Agricultural Policy

Sustainable Farming and our Land Consultation DEADLINE

The Welsh Government's consultation on the future of farm payments closes in just six days. The consultation paper can be viewed by clicking here.

You can respond to the consultation by emailing your comments to FfermioCynaliadwy.Mae'r cyfeiriad e-bost hwn wedi'i warchod rhag robotiaid sbam. Rhaid i chi alluogi JavaScript i'w weld.

The FUW has consulted with its County Branches and Standing Committees, and will be submitting a detailed response, but key concerns and comments highlighted by Committee Members include the following, which you may wish to consider:

1.  The consultative nature of the Welsh Government's consultation is welcome

2.  The Welsh Government is right to acknowledge that rushing forward with designing a new scheme would be foolish at a time when we do not know what the trading and economic landscape will look like after Brexit - so is right not to propose not committing to a timetable

3. Modelling should be very thorough before any decisions are made and must place far more focus on rural jobs and businesses than has happened to date - the Welsh Government and Assembly must be aware of all the possible implications of any decisions to avoid the risk of severe adverse impacts which would contravene Wales' Wellbeing Goals

4.  The current RPW Online and SAF system is state of the art. We need to develop this into something better and more targeted, not phase it out and replace it with Public Goods contracts which would be many times more complex to administer

5.  Public Goods deliver against only some of the seven Future Wellbeing of Generations goals, so they should form part of a scheme or schemes - focussing only on Public Goods means many Wellbeing Goals will be ignored - prosperity, jobs, culture and equality for example

6.  In this context,  Labour Shadow Farming Minister David Drew was right to have highlighted at the recent Labour Party Conference that Public Goods should only be one element of a future policy, and that "...from a social justice point of view [farmers] would need to be supported with more than just environmental payments after Brexit."

7.  The Welsh Government's figures show 43% of people employed in agriculture speak Welsh - well above the percentage of any other type of employment. A scheme focussing on Public Goods would threaten the farming industry, and by definition threaten the industry in which Welsh is most preserved

8. Competitors in other countries and regions will continue to receive direct support, whereas the current proposals imply that Welsh farmers will have to comply with many times more rules and restrictions, and work harder and lose more agricultural land, to get payments. This would cleary place Welsh farmers at a competitive disadvantage

9.  A scheme focussed only on Public Goods would breach the Wellbeing goal of equality because it would disadvantage tenant farmers who are our most efficient but also our most vulnerable farmers. This is because delivering Public Goods often or invariably goes against the interests of a landlord or the terms of a tenancy agreement.

10.  A large proportion of Welsh farms rely on common grazing. Public Goods payments would reduce the access to payments currently inherent to the Basic Payment Scheme, as many public goods are unrelated to the legal rights of graziers. This would transfer power and the right to claim payments away from active farmers to the owners of common land, which would be unacceptable

11.  Commons Councils represent an extremely costly, bureaucratic and burdensome means by which to manage most Welsh commons, and any requirement to form such Councils to access payments would disenfranchise and discriminate against graziers compared with their non-commoner counterparts - again leading to discrimination

12.  Wales should follow the EU by seeking to strengthen the Active Farmer criteria, as active farmers deliver most in terms of supporting the rural economy, creating employment, spending money on other Welsh businesses, protecting Welsh society and enhancing the environment. Less activity means less of these benefits.

13.  Protecting family farms and food production must be placed at the heart of any future policy: Wales should do all it can to avoid the declines in family farming and family farms seen especially in parts of England, where large companies have effectively taken over vast areas to the detriment of rural communities and society in general

14.  Payments must be capped in order to help protect the reputation of any scheme and to ensure money is directed at family farms rather than allowing the sort of unlimited payments which investors and companies have taken advantage of in England, to the detriment of family farms, communities and the reputation of the CAP in general.

Sheep Sector Support Talks On-Going

By now it is clear that the UK sheep sector could be significantly affected by a no-deal Brexit because of the high tariffs (40-50%) that would apply to sheepmeat exports to the EU, where around 30-40% of Welsh lamb is currently exported to.  

The FUW continues to reiterate that a no-deal scenario represents a catastrophic risk to our sheep industry and local communities in Wales and we are now at a time whereby successful EU trade negotiations which secure unfettered access to the EU are vital.

Already we are seeing reports of EU retailers refusing to sign long-term contracts and offering ‘spot prices’ which would make UK lamb uncompetitive once tariffs are introduced.  Hybu Cig Cymru suggests that 92.5% of our lamb export trade could disappear under a no-deal scenario.

Michael Gove, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has stated that the “sheep industry would require government support to ensure its continued health”.  The run-up to 31st March saw plans to offer some form of support payment to make up for such impacts, and similar discussions are being held for the new 31st October Brexit date.

DEFRA Minister, George Eustice made it clear that the culling of sheep is not a consideration and that the UK Government is working on two possible no-deal options:

Firstly a headage payment for breeding ewes to compensate for the loss in income, and secondly, a “slaughter premium” to make up for any fall in lamb prices at the point of slaughter. 

Neither is perfect: A ewe headage payment, based on ewe numbers reported in the last annual sheep inventory (1st January 2019 in Wales), would not compensate finishers or others along the supply chain for losses, and takes no account of lambing percentages, breeds etc. However, such a system could be quickly established in order to ensure money is released to the industry quickly at a time of need.

Conversely, while a slaughter premium would provide important assistance to finishers and others along the supply chain, it would be very complicated to establish and administer, introducing the risk of delays, and may not lead to money finding its way back to farmers, in particular store producers. Such a system would result in less money being allocated to Wales, and some also fear that prices would be artificially suppressed to increase government make-up margins and that slaughterers may not pass this money back to primary producers. 

Discussions with the Treasury are said to be “at an advanced stage”, and internal workshops have been held by Defra to investigate the pros and cons of the two options - or a combination of both.

The FUW will continue to update members as further information is provided. 

News In Brief

i) DPJ Foundation Receives Welsh Government Funding
The DPJ Foundation, FUW President’s chosen charity for the period 2019-2021, has received nearly £50,000 in funding from the Welsh Government to extend the support it provides.
The FUW is pleased that the funding will enable them to deliver free ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training and extend it’s ‘Share the Load’ counselling service to North Wales.  More than 150 individuals have already been trained by the Foundation.
ii) HCC Join Transport For Wales To Promote Welsh Food Producers
Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) has joined forces with Transport for Wales to promote Welsh food producers and their products.  Welsh products such as beef, lamb, pork sausages, cheese, biscuits and beverages will be available on buffet trolleys and hot meals for first class passengers across Wales’ transport sector.
HCC is also providing reading material for travellers to learn how these Welsh foodstuffs are sustainably produced and the pedigree of PGI Welsh lamb and beef.  
iii) First Minister Heads To Japan on Trade Mission
First Minister, Mark Drakeford, flew to Japan this month to introduce 17 Welsh companies to potential partners and new opportunities and promote Wales as a tourist destination.
Welsh exports to Japan were worth almost £250 million in 2018 which was a 25% increase on 2017 figures - 60 Japanese owned companies are present in Wales and employ more than 6,000 people.

iv) FUW To Attend BeefQ Taste Panel

BeefQ is a project which aims to increase the eating quality and value of Welsh Beef production through an enhanced carcase quality grading system.  The system is based on the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) model and the project held its first consumer tasting event at the Royal Welsh Show earlier in the year.

Event participants sampling Welsh beef are questioned on issues such as their eating experiences and willingness to pay for the product.  Data is then gathered and analysed to inform the industry about factors such as consumer preferences. 

The Farmers’ Union of Wales will be participating in these events which will involve data from around 1200 consumers.  The uncertainties of Brexit mean that projects, such as BeefQ, will be of value if they can improve consumer education surrounding the excellent quality and stand

FUW Events on WG Sustainable Farming Scheme Continue

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) continues to hold meetings for members and other interested parties across Wales to discuss the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming and our Land consultation.
The consultation, launched by Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths in July, outlines proposals for future farm and rural support which have been revised in light of the comments received in response to the 2018 Brexit and our Land consultation.
It proposes that future support should be designed around the principle of sustainability in a way which brings together the ‘wide-ranging and significant economic, environmental and social contribution of farmers’, through a single Sustainable Farming Scheme based on the principles of providing a meaningful and stable income stream; rewarding outcomes in a fair way; paying for both new and existing sustainable practices; and flexibility allowing it to apply to every type of farm.
The FUW welcomes the fact that the consultation document acknowledges many of the concerns raised by respondents to last years Brexit and our Land consultation, and focuses on farmers and food producers.
Concerns highlighted by the FUW last year about the dangers of setting a fixed timetable and ploughing ahead with proposals at a time of complete uncertainty over Brexit and its impacts seem to have been taken on board.  The FUW also stressed that undertaking detailed modelling and economic assessments of proposals, before coming to any decision,  was imperative and this also appears to have been taken on board.
The FUW is urging anyone with an interest in the future of agriculture, and the Welsh rural economy, to attend these HSBC sponsored meetings to discuss  the proposals in depth.  Details of the remaining meetings can be obtained via the local FUW offices. 


Farming Provides an Answer to Climate Change and Food Crisis says FUW

The FUW recently met with the Welsh Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles AM, to reiterate the Union’s long-standing position that food production and caring for the environment can, and do, go hand in hand. 
At present, around 40% of the food that is being consumed in this country is imported and a fifth of the fresh foods imported come from areas that are threatened with climate chaos.
The FUW believes that farmers here in Wales are the answer to that problem. Welsh farmers support local livestock markets, maintain the local rural economy, support local jobs, are custodians of the environment and produce healthy, safe and traceable food. 

The UK has a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, yet our food system is vulnerable and dominated by complex global supply chains.  Our farmers have the knowledge, skill, and willingness to produce sustainable food, that works in harmony with the environment but this could be hindered by over zealous policies which do not recognise or value the fact that food production and environmental protection can operate side by side.
In order to safeguard the environment and protect domestic food security, the FUW believes that there is merit in food that has been produced locally; food that has been produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. 

By supporting countries who produce food to standards that would be illegal in this country, there is a danger of displacing adverse climate impacts to other countries whilst simultaneously over-regulating and hindering our domestic producers and reducing domestic food production.

The environmental audit committee has only recently called on the UK Government to set out a clear plan for how the UK’s food supplies could be protected from climate emergency and explain how food might be affected by Brexit, as well as asking Ministers to ensure that food provided by the Government is “sustainable by default”. 

Welsh producers continue to look for ways to positively contribute to nature, exploring ways to be cleaner and greener, but they need to be allowed to do their job.