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Farming Today

Neonics, Cauliflowers, Sustainable farming study

A widely-used pesticide linked to harming bees is facing an EU-wide ban. Neonicotinoids - or neonics - are chemicals used to coat a seed before it's planted, so when the plant grows, it's toxic to pests that munch on the seedlings. Three varieties of neonics are currently banned for use on flowering crops, such as oilseed rape and sunflowers - after research showed they harmed bees collecting pollen. Today, EU member states are meeting to discuss extending that ban to all outdoor crops, including non-flowering plants as well. There are concerns that the neonics can survive for months in the soil and get taken up by other flowering plants. Defra secretary Michael Gove has previously said he would support such a ban - while farmers say such a move would severely affect British sugar beet production. So what did farmers do before neonics, and what alternatives are available today? Anna Hill asks Dr Andy Evans is from the SRUC, Scotland's Rural College. This week Farming Today is talking brassicas - and some of those veg have seen changing fortunes. Not so long ago, the humble cauliflower was being passed over in favour of trendy vitamin-rich broccoli and kale, but the fashion for so-called 'clean eating' has made it a star ingredient, and sales are now growing. Cauliflower is in season year round, with around 300 million grown each year in the UK. Sarah Swadling's been to Cornwall - a centre of winter cauliflower production - to watch this year's harvest, with David Simmons from Riviera Produce. A global research project is underway, to find the key to creating sustainable agricultural systems. International researchers, including a group from Cambridge University, are studying areas such as biodiversity, greenhouse gases, worker satisfaction - anything that can contribute to sustainable farming. Donald Broom is an emeritus professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University Veterinary School; he's been researching land and water usage in beef production for the study - and says initial results suggest the systems previously thought to be most efficient, may not offer the best solution.

Fishing legislation, Mountain rescue technology, Brassica disease test, Cooking sprouts

EU fishing industry representatives are gathering in Brussels this week, for the annual Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting - which sets 2018 catch limits for commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea. This is matter of divvying up a pre-agreed total catch for the EU, so although member states might gain or lose a few percentage points, it's unlikely to bring any major changes. However there is of course an imminent change to the status quo, in that the UK is preparing its own fisheries policy to come into play post-Brexit. With that in mind, last week the EU's Fisheries Committee emphasised the importance of continued cooperation with the UK after March 2019. But how does that tie in with the British fishing industry's pledge to 'take back control'? And could that ambition be affected by the new plans for UK-EU 'alignment' post-Brexit? Anna Hill put the question to Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. This weekend saw snowfall right across the UK - picturesque for some, a pain in the neck for many and for a few, downright dangerous. Brecon Mountain Rescue has had its busiest year on record for the second year running. Now it's looking into how new technology can help improve their services, and trialling drones and sonar technology to help in rescue efforts - as BBC Wales' Will Fyfe reports. Brussel sprouts are a festive staple and traditionally they've been regarded rather as the Marmite of vegetables: you either love them or hate them. But nowadays, chefs are coming up with all sorts of exciting new ways to serve this seasonal veg - making the soggy, over-boiled sprout a thing of the past. As Farming Today is focusing on brassicas all this week, including sprouts, we asked The Food Programme's Sheila Dillon to share her top tip for serving sprouts in style. Continuing with the Bassicas theme, crop scientists have discovered that the technology behind home-pregnancy tests can be used to detect threats to these vegetables. Known as a 'lateral flow device', this test can pick up infectious spores in the air and act as an early disease warning system. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is trialling the tech with brassicas such as sprouts, broccoli and cabbages. Lucy Taylor went to the Warwick Crop Centre in Wellesbourne, to meet AHDB Senior Scientist, Cathryn Lambourn.

Brexit phase one, Scottish forest school, Brassicas

It's dominated numerous conversations over the weekend: the UK's phase-one agreement announced on Friday, which has been given a cautious welcome by UK farming unions. Theresa May guaranteed the rights of EU workers already here and said in a 'no deal' Brexit scenario, there would continue to be "full alignment" between the EU and Northern Ireland on some elements of cross-border trade, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement: that would include agriculture. But given the DUP's insistence that Northern Ireland be treated the same as the rest of the UK, where would that leave farmers? Charlotte Smith put the question to Hugh Mercer QC, an agricultural law specialist from Essex Court Chambers. An educational charity in Scotland has just become the first provider in the country to be recognised as a Forest School Provider by the Forest School Association. Earthtime in Moray is helping schools to make the most of green spaces - and building outdoor skills and confidence in their pupils. Moira Hickey joined children of Botriphnie Primary at work in the woods. Christmas isn't far off, so it's time to celebrate sprouts! And some other seasonal winter veg - brassicas, to be precise. This term applies to plants in the mustard family - from the festive brussel sprout to vitamin-packed kale, as well as cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli and turnips. Brassicas may not be to everyone's taste but they are big business for Britain: Defra puts their value at£200 million annually. Lucy Taylor spoke to Martin Tate, a director of the Brassica Growers Association.

Farming Today This Week: Rural Healthcare

Britain's rural health care sector is coming under increasing pressure. A lack of GPs, local surgery closures and long waiting times for ambulances are all adding to the problems of providing good quality care in the rural areas. The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, acknowledged the issue earlier this year, when he promised financial bonuses for new GPs willing to work in rural areas. We ask whether this will make a difference. Charlotte Smith visits a GP practice in Somerset, to meet doctors, patients and a "village agent", whose job is to try and keep people healthy and happy in their own homes. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Emma Campbell.

Antibiotic-free meat, Post-Brexit borders, New rural heath care initiative

The issue of antibiotic use in agriculture has cropped up numerous times on Farming Today - and there's currently a big push to reduce the use of such drugs in farming, because of fears their use can contribute to the rise of antibiotic resistant super-bugs. Now, the launch of a range of pork labelled 'antibiotic free' has upset some pig farmers. The Black Farmer company is selling the meat from pigs raised in Scotland - but the National Pig Association says labelling it 'antibiotic free' implies that other pork products are full of drugs. Sally Challoner spoke to Dr. Kristen Reyher, a Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Science at the University of Bristol's Veterinary School - and asked her what labelling meat 'antibiotic free' actually tells us. The Government has been accused of being "borderline reckless" over its plans (or lack of) for border controls immediately after Brexit. MPs on the Public Accounts Committee say businesses that export to the EU could be in for delays, as the government has assumed there won't be any immediate change when we leave the EU in March 2019 - and as a result, none of the new infrastructure will be ready. The Committee warns that this assumption may well turn out to be wrong. This could have a knock on effect for all of us: the British Retail Consortium, which represents retailers, says delaying a refrigerated lorry at a port costs about£500 a day - and that additional cost may be passed on to consumers. Peter Hardwick is Head of Exports at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board; Charlotte Smith asked him what the PAC report could mean for British farmers. Continuing this week's focus on rural health care, Farming Today exclusively reveals that a brand new centre to develop better medical care in the countryside will be launched next year. The National Centre for Rural Health and Care is currently being set up in Lincolnshire, and is set to get going in 2018. The project is a collaboration between various bodies- including local health services, the University of Lincoln, Public Health England and rural development organisations - and ultimately, the plan is for this system to be rolled out across the whole country. Charlotte speaks to the Centre's executive chair, Professor Richard Parish.

Pacific salmon, Rural mental health, Milk prices

The Environment Agency is investigating the arrival of a non-native species of fish which has arrived in the UK. The Pacific salmon normally lives thousands of miles away, but has started to populate UK rivers. It was found in Scotland in the summer, raising concerns that it might have an impact on the native Atlantic salmon. Charlotte Smith asks whether we need to be concerned. We meet a farmer who has recovered after an episode of depression which led him to contemplate suicide. He has now teamed up with the psychiatrist who helped him to get well again, and together they're working to raise awareness of mental health issues in rural communities. What's happening with milk prices? After recovering from the extreme lows of the last couple of years, the prices paid to farmers by some processors have now dropped again. Is this a sign of things to come? Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Emma Campbell.

Farming Today This Week: Farming in Scotland

Farming Today This Week's summer series, shining a light on food and farming practices in different regions of the UK, finishes up in Scotland - more specifically, at the bustling Lairg lamb sale. Nancy Nicolson soaks up the atmosphere and chats to auctioneer David Leggat, who's sold lambs at the site for decades, about the current market for sheep farmers and buyers; John Fyall, chair of the National Sheep Association in Scotland about industry's dependence on European markets and recent calls for lynx to be released in several sites across Scotland; Joyce Campbell, a farmer and entrepreneur based in North Sutherland, who also sits on the new government task-force focusing on women in agriculture; and buyer John Roberts, who's travelled to the sale all the way from North Wales. Nancy also finds out more about the ingredients that go into Scotch whisky - not all of which are sourced from Scotland - with farmer Gordon Rennie, discusses the world of crofting with Crofting Federation chairman Russell Smith, and hears from reporter Richard Baynes on government plans to give the country's wild beavers protected status.