference about life beyond Brexit, environmental campaigner George Monbiot likens the UK's withdrawl from the EU to a drunk being thrown out from a pub whle carrot farmer Guy Poskett argues strongly for the need to retain foreign workers. Producer: Mark Smalley.

Oxford Farming Conferences  

Caz Graham asks the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom why she hasn't revealed more details of a post-Brexit agricultural policy, six months after the Referendum. Ms Leadsom was addressing the Oxford Farming Conference, one of two major industry events in the city this week. The other is the Oxford Real Farming Conference, which more concerned with small-scale, sustainable farming. We also hear from farming leaders from the four devolved nations about what they'd like to see in a British agricultural policy. And Mark Smalley has been to the Oxford Real Farming Conference to gauge reaction to Ms Leadsom's speech. Produced by Sally Challoner.

Chemicals to Control Salmon Parasites  

This week we'll be reporting from the Oxford Farming Conference. Today we hear about the first ever joint session held together by the Oxford Farming Conference with the Oxford Real Farming Conference which is also held in the city and offers an alternative agenda to the main conference by focusing on sustainability and new ideas. A report published this morning by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says protection for wildlife and habitats could become weaker after the UK leaves the European Union. The Committee's calling on the Government to take action before triggering Article 50 and to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act to maintain the country's strong environmental standards. We speak to Labour MP Kerry McCarthy to find out why she thinks new legislation is necessary. Farmed salmon is Scotland's largest food export, if you don't count whisky, with a worldwide retail value of over a billion pounds. But as the salmon farming industry in Scotland grows, so too has the use of chemicals to treat the parasites like lice that live on the fish. Data from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency suggests that there's been a tenfold increase in chemical use in salmon farming over the last ten years leading one campaigner to describe Scottish Farmed salmon as 'toxic'. In response the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation told us that they only use safe and fully approved veterinary medicines. They told us that all medicines are applied under strict veterinary supervision and application is tightly regulated with SEPA's official consent. Presented by Caz Graham and Produced by Emily Hughes.

Oxford Real Farming Conference  

Caz Graham explores some of the issues at this year's Oxford Real Farming Conference, which aims to offer agro ecological solutions to common farming challenges. Sally Challoner visits Devon to see the progress on a cooperative smallholding leased to three families by the Ecological Land Cooperative; And we hear from Graham Harvey - agricultural advisor to the Archers - on why the story farmers tell from field to fork matters now more than ever. Presented by Caz Graham and produced by Sally Challoner.

Oxford Farming Conference  

Caz Graham finds out what some farmers are doing to 'thrive' in 2017. It's the theme of this year's Oxford Farming Conference, one of the biggest events in the agricultural calendar. Young farmers' clubs in Scotland have been holding meetings to help members focus on how best to future-proof their businesses. Nancy Nicolson has been to the Borders to meet two young farming friends who've been making changes to their contrasting livestock and arable enterprises in order to make them profitable. And Ben Jackson meets Wil Armitage, who'll tell the Oxford Farming Conference that looking after your soil makes financial sense too. Presented by Caz Graham and produced by Sally Challoner.

Farming Today This Week: Agricultural Policy Post-Brexit  

Charlotte Smith hosts a panel of expert guests to discuss what a British Agricultural Policy might look like post-Brexit: They are Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee; Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF); and Guy Smith, Vice Chair of the National Farmers Union. We also hear from listeners who've responded to our calls for ideas. Many say farmers should still receive subsidies post-Brexit, but in return for environmental stewardship work.

Weather Forecasting and Farming  

Former BBC weatherman Peter Gibbs is on a mission to better understand how farmers use weather forecasts. He meets arable farmer James Price to discuss his expectations from forecasts and how they influence his decisions on farm. To help James understand the current capabilities and challenges of weather forecasting science, Peter takes him to the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading. Dr Rob Thompson is working with radar to improve the detail of very short term rainfall forecasts up to a couple of hours ahead - information that would be very useful to farmers. Peter also talks to Dr Jeff Knight at the Met Office about the advances being made in the accuracy of seasonal forecasts up to months ahead. Producer: Sophie Anton.

Remote Island Farmer  

Sally Challoner meets Alasdair Wyllie - the farm advisor heading out to work on the world's most remote inhabited island, Tristan da Cunha. With a population of less than 300 people the island has a largely subsistence agricultural system. Alasdair hopes to improve their food sustainability and security. His contract is for two years. We also meet the man who did the same job forty years earlier. Gavin Jack now lives in Australia but has fond memories of his time on Tristan. The island itself is half way between South Africa and South America - more than 6,000 miles from Britain. It's volcanic, and in the 1960's the entire population had to be brought to the UK following an eruption that threatened the settlement. Produced by Sally Challoner.

The £1 Farm  

Vernon Harwood meets the new tenant who's taken over a National Trust-owned farm in North Wales - for £1 a year. Thirty-eight year old Dan Jones from Anglesey will be required to look after the land and it's fragile landscape on the Great Orme near Llandudno. The Trust bought the site when it was threatened with development as a golf course. The site has rare habitats and species, some of which the charity says exist nowhere else on earth. Mr Jones shows Vernon around this precious site.

Farming Chaplain  

Sybil Ruscoe meets the Rev Canon Eileen Davies. She's a dairy and sheep farmer in West Wales, as well as a rural vicar covering four parishes. Eileen says her farming background helps her to understand the issues around farming in the modern age - from isolation and mental health issues to economic worries and bovine TB. Eileen has also set up a charity - Tir Dewi - with the Bishop of St David's. It aims to offer support and a listening ear for those in farming and those associated with the agricultural industry. We catch up with Eileen at Carmarthen Livestock Mart where she is also on hand to offer rural ministry.

Music from bees; Dormouse monitoring; Milk stands calendar  

Phillipa Hall has been to Nottingham Trent University where scientists have been monitoring the sounds that bees make in the hive. They've been gathered using tiny sensors embedded in the honeycomb. Now the sounds have been set to music and have featured in a live orchestral concert. Graham Barlow is in the Yorkshire Dales where conservationists are monitoring the success of a dormice reintroduction programme. And Caz Graham finds out about the history of milk stands. They've been consigned to history, but are now being featured in a calendar produced by an artist in the Lake District. Presented by Caz Graham and produced by Sally Challoner.

Farming Today This Week: Farm-made Christmas Gifts  

Caz Graham takes a look at how farms are making and selling products for the Christmas market. She visits Low Sizergh farm in Kendal who have a busy farm shop selling all manner of produce from local farms. During our visit the owners Alison and Richard Park had recently had upsetting news that a handful of campylobacter cases have been linked to their raw milk vending machine. They tell Caz about the investigation by the Food Standards Agency and discuss the health and safety regulations for raw milk and how they move on from here. Also in the programme we hear from a goose farmer who collects the feathers to make pillows, a craftswoman who breeds sheep especially for their colourful wool and a fruit farmer who produces festive liqueurs.

Council farms, bird flu update, Sloe Gin made on farm  

The Tenant Farmers Association is calling for county councils not to sell off their farm estates. It comes as Cambridgeshire council takes on MORE tenants, bucking a national trend. Around half of the UK's council farms have been sold off over the last thirty years, often to plug holes in council budgets. But some authorities are making a profit on their farm estates, and TFA chief executive George Dunn says the government should take more of an interest in what he says is a national asset. Ben Jackson has been to a farm in Leicestershire where they make Sloe Gin - this is their busiest time of year; And BBC Weather's Nick Miller investigates an unusual research project - using two electric sheep to assess the affect of the weather on the real animal. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Sally Challoner.

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