Agriculture Bill Published
The revised Agriculture Bill was presented to Parliament last week, more than a year after the original was abandoned due to the chaos surrounding Brexit. Food security is to be regularly reviewed by Parliament and soil health becomes a major priority. But there is no mention of a statutory duty to ensure trade deals cannot include imports of food produced to lower standards than the UK’s.
Big Farmland Bird Count
The annual Big Farmland Bird Count will take place from 7th to 16th February. Last year over 1,400 farmers took part and recorded 140 species across more than a million acres. The project was launched in 2014 to highlight the work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in bird numbers. Its great value, apart from recording species and populations, is that it is now able to identify trends, where and why numbers are improving or declining. It is hoped that this year’s count will be even more comprehensive than ever.
Bovine TB in Wales
Two former senior Defra vets have warned that the Welsh Government’s policy on bovine TB will fail unless it tackles the reservoir of disease in badgers. The culling of badgers in Wales was abandoned by the Labour controlled Welsh Government in favour of measures to curb cattle to cattle transmission only. The number of cattle slaughtered in Wales increased by 31% in the year to September due to the changes in policy which also included more stringent interpretation of test results.
National Trust to plant 20 million trees
To mark the recent 125th anniversary of the founding of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, its Director General, announced plans to plant twenty million trees in the next decade. 18,000 hectares of land will be planted, mostly of it currently in grass grazed by livestock. The Trust owns around 250,000 ha of land, around half of it let to farming tenants. It is not clear whether those tenants will be forced to plant trees or give up their tenancies on that land, but many are understandably concerned by the announcement. The Trust also plans to rewild large areas of the 80,000 ha of upland that it owns.