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Our cream of 2005's crop.

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

Farming correspondent Anna Lognonne takes a look at the agricultural stories that made the headlines this year.

January

The start of the year marked the end of the old production subsidy system and the arrival of the Single Payment Scheme, which paid farmers for carrying out environmental work. It was one of the biggest reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy ever undertaken and experienced a number of teething problems and payment delays.

Storms ravaged Britain, leading to more than 3,000 claims from farmers and country dwellers and a bill of over pounds 7m, according to rural insurance company NFU Mutual. Most of the damage was caused by the severe winds but there were also reports of flooding in Carlisle.

Research carried out by the Eblex Better Returns Programme at Skipton Auction Mart showed that sorting lambs prior to selling could bring significant financial benefits for producers. The BRP project found that sorted lambs achieved on average up to an extra pounds 2.10 per lamb. And one of the UK's leading meat processors reported that the number of over-fat lambs purchased from the market more than halved during the sorting trial.

February

IT WAS announced that the Northern Uplands Sheep Strategy, which benefited the region's sheep farmers to the tune of more than a million pounds, will come to an end.

Since October 2000, the strategy had helped more than 2,000 sheep-farming businesses throughout the North of England, assisting them with technical flock improvement.

The National Beef Association and the Tenant Farmers' Association published a blueprint for reconnecting farmers with consumers. Called the Farming Industry Marketing Strategy, the report ( commissioned from British Agriculture Marketing ( exposed the market barriers faced by the farming industry. It also highlighted the urgent need for a coherent food and farming policy, designed so farmers can reconnect with consumers and generate a healthy UK food culture.

Kirklinton club member Caroline Abbott, aged 15, of Halfway House, Scaleby, Carlisle, was named Cumbria Young Farmers' Club's junior member of the year for 2005. In only three years as a member of Kirklinton YFC, Caroline had taken part in the majority of club activities as well as doing well in competitions.

March

THE new Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which replaced the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme, was launched in the North- East by Sir Don Curry.

The scheme was made up of three sections ( Entry Level Stewardship, Higher Level Stewardship and Organic Entry Level Stewardship ( and would enable all farmers to earn money by carrying out environmental work. Together with the Single Payment Scheme, it marked a watershed in the way England is farmed.

Defra announced it was to slaughter around 4,500 cattle which could be at risk of BSE. It said proposed changes to the Over Thirty Month rule and the lifting of the EU ban on beef exports necessitated the cull of cohort cattle born after July 1996, that may have been exposed to the same feed as confirmed BSE cases.

South Tyneside farmer Peter Alderslade qualified for the European Ploughing Championships in an event which drew comparisons with Formula One. But it was not the speed of the tractors in the reversible-plough competition that prompted similarities with the motor racing world but the fact so much technology was involved.

April

NON-STOP rain combined with freezing temperatures took their toll on the lambing season in Northumberland and County Durham, with some farmers losing about 20 lambs in one night.

The National Beef Association warned that unrealistically low wholesale and retail mince values were killing off Holstein bull beef supplies.

It went on to say that the situation should serve as a warning of what would happen to cross-bred dairy beef and suckler beef if big improvements in ex-farm prices did not kick in soon.

Farmers said they were still worried that problems dealing with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) would lead to inaccuracies on their Single Payment Scheme application and result in financial penalties, even though the RPA had provided extra resources to give advice to farmers on the new subsidy system. With the May 16 deadline looming, the NFU met with the RPA's chief executive Johnston McNeill to discuss the problem.

May

THE Association of Independent Meat Suppliers blamed Meat Hygiene Service shortcomings for putting over 100 abattoirs in the UK at risk of closure because they were not ready to meet new EU licensing regulations.

All meat plants must be re-licensed in 2006 as part of new Food Hygiene Regulations. But the AIMS said many were unprepared because they had not received any advice of possible deficiencies in their abattoirs, from vets working under contract to the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS).

The Hunday herd, founded by the late Edward Moffitt, marked its 75th anniversary with a sale from the 350-cow pedigree Holstein herd based at Peepy Farm, Stocksfield. It was held at Borderway Mart, Carlisle, and conducted by Harrison & Hetherington and Norton & Brooksbank.

Watching the sale was John Moffitt who has retired from the active side of the business now run by his son Peter with Philip and Maureen Oliver who have been with the herd for 25 years.

The sale's top price was 3,600gns for the VG87 second calver Hunday Lentini Dianna 8.

The champion of champions at the Northumberland County Show was the commercial beef champion Sparky, owned and shown by Neil Slack, of Tree House, Newby, Penrith.

The threequarter bred Limousin heifer, bred by Steven Lee of Agarshill, Whitfield, Hexham, then went on to win the Heifer Championship at the Great Yorkshire Show, the supreme title at the National Primestock Show at Bingley Hall and the Heavyweight Heifer Championship, the Heifer Championship and the Supreme Overall title at the Scottish National Winter Fair.

June

WITH most Cumbrian farmers on the wrong side of 50, a new scheme was launched to try and inject some new blood into the industry.

Rural Futures, a county-wide network of farmers, offered young people free training on Cumbrian farms to enable them to work in the agricultural community. The scheme followed the success of the Fell Farming Trainee project, where six young people each worked with four farmers in the Lake District.

Once again, the Humshaugh-based Cocklaw flock took the top prize in the Bluefaced Leicester classes at the Royal Highland Show.

For the second year running, Cocklaw Sparky, a three-crop home- bred ewe by a Pennine L1 sire, took the Bluefaced Leicester championship at Scotland's premier agricultural event for Nicholas and Kathryn Robinson.

Standing alongside her as reserve champion was the Robinson's home- bred tup T1, by the home-bred Cocklaw R1, who, in turn, was by an Ashes tup.

In an attempt to ease application problems, Defra introduced monthly start dates for the Entry Level and Organic Entry Level strands of its Environmental Stewardships schemes.

Rather than restrict farmers to quarterly start dates, it was announced that the scheme would be rolled out with agreements starting at monthly intervals.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 29, 2005
Words:1164
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