2022: What made the news in March and April?

Our review of 2022 agricultural news continues with a look at March and April.

The war in Ukraine began to impact Ukranian farmers and grain markets globally, the avian flu outbreak became serious and the farming community mourned the loss of Lord Henry Plumb.

See also: Farming in Ukraine: Q&A with agricultural journalist in the war zone


Ukraine war drives up farming budgets 

Farming budgets for the year ahead were thrown into turmoil, with both higher input and output costs driven up by the war in Ukraine.

A week after Russia’s illegal invasion, grain prices pushed to new highs.

London May 2022 wheat futures hit an unprecedented £285/t on 2 March, before settling back to £265/t, as traders weighed up the ramifications of a major conflict in Europe.

Avian flu outbreak hits record cases

The 2021-22 avian flu outbreak passed an unwelcome milestone after the 100th case was confirmed by Defra on Tuesday 1 March – in a commercial flock in Redgrave, mid-Suffolk.

This outbreak had long eclipsed any seen previously in the UK, and numbers were four times higher than the previous high seen in 2020-21.

AHDB horticulture and potato levy ends

Defra confirmed it would end the statutory AHDB levy in the horticulture and potato sectors in Britain from April 2022 – despite a mixed response to the proposal in a public consultation.

Out of 470 responses, 33% agreed with ending the levy, whereas 28% disagreed; 37% said it was “not applicable” and 2% did not answer.

This contrasted with the 61% of AHDB horticulture levypayers who voted to end the levy when asked the same question in an AHDB ballot in February 2021.

Support given to pig producers in Ireland and NI

Northern Ireland’s farm minister Edwin Poots announced a £2m Daera support package for pig producers in the province, hit by soaring feed costs, lower prices and labour shortages.

The Irish government announced a €7m (£5.85m) support package for its pig industry in February.

But Defra resisted calls from the National Pig Association and others to provide emergency funding for crisis-hit pig farmers in England.

The horticulture sector warned of an impending crisis due to wage inflation within the Seasonal Worker Scheme, labour supply shortages and rapidly rising costs.

The NFU said substantial price rises for fuel, gas, electricity, and fertiliser, driven by the Ukraine war, had also been hitting horticulture businesses hard.

Bid to challenge NVZ rules overruled

NFU Cymru was left disappointed after the High Court rejected its legal bid to challenge the Welsh government’s decision to introduce new rules aimed at controlling agricultural pollution.

Union president Aled Jones said the regulations, which make the whole of Wales a nitrate vulnerable zone, were unworkable and posed a significant threat to the economic viability of Welsh farming.

Clarkson challenges ‘vegan-only’ council menu

TV presenter-turned-farmer Jeremy Clarkson joined a protest against Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to serve vegan-only meals.

Mr Clarkson branded the council’s plans to provide only vegan food at meetings and events, and to trial a vegan-only lunch at primary schools one day a week, as “madness”.


Rural support for Conservatives slips away

Results of a poll by the Country Land and Business Association showed the Conservatives were losing support in rural communities that were once their staunchest supporters.

A survey of 1,000 people in Cornwall, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Norfolk and Gwynedd in north Wales found that 38% would vote Tory if a general election was held tomorrow.

This represents a 7.5 percentage point swing from Conservatives to Labour in the Tory heartlands since the 2019 general election.

Mutilated lambs found by walker

The carcasses of 101 mutilated lambs were dumped on farmland in the village of Radlett in Herefordshire.

The badly decomposed animals were discarded by a footpath in plastic bags.

They had been skinned, with their throats cut and ears sliced off. A walker made the gruesome discovery on Friday 8 April.

Farmers brave drilling in war-torn Ukraine

Ukrainian farmers wore helmets and bulletproof vests to sow spring crops as their country’s war with Russia raged nearby.

Farmers in the Zaporozhye region of south-eastern Ukraine had to check fields for Russian mines and other explosives before drilling.

The spring sowing was carried out less than 20 miles away from active combat zones.

British farming loses its “greatest advocate”

Tributes were paid to farming stalwart Lord Henry Plumb of Coleshill, who died at the age of 97 on 15 April.

Born in 1925, Lord Plumb had one of the most impressive careers in British agriculture.

He was president of the NFU (1970-79) and became the only British president of the European Parliament (1987-89).

Current NFU president, Minette Batters, said: “British farming has lost one of its greatest-ever advocates and the NFU has lost its greatest-ever president.”

Lord Henry Plumb

Lord Henry Plumb © PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Ex-government vet compensated in livestock marts case

A former government vet in Northern Ireland received an apology and a £1.25m settlement for constructive dismissal.

Tamara Bronckaers was forced out of her job after her bosses failed to act on concerns she raised about the flouting of traceability rules at NI livestock marts.

Dr Bronckaers spotted rules around so-called “deleted moves” were being abused to enhance livestock values.

GM barley trials approved

Defra approved field trials of genetically modified barley that scientists say could reduce the need of synthetic fertilisers.

The trial, run by researchers at the Crop Science Centre in Cambridge, will evaluate whether improved crop interaction with naturally occurring soil fungi can result in more sustainable food production.

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