Incoming chairman of agricultural group hits back at "farmer bashing"

The newly elected chairman of a branch of the National Sheep Association has highlighted the group's emphasis on cutting food waste rather than "farmer bashing".

NSA Wales Cymru chairman Kate Hovers
NSA Wales Cymru chairman Kate Hovers

Kate Hovers, Brecon vet and sheep farmer, set the tone for the AGM of the National Sheep Association (NSA) Wales/Cymru, stating nearly a third of food is wasted between the point of production and the table – with nearly 70 per cent of that in homes.

She was speaking at the Royal Welsh Showground and said it was important to think about the journeys, transport and waste relating to food production.

She said: "Things like bread and salad are higher up on the waste, but whatever it is we can all make changes and think about how to reduce waste and how many times to make a journey in a car with one person in it.

“Then we can enjoy seeing our sheep in a natural environment where the grass may be locking in carbon and certainly helping to stop the water running down the hillside.”

The comments reflected unease from members at the meeting over increased criticism of sheep farmers. Outgoing chairman Tim Ward expressed concern about proposed plans to plant more trees in the uplands under payment for public goods.

NSA development officer Helen Roberts voiced concern over criticism of the sheep industry by the anti-farming lobby and in some quarters, during the unprecedented flooding. She said the meeting would demonstrate how the NSA was working to show that sheep farming is a sustainable, resilient industry.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Here in Wales, as with much of the UK, our approach to red meat production is so different to that in other parts of the world.

“Here our sheep spend most of their lives outdoors feeding on grass and forage crops, with a positive relationship with nature and involved in a carbon cycle that has been going on for thousands of years. We have been demonised by the media as being environmentally damaging and the watching public have understandably taken a lot of this on board.

“As an industry, too much time has been spent on defending with our backs to the wall rather than being out there proactively and accurately communicating the reality of grassland livestock farming. We can’t be complacent and we should always think of where we can do more, and do better, but we have a fantastic story to tell and the NSA will continue to tell it.”

Speakers also included young ambassador, Nicola Drew, who trained and worked in theatre and dance before returning to her home farm near Brecon. She told how Farming Connect and other courses had helped to equip her with the necessary knowledge.

Claire Jesse, who produces lamb bacon at her Welsh Smokery in Tregaron told how her experience running Sussex body piercing business had helped.

She said: “Weirdly setting up a food unit and setting up a piercing studio actually have a lot of similarities in terms of the cross contamination side of things and the food safety side of things It also means that tagging a sheep is quite easy.”

She explained that the lamb bacon is cured and produced in the same way as bacon produced from pigs. The Welsh Smokery worked closely with the abattoir in Tregaron, using the saddle from other lambs as well as from the few lambs she produces.

Her mission is to establish that lamb for breakfast is a modern alternative to meat and two vegetables.

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