Home » FUW highlights importance of food production and farming families
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FUW highlights importance of food production and farming families

THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales (FUW) has repeated its call for the importance of food production and farming families to the Welsh economy, culture, communities, and landscapes to be recognised and urged the Environment, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee (ETRA) to ensure that support, which underpins safe, quality food production, will be maintained to avoid irreparable damage to Wales.

Glyn Roberts -8
Responding to the ETRA Inquiry into the Agriculture (Wales) Bill, the FUW stressed that the previous lack of focus on food production in the 2018 Brexit and Our Land consultation was of significant concern to the FUW’s membership and, since the Brexit referendum, the FUW has consistently argued for Sustainable Land Management (SLM) principles to include not only the economic sustainability of our family farms but also the sustainable production of safe, traceable food.

Therefore, the FUW welcomed the inclusion of food production in the SLM Objectives in the Bill but remains concerned that a direct reference to the economic well-being of farming businesses continues to be excluded from the SLM Objectives.

The Union also expressed concern that the SLM Objectives contained within the Bill were developed from the definition of SLM mooted by the United Nations (UN). This narrow definition classifies SLM as ‘The use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental benefits..

“The plan to focus future support schemes and policy direction on one definition of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) has not changed since the rhetoric surrounding Sustainable Farming and our Land. Although not defined within the Bill, the definition of SLM is contained within the explanatory memorandum and the FUW does not believe that the present SLM definition addresses or recognises the wider context farming both operates in, and contributes to,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

The Union President added that other, broader definitions of SLM exist that are more comprehensive and recognise the interconnectivity and interdependency of land management and livelihoods.

“For example, definitions, such as that outlined by the World Bank, recognise the need to integrate land, water, biodiversity and the environment with rising food and fibre demands whilst, crucially, sustaining livelihoods. As such, the United Nations’ SLM definition is too narrow,” he added.

The narrow definition of SLM – and resultant SLM Objectives – are clearly a significant departure from the original aspirations of agricultural subsidies. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was launched in 1962, and its genesis was largely and predominantly designed to ensure an adequate and secure food supply. Recognition of the need for viable agricultural sectors and stable supplies of affordable food led the UK Government to pass Labour’s 1947 Agriculture Act, described by Tom Williams, the Secretary of State responsible for its introduction, as intended “…to promote a healthy and efficient agriculture capable of producing that part of the nation’s food which is required from home sources at the lowest price consistent with the provision of adequate remuneration and decent living conditions for farmers and workers, with a reasonable return on capital invested.”

“Such principles were also encapsulated in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and remain in place in the EU under the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty. Thus, whilst the FUW is not opposed to the SLM Objectives per se, we believe that it would be appropriate to lengthen the list to create a 5th Objective which explicitly seeks to ensure the economic stability of farming families. At present, whilst there is a narrative around sustainable food production within the Bill, there are currently no direct rewards for it; nor are there direct rewards for the provision of safe, traceable food or for the protection of global food security,” added Mr Roberts.

It should also be noted, the FUW highlighted, that the Objectives in the Bill will set out Welsh agricultural policy direction for the next 15 to 20 years, and it is therefore essential that economic resilience is embedded in the Objectives of the Bill or future policies could meet current Bill Objectives at the expense of farmer livelihoods.

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“Where the economic viability of farming families is not included within the Objectives of the SLM then farming families in Wales will be vulnerable to future changes in policy which operate under the same SLM framework but which have no obligation to look after their financial well-being,” he added.