Cuts to rural affairs budget major blow to industry, FUW says

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has responded with criticism to the news that 13% has been cut from the draft Rural Affairs budget.

The publication of the Welsh Government draft budget for 2024-25 has revealed that the total funding for rural affairs will be cut by a total of £62 million, around 13%, compared with the final 2023-24 budget as announced in February, to help address the approximate £1.3 billion shortfall.

Whilst it has to be welcomed that the Welsh Government draft budget for 2024-25 for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is maintained at £238 million for 2024, the overall backdrop of this budget reinforces uncertainty for the sector.

Speaking in response to the statement, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “The cuts made to Wales’ rural affairs funding in the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2024-25 are a serious cause for concern, not least because replacement EU CAP funding alone should now equal around £440 million when taking inflation into account.

“At a time when Welsh farmers face huge uncertainty around future farm support and the actions they will be required to undertake in order to receive such support, it’s of paramount importance that the Welsh Government recognises the sustainable food our farmers produce and the contributions they make to the environment and wider rural economy when allocating funds to the rural affairs portfolio.”

The FUW recently published its report on the role of farm support in Wales’ livestock supply chains, revealing the stark impacts cuts to direct farm support could have on the wider rural economy and as such welcomed that at least some clarity was offered around the BPS.

“The level of clarity around the BPS provides some much needed certainty for our members for next year and will also allow us to provide some indicative figures for the minimum financial support they can expect to receive during the transition into the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

“We welcome the announcement which recognises the significance of the Basic Payment Scheme for around 16,000 farm businesses in Wales, and the thousands of tertiary businesses situated within rural communities which rely directly or indirectly on farms for a proportion of their income, however, the overall shortfall to the sector has to be reviewed and addressed.”

FUW Welcomes Outcome of Bovine TB Policy Discussions

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the decision by the Welsh Government to change a policy proposal which would have prohibited the feeding of unpasteurised milk to livestock on Officially TB Withdrawn (OFTW) premises.

The proposal, which was put forward in the government’s 2021 Refreshed TB Programme consultation, was opposed by FUW members due to factors such as cost, the impracticalities of attempting to pasteurise individual mothers milk for each calf and the welfare benefits of colostrum in the first few days of life.

Following the consultation, the FUW repeatedly met with Welsh Government staff and officials to highlight members' concerns and to discuss the relative cost-benefit of introducing this measure.

Dr Hazel Wright, FUW Acting Head of Policy said: “We have spent a great deal of time and effort presenting our concerns to the Welsh Government over successive meetings on this issue.  We are therefore extremely pleased that our concerns have been heard and that this has resulted in a positive policy change”. 

“It is important for calf welfare that calves are provided with their mothers colostrum and milk for the first few days of life.  Given the immense impracticalities of attempting to pasteurise individual mothers milk for each calf, this proposal could have detrimentally affected calf welfare”

As part of its consultation response the FUW highlighted that while there may be significant risk in individual cases, the overall importance of milk borne transmission in the epidemic is probably low or negligible. Given the relative risk, the union did not believe that this was a priority issue and believed resources would be better spent elsewhere. 

“Whilst this proposal will not now be taken forward, we are encouraging cattle keepers to speak to their vet to understand the risk posed by milk borne transmission on their own individual premises” added Dr Wright. 




Founder of Castell Howell Foods honoured with ‘FUW Award for Outstanding Service to Welsh Agriculture’

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has honoured the founder of Castell Howell Foods with an award for ‘Outstanding Services to Welsh Agriculture’ at a recent dinner which was held in honour of Brian Jones which was held at the Halliwell Centre in Carmarthen.

After presenting Mr Jones with the award, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “35 years ago Brian Jones and Castell Howell Foods officially started their journey to being one of the largest independent food wholesalers to the foodservice sector in the UK. 

“From the company’s inception in 1988, the business has grown to employ in excess of 800 colleagues, list a range of over 14,000 products, delivering to 5000 customers across Wales and the border counties every week.

“The work Brian has done on behalf of agriculture, food production and promotion of Welsh produce over the years has been exceptional for that we thanked him with this special award.”

Castell Howell are proud of their Welsh agricultural roots with the promotion of local and regional foods a core value. The range of Welsh dairy products, meats, dry and frozen food is unparalleled, and the company is proud to act as an intermediary for many indigenous businesses, purchasing in excess of £37 million of food and services from Welsh suppliers in the past 12 months.

Thanks to his dedication to the food sector, and supporting the communities where the business operates Brian was awarded an MBE, has had the honour of being President of both the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and Pembrokeshire Show, and is a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

FUW Chief Executive Guto Bebb added: “I thank the Carmarthen team for their hard work in pulling this event together. It has been a triumph for agriculture and we are proud to have stalwarts such as Brian Jones in our industry ranks. The award is very well deserved and I congratulate Brian on his achievements.”

Taking the farming story to Westminster - FUW holds successful Montgomeryshire Day

The Montgomeryshire team of the Farmers’ Union of Wales has taken the farming story to Westminster in a bid to showcase the importance of agriculture and food production, as well as providing an opportunity to showcase Montgomeryshire demonstrating the sheer quality and diversity of its produce, producers and organisations.

Working jointly with Craig Williams, Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, the Union and exhibitors had a successful ‘Montgomeryshire Day', which was hosted in the Jubilee Room in the House of Commons on Wednesday 6 December 2023.

Joining the FUW for the event were The British Wool Marketing Board, Montgomeryshire YFC, Cakes and Bakes, Craig Farm Organics, Vintage Land Rover Tours, Get Jerky, LunchLocker and Mid Wales Tourism.

The delegation enjoyed an evening at the Wales Office (Tuesday 5 December 2023), meeting with Minister of State forthe Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Mark Spencer MP, Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Steve Barclay MP, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Wales Office Fay Jones MP.

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “I would like to thank Craig Williams for the excellent opportunity to bring not just the story of farming and Montgomeryshire right into the heart of London, but also providing members with an opportunity to speak to Ministers about the farming matters that are of concern to them.” 

Union officials also met with Steve Reed MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the Wednesday morning, discussing funding commitments, the importance of farming to the rural economy and wider manifesto commitments including the need for food security, and Jo Stevens MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales to discuss the Unions key asks looking ahead to a possible General Election.

In the afternoon, following Prime Minister's Questions, Montgomeryshire Day welcomed guests to taste Montgomeryshire produce and speak to producers and Union officials about wider farming matters. Union President Ian Rickman also welcomed the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, highlighting the concerns farmers have in Wales.

Speaking after the event, The Rt Ho. Craig Williams MP said: “It was a pleasure to welcome all of our exhibitors and guests to Westminster. Our aim was to showcase Montgomeryshire and promote a county that is filled with wondrous landscapes and blessed with so many successful businesses, from small to large scale. 

“I would like to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in Montgomeryshire Day, and in particular to everyone who has travelled to London. Finally, a massive thank you to the Farmers’ Union of Wales, who have been instrumental in pulling the event together.”

FUW Montgomeryshire CEO, Emyr Wyn Davies, said: “Montgomeryshire Day provided an excellent opportunity to showcase our agricultural and rural talents in the House of Commons, whilst also showing those MP’s not representing a Welsh constituency what we have to offer. 

“As a Union we know that family farms in particular are at the heart of our rural economy, caring for our landscapes and of course our culture, and they make innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Wales and the UK. That was clearly visible at Montgomeryshire Day and members across the Union will be pleased to know that their Union stressed the importance of a thriving, sustainable, farming sector in Wales with everyone they spoke to during the course of the event.”

FUW urges members to engage with Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals

The Farmers’ Union of Wales is urging its members to engage with the latest proposals of the Sustainable Farming Scheme, stating its the most important change to Welsh agricultural policy since the genesis of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1962.

The Welsh Government has today (14 December 2023) launched the pivotal consultation on the future of the Sustainable Farming Scheme, the mechanism through which farmers will receive support in Wales from 2025 onwards.

Speaking in response to the announcement, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We have repeatedly consulted with our members on several versions of this scheme since 2018 and are now at the most critical stage of its development.

“While we have been successful in lobbying for certain crucial changes to the scheme since its inception, including the provision of a baseline payment, a number of significant barriers and questions around certain details remain.”

In response to the initial Brexit and Our Land Consultation, the FUW maintained that any future payment scheme based on environmental and public goods outcomes must also protect family farms, support rural communities and Welsh Jobs and ensure that agriculture is both sustainable and rewarding.  To fail to do so would most likely lead to serious damage to Wales’ family farms and the role they play in Wales’ economy, society, culture and landscape.

“These policy priorities continue to underpin our key asks in relation to the Sustainable Farming Scheme - this scheme must be practical for all farmers in Wales and deliver on our economic, environmental and social sustainability.

“We will be thoroughly dissecting the consultation document and will consult with members in detail on the proposals. This consultation outlines the most important change to Welsh agricultural policy since the genesis of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1962 and I therefore urge every member to engage and contribute to the Union’s response,” said the FUW President.

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