New rights-of-way proposals seen as good news for all
By Isabel Davies
GOVERNMENT proposals aimed at improving the rights of way system could offer benefits to farmers as well as the general public.
According to the Country Landowners Association, the measures suggested are "good news for all – benefiting landowners, users and local authorities.
"The governments proposals offer the best opportunity in recent years to establish a rights of way network which meets the modern needs of recreation while taking full account of land management and environmental concerns," said CLA environment advisor Dr Alan Woods.
The consultation – Improving Rights of Way in England and Wales – sets out the governments plans for improving public access to the countryside including measures to increase the number of routes.
The proposals would mean that local authorities would be given powers to enable them to either open or close footpaths or bridleways depending on the needs of the public.
But farmers would also have the right to apply to have paths diverted or even closed on a temporary basis, possibly on the grounds of land management requirements.
Other proposals include increasing fines for farmers who intentionally obstruct paths and extending traffic regulations to ban vehicles on routes away from roads, in order to protect the environment.
Dr Woods said that the proposals were radical enough to tackle many of the problems of the rights of way system and that the government had finally met the challenge that the CLA had been making for the past 10 years.
But Ewen Cameron chairman of the Countryside Agency expressed his concern that the government did not intend making any money available to fund the package of measures.
In order to deal with the backlog of work on recording routes, as well as the improvements proposed it had been estimated that more than £30 million would be needed over the next five years, he said.
BEEF exports from Northern Ireland may not now restart until early next year because of a shortage of cattle meeting the Date-Based Export Schemes requirements.
Exports were originally banned earlier this year after visiting EU inspectors found shortcomings in the provinces export certified herd scheme.
These problems had been resolved with the imposition of new cattle tracing measures which were approved by the EU Commission.
But Linden Foods, Northern Irelands only dedicated meat export plant, postponed the restart of its beef export activities until the end of the summer because the measures were taking time to implement.
The company is now reported to be extending the suspension of exports until a higher proportion of qualifying animals come forward early next year.
The Department for Agriculture in Northern Ireland has yet to confirm how many animals still qualify but some estimates suggest that it could be as few as 30%.
The National Beef Association said the news was an unexpected setback to the recovery of export markets. The NBA had expected Linden to take advantage of its contract with Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn to push its way back into the European market.
"Lindens activities could not only have given a much needed lift to prime cattle prices in Northern Ireland but also diverted some of the discounted Northern Irish beef being sold in mainland Britain to more profitable outlets on the Continent," said NBA chief executive Robert Forster.
But a representative from Ulster Farmers Union said that it was still not clear how long it would take before exports resumed. If the union proved successful in its efforts to reinstate the export status of the animals through retrospective birth notifications then Linden could be more confident that a pool of animals was available, he said.
The Department for Agriculture in Northern Ireland has yet to confirm how many animals do still qualify but some estimates suggest that it could be as few as 30%.
Fischler is set to clamp down on feed makers
EU FARM commissioner Franz Fischler is planning to clamp down on animal feed manufacturers, to prevent a recurrence of the dioxin crisis that has blighted the Belgian trade for the past two months.
Spelling out his plans to this weeks meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels, he said proposals would be brought forward swiftly to tighten up existing legislation and introduce some new measures.
In particular, he suggested changing EU labelling laws to end the identification of feed ingredients by category, replacing it with a system of "open declaration" in which the exact product, and quantities, are stated on the bag.
Individual ingredients are already listed in the UK, after a campaign by FARMERS WEEKLY in the wake of the BSE crisis.
In addition he called for the compulsory monitoring of feedstuffs in all member states to check for contaminants, and the introduction of a rapid alert system, similar to that which already applies for human food.
One of the main complaints with the recent dioxin scare is the slowness with which the Belgian government alerted the commission and its EU partners, which caused an escalation of the problem.
Mr Fischler also called for improved traceability of feed materials.
the identification of critical control points and the establishment of an EU-wide code for good manufacturing practice. And, in future, all feed material manufacturers, as well as compounders, should be EU-approved – including fat processors, who have been implicated in the dioxin crisis.
As a sign of the urgency with which this work is viewed, many of the draft proposals will be submitted in time for the September farm council.
The proposals were described as a "satisfactory first step" by Dutch farm minister Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst.
"Existing safeguards are not adequate to prevent contamination of feed by undesirable substances such as dioxin. It is essential that the quality of animal products in our diets is completely reliable. Considerable responsibility rests with feed producers to ensure the safety of the food chain."