Friday, 30 December 2011

Squeezed: the connection between Ynys Môn farm incomes and wind turbines

This post is intended as a short addition to my last post, a critique Ynys Môn's Energy Island strategy. In it I mentioned that a squeeze in farm profitability was pushing farmers towards various farm diversification schemes, including — controversially — the erection of wind turbines. Figures just released by Aberystwyth University's annual Farm Business Wales Survey show just how steeply farm incomes (with the exception of dairy, of which there is relatively little on Ynys Môn) have dropped over the past 12 months:

"Upland cattle and sheep farms recorded a decrease in the value of outputs of almost 1 per cent between 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, while inputs rose by 7 per cent – resulting in an income decrease of 18 per cent. 
"The value of outputs on lowland cattle and sheep farms in the identical sample rose by 3 per cent, while inputs increased by just over 12 per cent, leading to a similar 18 per cent fall back."

After a difficult decade including the Foot and Mouth disaster and continued government dithering over tackling Bovine TB, and now with such a considerable reduction in farm profitability due to the rising outgoing costs of feed and fertiliser, there is little wonder that additional income from the currently massively over-generous Feed In Tarifs are becoming so attractive.

The pressure on farmers is unlikely to ease up anytime soon. The Eurozone crisis adds huge amounts of uncertainty as both livestock prices and CAP payments are very sensitive to the Sterling-Euro exchange rate. CAP reform will see income support payments reduced whilst also requiring farmers to be be "greener", meaning they will need to protect "habitat" and take land out of production further squeezing income. Furthermore farmers in Less Favoured Areas (LFAs; roughly half of Ynys Môn is classified as LFA) will no longer receive higher levels of support. The list goes on and on.

Accordingly, with all this going on and its controversial side-effects on our landscape, it is both ironic and inexplicable that the Welsh Government decided to do away with a Rural Affairs Minister at cabinet level and downgrade and split its rural affairs department.

For those interested, the relevant sections comparing upland and lowland farm incomes over the past twelve months are below. Farm Survey


kp said...

Gob-smacked that it has taken you, a potential AM, to work out that things are bad here on Anglesey and there isn't and never has been any joined up strategy from our local council.

Farmers are greedy, they want more than their annual CAP payments, they like the payments from pylons, now they want payment for wind farms and they want to keep their income from tourism sidelines.

Wylva workers are greedy, they want another nuclear power station. House builders and retailers are greedy, they want relaxed planning rules and, in the case of retailers more free parking.

Parents are greedy, they want free schools, better schools, more university places and better work opportunities for their children. The old are greedy, they want bigger pensions, more home care and fewer changes. The language protesters are greedy, they want everything in their language but care little for those who don't speak it, assuming they will be able to fall back on English when in many cases they can't or won't.

And everybody else is greedy too. So we are all greedy in our own way.

But what distorts one man's (or one woman's) greed against another is the opportunity to reinforce this greed with some form of state aid, be it grant, loan or whatever.

Cut this nonsense out and the country would be a whole fairer and a whole lot more democratic.

And we'd need a whole lot less politicians at every level!

Gruntfuttocks said...

And a certain KP is also greedy wanting all the services provided by local authorities without wanting to pay a fair price for those services.

kp said...

No Gruntfuttocks, you are wrong, I do not agree that council services should be provided without payment.

Payment should be made as and when those services are needed or requested and by the recipient of those services (or family). Or failing that, by welfare with all the attendant shame (after all, if your family won't pay why should anyone else?).

It's time we got away from welfare for all!

Andrew said...

Kp, If you get rid of Welfare Benefits then I'm afraid the insurance premiums on your yacht, second home and Mercedes will go through the roof.

mairede thomas said...

I have never understood the UK Government's lack of support for farmers, especially small family owned farms. Tony Blair was proud that he intended to reform CAP, by that read "reduce payments to farmers".

Actually I think it would be easier to support our own home grown food industry if we were not involved in the EU CAP. Then we could tailor our tax incentives and environmental benefit payments to the needs of UK and/or Welsh farmers. The EU system as it currently stands is ineffective red-tape.

And on-shore wind turbine developers are driving a wedge between farmers and their neighbours by offering to pay huge sums for the erection of turbines on farmland as everyone knows full well these monsters are very unwelcome and divisive.

The Red Flag said...

Andrew & Gruntfuttocks - KP is the resident closet UKIPer-bordering BNPer found wandering the fringes of a lot of the political blogs in Wales. One of the looney Right that reads the Daily Mail and Telegraph - not that that makes you looney but considering them accurate certainly does.

She understands little about the system in which she lives, thinks council tax in Wales is exceptionally expensive and has yet to realise that Tory policies in Westminster are about to make the things she continually whines about 10 times worse - for example the tory limits on LHA will lead to an exodus of low paid/no paid claimants from urban areas such as Manchester and Liverpool, to cheaper areas rents-wise such as North Wales and Anglesey.

Hurrah! Mr Cameron will be giving KP more unmarried welfare-claiming mothers and feckless spendthrift poor pensioners than she could ever imagine. Doubtless Council Tax will need to rise to cover the extra demands making it a double-whammy for her and it's only the second of January.

It's going to be a good year - I can feel it in my bones.

mairede thomas said...

On the subject of supporting farmers, which on Ynys Mon is crucial to everyone's wellbeing I would like to see this blog thread making some positive suggestions. so here are mine:-
1. Welsh LFA's should receive special payments recognising the enviromental benefits and wider public benefits that land management in those areas brings everyone. The historic payments should not be removed at the rate they have been and should be re-instated. If we can print money for bankers we can print money for food and fuel producers.

2. Capital Gains tax on farmland should be removed completely, after all farmers don't buy and sell land like City traders buy and sell shares. In farming terms the tax is in fact a tax on inflation not on gains. How can a retiring farmer pass the farm on to the next generation if 10% of the land value has to be paid in tax. Farmers used to have 100% retirement relief and for small farms that is the only way they can be passed from one generation to the next.

3. Planning restrictions for conversion of existing redundant farm buildings need to reflect the fact that farmers and their families, sometimes 2 or 3 generations, need to live on the farm. And sometimes they need to provide accommodation for farm workers, farm students, temporary workers, and indeed tourists. 'Development in the Countryside' policies also need to reflect this.

Anonymous said...

I see Cheryl Gillan managed to get the HS2 shifted underground nearly in its entirety, Ah the power of middle England! But its OK to cover Wales with these vile useless eyesores