06/12/2022 Devolved powers and rural communities. Small abattoirs
The Labour Party has launched a commitment to major political reforms which it says would see a transfer of power 'from Westminster to the people of Britain'. Included in the plan titled 'A New Britain', would be the devolution of certain powers to regions and counties. The current government has already announced Cornwall, Suffolk, and part North East England would be granted more devolved powers including extra funding and elected mayors, if the local communities there support it. But what could Labour's devolution plan mean for rural communities? We speak to Mark Shucksmith, Professor of Planning at Newcastle University who's worked widely on rural communities and the economy.
All week we're looking at abattoirs, large and small. While large abattoirs are finding it difficult to staff their operations, smaller abattoirs say the burden of regulation, which is more expensive on very low throughput, is causing them to close. The future of small abattoirs has been a concern for many farmers for years and Farming Minister Mark Spencer has said he is actively looking at supporting smaller abattoirs, to keep them running. It might not be in time to save some though. The Tottingworth abattoir in Heathfield in East Sussex is earmarked for closure in January. We speak to farmer Guy McNaughton who's been campaigning to save it.
In Scotland, farmers and crofters in the Western Isles, where producers tend to have small numbers of livestock, rely on small abattoirs. The abattoir in Stornoway is run and subsidised by the Islands' Council. It's a modern operation and takes stock from the length of the Outer Hebrides. We speak to the people who run it and the crofters who rely on it.
05/12/2022 Farm Soil Carbon Code; abattoirs; new road plans
How much carbon can farms store in the soil, and how should it be measured? Farmers are being encouraged to look at new ways of making money and improving the environment by sequestering carbon, but there hasn't been much agreement on the details. Now Academics from the University of Leeds, businesses and farmers have published a new Farm Soil Carbon Code. The report, funded by the Environment Agency, aims to set some industry standards and help farmers avoid "green washing" or schemes that are meaningless.
All week we're looking at the state of the UK's abattoirs - from animal welfare to the challenges of finding staff. There are about 245 abattoirs in the UK, slaughtering millions of animals. Government figures for October this year show 173,000 cattle, 1.1 million sheep and 926, 000 pigs were killed. There used to be many more abattoirs, but tighter regulations and economies of scale have seen consolidation. Finding skilled butchers to work in the industry is a challenge and the British Meat Producers Association says big meat processing plants are spending a lot of money recruiting skilled staff from countries as far afield as the Philippines.
The A1 is one a major route between England and Scotland, but one which is in parts still single carriageway and when it passes through rural Northumberland that can mean slow tractors or lorries - and tailbacks After decades of talk, it seemed relief was in sight with a scheme to dual stretches of the road in the county just awaiting the final go ahead from the Transport Secretary - that's been postponed, twice, recently but a final decision is expected. In the meantime many whose homes, farms and businesses lie on the proposed new route are in limbo.
03/12/22 Farming Today This Week: cost of food production, turkeys and avian flu, Rural Payments Agency strike, horses.
Where's the money? We discuss how much farmers make from the food we buy.
We hear warnings of turkey shortages this Christmas and pleas from small turkey farmers still in business not to forget them.
Staff at the Rural Payments Agency look set to strike for a month over Christmas, just as they’re meant to be sending out crucial basic payment cheques to farmers.
And we're looking at all things equine, hearing how the cost of living crisis and the spiralling cost of keeping a horse is making life difficult for owners of riding schools and stables.
Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Beatrice Fenton.
02/12/2022 - Cost of food production, free-range turkeys, equine stud
Farmers earn less than a penny a pack for much of the food they produce for supermarkets, according to a new report 'Unpicking Food'. The charity Sustain says it’s often less than one per cent. They say supply chains are too long and complex, resulting in producers losing out. For instance, the report says a 480 gram pack of supermarket cheddar costs a dairy farmer £1.48 to produce, yet he receives less than a penny of the £2.50 selling price.
One of the consequences of the bird flu outbreak has been a flurry of news stories about a shortage of turkeys for Christmas. 'Christmas Dinner at Risk!' warned headlines after the British Poultry Council predicted 'big big shortages', because around half of the free-range poultry grown for this year’s dinner plates has either died or been culled due to the disease. But the widespread publicity about shortages has had unintended and undesirable consequences for some small-scale turkey farmers. Paul White produces around 500 free-range turkeys near Burnley in Lancashire, but he says he's only sold 10 per cent of his birds, when normally he'd have sold half by now. He says customers are panicking about shortages and buying frozen turkeys in supermarkets.
Equine vet Emma Tomlinson runs a stud and an IVF clinic for horses in Gloucestershire, alongside a mobile equine vet service. On 150 acres of organic pasture - which was once her dad’s dairy farm - she's created an international business, collecting and storing semen from stallions, harvesting eggs and transplanting embryos in mares. It's a top-end service for top-end clients - show jumpers, polo ponies, eventers and dressage horses. She says when she started the business 20 years ago, she was the first commercial embryo transfer service in England.
Staff at the Rural Payments Agency look set to strike for a month over Christmas, just as they’re meant to be sending out crucial Basic Payment cheques to farmers.
All this week we’re talking about horses. Today we hear from a farrier and discuss why some are promoting leaving horses 'barefoot'.
Presented by Caz Graham and produced by Beatrice Fenton.