NFU Cymru notes that Welsh Government’s Brexit and Our Land statement today has gone some way towards acknowledging some of the key themes raised by the union in its response last year.
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “While we welcome the Minister’s recognition that sustainable food production can go hand in hand with the delivery of public goods, we await with interest publication of the consultation next month and further clarification on the detail of the policy changes that Welsh Government is now proposing following the previous consultation exercise.
“We are an ambitious industry with a desire to grow a Welsh food and drink industry worth almost £7bn to the Welsh economy – the upcoming consultation will show us the level of ambition that Welsh Government has for Welsh farmers to continue to supply high quality Welsh produce to a growing food and drink sector. We want to see integration and alignment of Welsh Government farming policy with the targets set for the next Food and Drink Action Plan.
“In our response to the consultation last autumn we put forward our proposal for an integrated sustainable agriculture programme based on three cornerstones of productivity, the environment and stability. A policy that would deliver increased financial resilience; maintain and enhance our environment and treasured landscape; underpin further growth of the food and drink industry and drive investment, innovation and productivity. We hope that Welsh Government proposals for a sustainable farming scheme will match our ambitions for sustainable growth.
“NFU Cymru has always maintained that Pillar One support delivered under the CAP has been an essential tool in protecting farmers against volatility and thus helping to secure the supply of safe, high quality, affordable food for the consumer. Over time direct support to farmers has evolved significantly, and as we move forward we recognise the need for further evolution of agricultural policy in Wales. But what we cannot support is the phasing out of this type of measure until there is clear evidence that the replacement policy can deliver at least the same level of stability for farming businesses, the food supply chain and rural communities.
“We are presently facing a time of unprecedented uncertainty with the very real threat of a ‘No deal’ Brexit and the implications this would have on trade for our key products, the challenge of climate change and the increasing escalation of global trade wars. Therefore measures that provide stability to Welsh farming businesses are more important than ever to ensure that our sector can continue to provide economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability in line with the Well Being of Future Generations Act.
“One of NFU Cymru’s key principles for reform has been to ensure that future policies must target support to the active farmer. We are pleased that Welsh Government recognises that future support should be linked to farmers’ efforts on the ground and this will be extremely important for our tenanted sector and those looking to enter and expand their farming businesses.
“Welsh Government has committed not to make changes until consideration of the responses to further consultation, relevant impact assessments have been undertaken and until they can demonstrate a new system is adequately designed. We would agree that Welsh Government must not move forward with proposals until there is clarity on the impact of any changes and how the proposals can mitigate the funding gap that would be left by the proposed phasing out of the BPS. We urge the Minister to make full use of the flexibility she has to vary the length of the transition period to ensure that we have a future support policy that has been thoroughly road-tested, and is fit for purpose before it is rolled out.
“There remains much uncertainty over future funding for Welsh farming. We are clear that commitments made in the run up to the EU Referendum must be honoured and Welsh farming must not lose out on a penny of funding post-Brexit, with support currently received from the EU as well as the match funding from Welsh Government maintained at current levels, going forward.
“NFU Cymru remains committed in wanting to work with Welsh Government in a true partnership to design a future policy for Wales that realises our vision of a productive, progressive and profitable industry, supporting the continued growth of the food and farming industry against the backdrop of a strong and improving natural asset base. A policy that is simple and practical to deliver, robustly piloted and supports all sectors and areas of Wales; safeguarding food security and facilitating the delivery of outcomes that benefit the whole of society.”