Environment Agency Budget
The Environment Agency has come in for huge criticism over recent months, not least over the pollution of our rivers and coastal waters by raw sewage. Its budget has been cut over the years leading to claims last year that it had become insufficient to cover the cost of its remit. In particular, all but the most serious pollution incidents could not be investigated. Now, however, a significant increase in funding has been announced and the Chief Executive, Sir James Bevan, has pledged to use some of the new money to increase farm and sewage works inspections in a bid to improve water quality.
New Zealand Trade Agreement
A new trade deal with New Zealand was signed on 28th February. Nearly all tariffs will be removed on the day the treaty is ratified, likely to be in the summer of 2023. However, there is protection for some agricultural products including cheese, beef and sheepmeat, the provision of transitional tariff rate quotas that will be phased out over time. Those deadlines are six years for cheese, ten for beef and twenty for sheepmeat. The deal has been greeted with delight by New Zealand farmers but with dismay by livestock producers in the UK who believe that they will not be able to compete once the transitional arrangements have ended.
There are five plants specified as injurious weeds in the Weeds Act 1959, ragwort, two species of thistle and two of dock. Under the Act, it is an offence to allow them to spread but, in practice, very few prosecutions have ever occurred, although Highways England and Natural England claim that around £10 million is spent every year controlling them. Now, however, research by scientists at the University of Sussex, funded by Rowse Honey Ltd., has found that ragwort and the two thistles attract a far greater abundance and diversity of pollinating insects than the species recommended by Defra. There have been calls for the Weeds Act to be repealed for some time, this research can only make that more likely.
Pig Farmers Lose Money
The latest report from the AHDB (Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board) shows that pig farmers have been losing money for over a year. The figures for the final quarter of 2021, the fifth consecutive quarter of losses, show that the average production cost was £177 per pig but the sale price was only £138, a loss of £39 for every pig sold. As the cost of feed escalates rapidly, the situation can only get worse unless there is a significant increase in sale prices.