Agricultural Policy

FUW urging Members of the Senedd to vote against draconian Water Quality Regulations

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) is urging anyone who wants to see an effective and targeted approach to improving water quality without threatening the viability of farm businesses to contact their local Member of the Senedd (MSs) urging them to vote to annul the recently laid Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations on 3rd March.

Following years of work by stakeholders as part of the Wales Land Management Forum Agricultural Pollution Sub Group and the submission in April 2018 of a report outlining 45 recommendations to Welsh Government, they chose on 27th January to copy and paste 30 year old EU Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rules, rebranding them the Water Resources Regulations.

Despite the fact that even NRW - the principal advisor to Welsh Government on issues relating to the environment and its natural resources - has previously warned that the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) approach may have the “perverse outcome” of worsening water quality and supported the 45 recommendations, these new regulations will impose NVZ rules across the whole of Wales.

To summarise, this will include closed periods for spreading fertiliser and slurry, no end of paperwork in regard to nutrient management plans, the production of risk maps including calculations of slurry production and nitrogen content and further the requirement to be able to store 5 months worth of slurry during the 4 month October to January closed period.

Trade disruptions continue following end of Brexit transition period

The EU trade of UK food and drink products continues to face disruption following the end of the Brexit Transition Period.

A signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the UK and EU and the avoidance of tariffs of up to 50% on some agricultural products as a result was welcomed, although teething problems were still to be expected in regard to border bureaucracy and additional checks.

However, it seems that lorries full of consignments worth tens of thousands of pounds are still being turned away at ports due to single errors amongst boxes of paperwork and variations in the attention to detail of Export Health Certificates (EHCs), to name just some examples, continue to be reported during meetings with UK Stakeholders.

It is particularly concerning that many of these teething problems are now becoming long term issues that need to be addressed, despite the fact that export trade levels are anywhere between 20 and 50% of normal levels and that live animal exports are practically non-existent due to the lack of custom posts on the continent.

Farming Unions and Wales YFC express concerns surrounding Agriculture White Paper

The FUW, NFU Cymru and Wales YFC have sent a joint letter to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths expressing concerns around the future direction of Welsh agricultural policy following the publication of the Agriculture (Wales) White Paper.

The letter calls for the Minister to reconsider what a future policy should deliver for Wales given that little has changed over the three consultation processes since 2018 and that there remains a lack of ambition for the future of farming in Wales.

It also states that “the direction of travel proposed does not appear to reflect the uniqueness of Welsh farming, built around family farms delivering for our economy, our landscape, language and culture. Instead, and most worryingly, it looks as though we are implementing a policy based on a very narrow definition of public goods, policy thinking very similar to what we have seen emanate from elsewhere, rather than a policy ‘Made in Wales’.”

The industry recognises and embraces the need for change in the belief that the main opportunity from Brexit was to develop an agricultural policy in Wales for Wales that focussed on its people, the land used for farming and the production of food.

Defra responds to contractual relationships in the UK dairy industry consultation

Defra has submitted a summary of responses to the contractual practice in the UK dairy sector consultation which ran from June to September 2020 asking for views from processors and producers on the need for a potential reform in terms of UK dairy contracts.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ (FUW) response represented views from its Milk & Dairy Produce Committee and dairy producers from across Wales and it is positive to note that the majority of responses from producers submitted similar views, painting a clear picture for Defra and the devolved Governments to take forward.

The responses provide strong evidence that legislation for dairy contracts is necessary and that a statutory baseline is required to ensure that all contracts meet an acceptable standard. As was proposed by the FUW, the majority of respondents including producers and processors agreed that legislation should be flexible and transparent and that particular details such as notice periods and volumes should be agreed by the contracting parties, providing that minimum standards are met and that details within the contracts are clear.

News in Brief February 2021

i) New Chair at Hybu Cig Cymru

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has recently announced that Catherine Smith will take over from Kevin Roberts as Chair of Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales as of 1st April 2021.

Catherine, who has a degree in Food and Consumer Management and is a food business consultant with over 20 years’ experience in the red meat sector, will be the first woman to undertake the role as Chair of HCC.

ii) Concerns raised as Defra employs new official to focus on Common Land

The Foundation for Common Land (FCL) recently raised concerns with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee regarding the potential risk of Commoners in England being unable to access the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) while direct payments are continued to be phased out.

Defra has since appointed a new official with no prior knowledge to focus on the policy for Common Land however, the FCL claims that Defra has a “high level of ambition for introducing the new ELM scheme on English common land, but a low level of preparedness to do so”, and has offered to provide training to Defra staff given the complexity of Commons.

iii) Levy payers vote against AHDB in the horticulture sector

Of the 1,400 horticultural levy payers in England who pay for AHDB in the horticulture sector, 61% voted in a ballot on 15th February to reject the continuation of the statutory levy.

Although the ballot entailed a simple yes or no question for what is a complex matter in relation to value of levy, farm size and crop type, Defra Ministers and the devolved administrations - who are not bound by the ballot’s findings - will now scrutinise these results closely before making a final decision.





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