Agriculture Bill Amendments
The amendment to the Agriculture Bill introduced in the House of Lords to ensure food imports meet British environmental and animal welfare standards was again defeated in the House of Commons last week. Instead, MPs backed a Government amendment to increase parliamentary scrutiny of potential trade agreements. The Government had already agreed to give permanent statutory powers to the Trade and Agriculture Commission set up originally as an advisory body for six months. It will report on the impact of any proposed trade deal on animal welfare and British farming.
Urea to be banned?
Ammonia is not considered to be a greenhouse gas, but it is a serious pollutant of the atmosphere, causing acid rain and harm to human health. 87% of ammonia emissions come from farming with urea as a major source. Defra has now launched a three month consultation on the use of urea as a nitrogen fertiliser. Options include a total ban, an additive to slow the conversion of urea to ammonia and a stipulation that solid urea can only be spread between 15th January and 31st March.
Avian influenza has been detected at two sites in England. At one, a small commercial premises near Deal in Kent, 480 birds have been culled humanely and a 1 km restriction zone imposed. The other is much larger, a broiler breeder’s premises in Cheshire where 1,000 birds were culled. The Kent virus was the H5N2 strain whilst it was H5N8 that infected the Cheshire flock. Further testing is being carried out to determine whether the latter is a highly pathogenic strain and whether it is related to the virus currently circulating in mainland Europe. Other poultry farmers and shoot managers are warned to be vigilant and detect any spread. The risk to public health is considered to be very low.
British Trust for Ornithology Patron
Prince William has been appointed patron of the British Trust for Ornithology. However, many of its members are outraged as Prince William is known for his enjoyment of grouse and pheasant shooting. The previous patron was the Duke of Edinburgh, who has retired at the age of 99, but who was equally well known for his love of shooting in his younger days. The BTO is a well-respected body, its slogan is ‘looking out for birds’, and is perhaps best known for its publication of the populations of bird species.