FUW response to Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation highlights concerning amount of change required within the timeframe

The Farmers’ Union of Wales’ response to the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme: “Keeping farmers farming” consultation has highlighted the concerning amount of change that is required to make sure the scheme is fit for purpose within the time available.

The Union’s response was compiled following discussions with members and sector representatives at thirteen regional meetings across Wales. Those meetings, attended by hundreds of members, as well as others who have a direct or indirect interest in the agricultural industry, were instrumental in compiling FUW’s response. Engagement also took place at twelve FUW County Executive meetings and meetings of the Union’s ten Standing Committees.

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “The Union’s response to this final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme provides a comprehensive insight into the views and concerns of our members.

“Firstly, we believe the overarching objectives of the scheme must be revised so that they align with the Welsh Way Forward principles and the nine objectives that underpin the current EU CAP framework, such as minimising adverse economic impacts and disruption for businesses, sectors and regions.

“At the very least, the SFS must provide meaningful support and income to active farmers in Wales for producing sustainable food in line with the first Sustainable Land Management objective.”

The FUW’s response also calls for the establishment of a small, focussed SFS design stakeholder group that includes the farming unions to consider the changes to the SFS and associated payment rates. There should also be the option to create sub-groups or panels that consider the details of different elements of the SFS, for example, in relation to broad policy areas such as woodlands.

“It is imperative that we use the next few months effectively to re-design elements of the scheme in collaboration with the Welsh Government and other key stakeholders.

“This includes ensuring that the scheme payment rates are calculated in agreement with farming unions by using evidence gathered from economic impact assessments and farm business data. This would ensure payments go beyond income foregone and costs incurred so that the scheme is economically sustainable for farm businesses.

“It also includes the need to ensure that all Universal Actions and scheme rules are accessible and achievable by all and do not represent barriers to scheme entry,” he said.

Such a group should also assess the overall budget required to deliver different versions of the SFS, so that a case can be made to the UK Government for adequate funding. Changes can be made to the final scheme if that funding falls short of what is required.

“The current and incoming Welsh Government must now seriously consider every single one of the thousands of responses to the consultation and work with the industry to design a scheme that is genuinely fit for purpose.

“On a final note, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the Union staff and to everyone who attended our SFS county meetings and contributed to the final FUW response,” concluded Ian Rickman.

FUW response Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation March 2024

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