Wilson sides with Tories in trade bill vote

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson was the only non-Tory to vote with the UK government to move legislation to the next stage that will facilitate the implementation of the UK trade deals done with New Zealand and Australia.

During a debate in Parliament in Monday, Wilson’s DUP colleagues Carla Lockhart and Jim Shannon had both favoured amendments to the bill, including one that would have required government to provide an assessment of the trade deals on farmers in NI.

However, all amendments were voted down, and in the end, the bill passed to the next stage by 294 votes to 46.

While Labour MPs abstained, Shannon and Lockhart were joined in voting against the passage of the bill by Liberal Democrat and Scottish Nationalist Party MPs. No other NI MPs took part.

“UK producers, including those in NI, must not be disadvantaged or penalised for abiding by better, more costly standards,” commented Jim Shannon when speaking during the debate on Monday.

UK food strategy is ‘a waste of trees’

A new food strategy for the UK, which was published by the government in June 2022, was heavily criticised by a leading food policy expert at a meeting in Westminster on Tuesday.

“It’s a waste of trees basically. It’s a shame trees were cut down to deliver it because it doesn’t say much substantively,” said Professor Tim Lang from City University London.

Speaking to a committee of MPs, Lang pointed out that a major review of the UK’s food policies was carried out by the Labour government in the late 2000s.

“It ended up with a formulated, indicator-rich strategy called Food 2030. It was agreed across the food industry and government. All the structures were there,” he said.

However, after the 2010 general election when the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition took power, all structures relating to the strategy were stood down.

“We were in a better place 12 years ago. It could have been kept on.

“There was nothing ideological that the coalition couldn’t have kept running,” Lang maintained.

NI set to lose £65m of funding, MPs told

A new budget set up by the UK government is not matching funding that previously came to NI from the EU, senior civil servants have told a committee of MPs.

“Over a three-year period, we have been assigned £127m and that falls £65m […] short of what we would have received over the same period through European funds,” said Maeve Hamilton from the Department for the Economy.

The UK government’s new shared prosperity fund has been set up as a post-Brexit replacement for various EU Structural Funds, such as European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

It also covers certain aspects of the Rural Development Programme, including the LEADER programme which supports projects for local communities and small businesses in rural areas.

“We had five-party agreement that there should be full replacement of the European Social Fund in particular. It was something that all [NI Executive] ministers did agree on. We are very firm on that,” said Laura McDonald from the Department of Finance.

FQAS cancellation charge unacceptable claim FFA

The co-ordinator of Farmers For Action (FFA) in NI, William Taylor, has written to both the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) and NI Food Chain Certification (NIFCC) to complain about cancellation charges for farm quality assurance schemes (FQAS).

In the letter Taylor said his organisation has “received a barrage of complaints” from farmers regarding a recent decision by the NIFCC board (the body which conducts FQAS inspections) to put in place cancellation charges. According to FFA, where a farmer changes their appointment with less than 7 days of notice, the cancellation charge is £84 in FQAS and £120 if it is a joint FQAS / Red Tractor dairy inspection.

“FQAS is currently only delivering additional costs on-farm and there is no bonus for being Farm Quality Assured, only penalties if a farmer is not. FFA are not going to accept anything less than the removal of this cancellation charge at this time,” states the letter from Taylor.

UFU take aim at Dairy Council

The dairy committee of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has written to Dr Mike Johnston, the chief executive of the Dairy Council for NI asking for support in resolving issues with the NI protocol.

In particular, the UFU highlight on-going concerns around the movement of veterinary medicines, cattle, plant protection products and farm machinery from Britain to NI under the new post-Brexit arrangements.

In recent months there has been some frustration among UFU hierarchy that leaders within the NI dairy sector have consistently defended the protocol in public, given that it has facilitated the free movement of milk across the island of Ireland.

“We ask Dr Johnston to acknowledge the wider implications of the NI Protocol that will have potentially devastating consequences for local dairy farmers if they go unresolved, and for his support as the UFU continue to lobby to addresses the difficulties,” commented UFU dairy committee chair Kenny Hawkes.

It is understood that representatives from both organisations met on Tuesday.

Captain loses top stop in Holstein rankings

Genosource Captain has been knocked off the number one spot in the UK rankings of Holstein sires.

The latest bull run by AHDB sees Wilra SSI Faneca Ebersol take the top spot in the young genomic sire list with a Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) of £1,017. Ebersol’s sire is Badger SSI Lucia Faneca and his dam is by Pine-Tree Legacy. Genosource Captain is second with a PLI of £959.

The figures are revised three times a year and Captain had been in top spot for almost all updates since he entered the rankings in April 2020.

Third place in the latest bull run goes to Denovo 17835 Lennon-P with a PLI of £955. The next three places are all taken up by sons of Captain, namely DG Peace (£949), DG Space (£942) and Cogent Keopon Rocky (£942).

In the daughter proven Holstein rankings, Bomaz AltaCabot is in the number one position with a PLI of £765.

Almost 8,000 more beef calves in NI

Registrations of beef sired calves in NI up to the end of November 2022 were 2.2% than the year previous.

The latest figures from the Livestock and Meat Commission show that 358,531 beef calves have been registered this year to date, up by 7,692 head on 2021 levels.

The rise comes even though cull cow throughout at local factories during 2022 is running 14% ahead of last year.

Increased use of sexed semen in dairy herd is a key factor behind the trends and also explains the 18% drop in dairy sired male calf registrations so far this year.

Of beef sired calves, Angus remains the most popular breed during November 2022, accounting for 36% of registrations. Limousin was next on 17%, Belgian Blue had 15% and Charolais calves made up 13% of registrations.