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    Biggest stories of 2014: What else has been going on?

    NewsTuesday 17 December 2013
    We’ve taken you on a run through of some of the biggest stories facing the farming sector in 2014, from the Horsemeat Scandal to the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. But there have been plenty of other things going on in the last 12 months that have been worth a mention. 
    So, we thought we would give you guys and gals a few more stories from throughout the year that might be of interest to you. 

    For other farming news, click here now.

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    The bad weather had everyone in a gloomy mood
    In January, it was reported that farmers in the UK had lost out on £1.3bn in 2012 due to the heavy rainfall. This news meant that when the heavy snowfall arrived in March, UK farmers feared the worst. 
    In fact, the snow was so severe, that it was reported to have been the worst March snowfall in the UK for 30 years. 
    The snow was so bad in Northern Ireland, that some farmers were left trapped as roads became blocked. 
    Independent MLA Basil McCrea went as far to describe the situation in Northern Ireland as  "an emergency" and called on the Stormont's Department of Agriculture to respond.
    Sinn Fein's Oliver McMullan said he had taken several calls from concerned constituents. He also said that some of them had not even been able to access their farms and homes for days due to the roads being impassable. 
    He added that it was the "worst possible time" for such a thing to happen as many stranded sheep were lambing.
    Farmers in Wales also suffered and were unable to cope with the unexpected snowfall in March. 
    The former NFU director general Kevin Roberts led a study that aimed to review Welsh farming’s ability to overcome adverse events after the farmers were found to be unable to cope with the circumstances. 
    Alun Davies said that the review would focus on hill farmers as many of these were reported to have lost hundreds of animals during the lambing season. 

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    A pig in Australia got drunk and lost a fight with a cow
    In what was most certainly one of the more entertaining stories of the year, a pig in Australia was reported to have drunk 18 cans of beer before starting a fight with a nearby cow. 
    The swine in question was reported to have downed the beer before turning violent during its search for food. 
    After stealing the alcohol from some campers the pig then became hungry and was seen looking through rubbish bags for something to eat. 
    One witness told ABC news: “In the middle of the night these people camping opposite us heard a noise, so they got their torch out and shone it on the pig and there he was, scrunching away at their cans.”
    The pig then became aggressive towards a cow and was spotted being chased around a vehicle by the enraged bovine beast.  The pig was reported to have come off worse during the altercation. 
    After going missing for a month, the pig in question was then found dead at the side of the road after being hit by a car. 
    The pig, which was nicknamed ‘Swino’ by the local authorities, was discovered dead after being hit by a passing vehicle. The local authorities stated that the dead pig was definitely Swino, as he was easily recognisable by the distinctive marking on the back of his ears. 
    However, they didn’t say whether the animal had been drinking prior to its death. 

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    The migration scheme for seasonal workers was scrapped
    In September of 2013, the government announced its decision to scrap the seasonal agricultural scheme which allowed thousands of Eastern European migrants to work on British farms.
    The scheme allowed around 22,000 Romanians and Bulgarians to work in the UK, however, it was announced that it would be closed come the end of 2013 when labour market curbs for workers from those countries were to be lifted. 
    The government also announced that it wasn’t intending to open a new scheme for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
    Speaking to the BBC, the Home Office Minister, Mark Harper, said: "At a time of unemployment in the UK and the European Union there should be sufficient workers from within those labour markets to meet the needs of the horticultural industry."
    The closure of this scheme left British fruit and vegetable growers outraged. Under the scheme eastern European workers have picked one third of the UK’s fresh produce crop and there were fears that the scrapping of the scheme could put thousands of exisiting UK jobs at risk and have a devastating impact on the horticulture sector in the country. 
    Peter Luff, the Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire, accused ministers of making a serious misjudgment about the state of the market. He told the Guardian: "Fields of vegetables and orchards of fruit will go unpicked in the next season. The experience of decades is that British workers don't want to do this work. They are temporary jobs.”

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    The candidates for the NFU presidency race were announced
    The end of the year also saw Gary Smith join Welsh farmer Meurig Raymond in the race for the NFU presidency. The elections are taking place in 2014, and Mr Smith, an Essex farmer, put himself in the running after accepting a nomination by his county branch in November. 
    Mr Smith was the first candidate to confirm that he would stand against Mr Raymond, who announced that he would run for president after being the union deputy for eight years. 
    The current NFU President Peter Kendall will be soon be stepping down from his role after eight years at the helm.
    Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Mr Smith said: “I’m very proud to have been nominated by my county for the positions of NFU president and deputy president.
    “In running for the presidency my first concern is to ensure there is more than one candidate for the post.
    “Meurig Raymond is an old friend, but I suspect he would agree that ‘one candidate’ elections do not make for good democracy. Office holder elections should be times of keen policy discussion within the NFU and you don’t get that with North Korean-style single candidate ballots.
    “I want to make sure people have choice. The presidency of the NFU is a very important role that should be decided by contest not through ‘Buggins’ turn’.
    “If putting my hat in the ring encourages others to do the same then even better.”
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