Skip to content

Written Statement - Addressing the impact of snow on farmers

Alun Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food

The last March has been one of the coldest for many years. It has had a significant impact on many businesses including agriculture. As a consequence many Welsh farmers have been devastated by the deaths of sheep, lambs and calves due to the snow. The Welsh Government intends to do what it can to help these farmers to deal with their lost stock as quickly and safely as possible.

We have obligations under EU law to ensure the safe disposal of fallen stock to safeguard both public and animal health.

We have limited powers under EU law to allow on farm burial under emergency circumstances. We have faced such extreme weather and many farmers are struggling to safely dispose of their fallen stock.  We have received reports of collectors being unable to reach some farms, I have decided to temporarily apply this derogation in the worst affected areas whilst upholding the general principle of disposal off farm wherever possible.

Under normal circumstances, livestock keepers contact a fallen stock collector for the safe removal of their fallen stock. Farmers should continue to do everything that they can to facilitate the removal of carcasses from their farm and should contact a fallen stock collector in the first instance. However, if fallen stock collectors are unable to access farms in the worst affected areas of Wales of Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham, Gwynedd, Flintshire, Montgomeryshire, and Radnorshire we will temporarily allow farmers to bury sheep, lambs and calves in accordance with EU and domestic regulations. Farmers will be required to provide evidence that collectors were unable to access the farm.

The risk of pollution is site-specific and depends on a number of factors, including the volume and type of carcasses, the method of burial, the surrounding geology and the depth of the water table. As Natural Resources Wales is responsible for protecting water quality their guidelines need to be considered when disposing of carcasses. For more detailed information please refer to Groundwater Protection: Principles and Practice (GP3) on the Environment Agency's website.

In addition to seeking advice from Natural Resources Wales on burial sites, farmers must notify their Local Authority that a burial is taking place. This must be recorded in the farmer’s movement book, with tag numbers if appropriate and the burial site location.

This will come into force at one minute after midnight on 3rd April 2013 and will apply for a period of 7 days after which the procedure will be, reviewed to determine whether it should be closed or extended.

I remain committed to supporting a viable and profitable agricultural industry, which already receives a direct subsidy of £260 million per annum and in part it is given precisely in recognition that the industry is subject to these problems, price, income volatility and natural risks.

I am currently considering how best to provide long term support to our farmers in Wales and I am steadfast in my support to develop an industry that is not reliant on subsidy. Providing additional further direct financial support into individual farm businesses is not the way to improve our long term resilience. I have consistently argued against the policy of the UK Government to reducing direct CAP payments to farmers precisely because I recognise that farm business require public support to become more efficient and profitable. I remain happy to consider any further practical support that the Welsh Government can provide both to the industry and to individual business at this difficult time.