WALES’s farming unions have cautiously welcomed the Welsh Government’s proposals for the future of Welsh agriculture.
As part of its planned legislation for the next two years, Labour ministers unveiled their ideas for farming support and environmental objectives for Welsh farms on Tuesday this week.
The Welsh Government will not decide how the final Scheme will look until further consultation on the detailed proposals. An economic analysis will be presented in 2023.
While critical of some of the proposals, local MS Sam Kurtz also welcomed a change in tone from the Welsh Government towards Wales’s farming industry.
Agriculture is one of Pembrokeshire’s most important industries. It supports a vast web of local businesses. Therefore, the Welsh Government’s agricultural policy will directly impact our County and its economy.
KURTZ IS “PROUD TO STAND UP FOR FARMING”
Welsh Conservative and Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz MS said: “The Welsh Government’s announcement has come a long way from what was touted back in 2018, and the farming unions have rightly welcomed this movement.
“Although a universal set of actions for all Welsh farmers is a positive, flexibility must also be present, given the varying types of upland, lowland and coastal farms in Wales.
“I would also like to have seen more done to protect food security, the Welsh language, and the vitality of rural communities.
“Asking all farmers to have 10% tree covering on their farms will come with concerns, given that this will be impossible for some.
“The industry wants to play its part in supporting nature and improving our climate, but hard and fast rules can sometimes lead to unintended consequences.
“I’m also disappointed – but not surprised – that this plan has been published without numbers on the finances, denying farmers the figures they need to run their business. The finer detail of the Scheme will show whether it will be a success or not.
“I’m pleased to have played a small part in pushing the Welsh Government to do better in its support for farmers, and I’m happy that some of my concerns have been taken on board.
“I’ve always said farming needs a friend, and I’m proud to stand up for our important industry.”
SUSTAINABLE FARMING IS THE GOAL
The Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals signify a major change and will be key in supporting Welsh farmers to lead the delivery of a more resilient environment and a more resilient rural economy.
The Welsh Government will provide financial support for the work farmers do to meet the challenges of the climate and nature emergencies alongside sustainable food production.
Wales’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS, said: “The climate and nature emergencies threaten the sustainability of agriculture and present the most serious risk to food security both globally and locally.
“We must respond to this if we are to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector for generations to come.
One of my intentions for publishing the outline of the Scheme now is to help the industry plan for the future.
“Sustainable food production and actions to deliver environmental outcomes are complementary, not competing, agendas.
“Farming is vital for Wales and plays a key role in supporting our economy and rural communities. I firmly believe the Sustainable Farming Scheme offers a real opportunity for positive change.
“With the support it will provide, we can help the sector prosper.”
Ms Griffiths continued: “The Sustainable Farming Scheme has been designed to support what our farmers do best: sustainable farming and producing food in harmony with the environment.
“I want to see this Scheme drastically improve our biodiversity and strengthen the Welsh farming sector.
“We will rely on the commitment and expertise of the Welsh farming sector to deliver Net Zero and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity. The Scheme is designed to support farmers with this important role while simultaneously helping them continue producing high-quality food to high production standards.”
FUW SAYS PROPOSALS “ON THE RIGHT TRACK”
Responding to the document, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We welcome those areas of the proposals that have changed to reflect the concerns we highlighted in response to previous proposals.
“Notwithstanding some areas which raise major alarms, and the devil that lies in further details, the Welsh Government has moved on leaps and bounds and now has an overarching framework that is not dissimilar to what we have proposed.”
However, Mr Roberts sounded a cautionary note: “There are some concerning suggestions regarding universal actions that, while being possible or practical for some farmers, would not be for large numbers of others,” the union leader said.
“The proposal that ten per cent of all farms should comprise tree cover will be a major concern for many farmers for whom this would mean losing a large proportion of their productive land; there are also concerns about how this would impact tenants.
“There are also some farms, such as in exposed coastal areas or those in designated areas, where meeting this obligation would simply not be possible.”
NFU LOOKS FOR MORE DETAIL
NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “I am encouraged by Welsh Government’s proposals that, in return for undertaking a set of universal actions, farmers will be able to enter into the Scheme and receive a baseline payment.
“We now need to carefully consider the practicality of these actions and how they could work to support productive, progressive and profitable farming systems.
“The outline proposed by Welsh Government appears to be a step towards the NFU Cymru vision of a sustainability and stability payment that should be available to all active farmers.
“NFU Cymru has consistently highlighted the need to ensure that the Welsh Government must target support at active farmers: the people and businesses who take the commercial risks associated with food production.
“I am pleased that the Minister has reiterated the importance of payments linked to actions that an active farmer carries out.
“While the outline proposals give farmers a first opportunity to see some of the actions and activities they may need to undertake to enter the SFS, without any information on the levels of funding attached to these actions and activities, it remains impossible for farming families to consider how the Scheme will support their farming business.
“We are clear that the Scheme must deliver at least the same level of stability for farm businesses, the supply chain and our rural communities as the current arrangements do.
“There is a need to ensure that the Scheme works for all farming sectors and all land types in Wales.”
MORE WORK TO BE DONE SAYS PLAID CYMRU
Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “For several years, Plaid Cymru and the agricultural sector have been making the case that food production should be an integral part of any future farming support scheme.
“It is encouraging to see a fundamental shift in emphasis in the initial proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme published by the Welsh Government – the crucial role of active farmers as food producers is rightly recognised.
“However, there’s more work to be done, and we are waiting to see the detail underneath some of these proposals.
“We share the concerns expressed about the potential loss of productive, good-quality agricultural land for tree cover and the practical feasibility of this proposal.
“We will try to ensure that the substance matches the change in emphasis by actively rewarding food security as an outcome of the Scheme, as well as the wider social, linguistic and economic contribution of agriculture to the sustainability of our rural communities.”