FUW pays tribute to First Minister Mark Drakeford

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has paid tribute to Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford, who stood down as Welsh Labour leader today (Wednesday 13 December 2023) and will be stepping down as First Minister in March 2024.

Mr Drakeford said nominations for his successor as leader will open shortly, and the process will be concluded by the end of the Senedd Spring term, enabling the contest winner to be put to the Senedd before Easter recess. He will remain as First Minister until that time but will stand down as Leader of Welsh Labour immediately.

Commenting on the news, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We thank the First Minister Mark Drakeford for his service to Wales and wish him the best in his future endeavours.

“As a Union we know that family farms in particular are at the heart of our rural economy, caring for our landscape, and of course our culture, and they make innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Wales and the UK. We look forward to working with the next First Minister and Welsh Labour Leader to be appointed, ensuring that we continue to see thriving, sustainable, family farms in Wales.”

New farming entrant on Anglesey highlights concerns to local MP

A new entrant to farming on Anglesey has highlighted his concerns about the future of the farming industry to local MP Virginia Crosbie, when he welcomed her to his tenant farm Tywrideen, Rhoscolyn, Caergybi.

Cai Jones, a young farmer who set up his own holding around 2 years ago after gaining tenancy at Tywrideen, farms around 300 acres of land all of which is rented. The farm business is run in partnership with his younger brother Osian. 

The land is of less favourable qualities and the majority lies on the coastline, and the brothers are all too clear that the future of farm payments and agri environment schemes is crucial to this type of farm.

Both Cai and Osian work off the farm on a regular basis carrying out casual labour jobs on local farms to boost their income. This is in addition to keeping 450 ewes and 30 suckler cows of their own. 

“As young, tenant farmers, we need as much certainty as possible on what the future of agricultural funding is going to look like. Maintaining agricultural support is absolutely crucial to the rural economy and agricultural production,” said Cai Jones.

Union officials stressed the point that funding cuts for agriculture would have severe consequences for the rural economy and farming businesses.

“We are looking at less money not only for farms, but also for the tens of thousands of Welsh non-farming businesses that provide services and goods to our farms. With a reduction in funding, we also have to recognise the environmental goals and net zero ambitions are put at great risk. If there are no farmers to look after the land and produce food, our landscape, rural economy and food security are at great risk -  a risk that is avoidable,” added Cai.

FUW Anglesey county executive officer Alaw Jones added: “It is essential for politicians and policy makers to fully understand the economic role played by farm support in supply chains and the dangers of cuts and changes proposed by some.”

The brothers are also concerned about the trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, which open the door to cheaper food imports.

“The UK Government has been pursuing liberal trade deals that its own figures show will undermine UK food security. These deals have been shown to have negligible benefits for the UK’s economy whilst opening up UK markets to products that do not meet our own high standards. The UK Government needs to focus on trade policies that place UK food security and producers at the top of their agenda,” said Osian Jones.

In addition the Union also highlighted concerns around livestock worrying and highlighted to the MP that at present, neither the police nor other agencies are required by the Home Office to record statistics of livestock attacks or mortalities and the FUW believes that this crime remains significantly under-reported and under-recorded. 

“The inability to officially monitor the extent and impact of the issue - coupled with a lack of police powers to bring offenders to justice - has eroded confidence in reporting amongst our membership.

“The evidence surrounding the nature and extent of dog attacks on livestock means that the only way to properly tackle such crimes is by introducing new legislation which is fit-for-purpose and which recognises the significant - and avoidable - losses experienced by hard-working farming families following a dog attack.  

“It is now incumbent on the Government to protect rural communities by ensuring that these elements of the UK Kept Animals Bill are brought forward,” added Alaw Jones.

Welsh farming and environment groups express shared budget concerns to First Minister

A group of Welsh farming and environmental organisations have jointly written to the First Minister of Wales to impress the importance of maintaining the Rural Affairs budget for 2024/25.

The letter to the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS has been co-signed by CLA Cymru, Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), NFU Cymru, National Trust Cymru, RSPB Cymru, Wales YFC, Tenant Farmers’ Association and Welsh Organic Forum. The group are calling for budgetary certainty for the Rural Affairs portfolio ahead of Welsh Government publishing its draft budget later this month.

Welsh Government has already warned that it faces its ‘toughest financial position since devolution’. Earlier this year, Welsh Government made a number of in-year budget cuts - which included a £37.5m cut to the Rural Affairs pot - as part of a ‘reprioritisation’ of its budget to address a significant funding shortfall.

The collaborative letter reads:

“Whilst we recognise the challenges that Welsh Government must contend with, we highlight that the entire Departmental Rural Affairs Budget of £482 million represents just 2% of the Welsh Government Budget. It is vitally important that as a minimum, this budget is maintained to ensure that our obligations and ambitions in relation to food, nature and climate are achieved.

“During a period of unprecedented change, we are grateful to Welsh Government for the commitment it has shown to farming and our environment through maintaining levels of funding for the Basic Payment Scheme and the Glastir Scheme in recent years. 

“We are deeply concerned, however, that rural Wales now faces a loss of £37.5m resulting from the in-year review of budgets confirmed in October 2023, a cut of 7.9% to a budget that has not seen an increase for a decade or more. This at a time when farmers and land managers are being asked to deliver far more for society than at any time previously in an extremely challenging economic landscape.

“As farming and environmental organisations, we are clear that any further cuts to the Departmental Rural Affairs Budget, and within that the funding allocated for the delivery of support that provides stability to rural businesses, alongside measures that underpin environmental delivery, will seriously threaten and undermine our rural communities and our ability to meet our shared aspiration to be global leaders in the production of climate and nature friendly food.”

 

FUW report highlights importance of farm support in Wales’ livestock supply chains

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has emphasised the importance of maintaining agricultural support to the rural economy and agricultural production after publishing a report highlighting the role of direct support to Wales’ livestock supply chains.

The report, entitled ‘The role of farm support in Wales’ livestock supply chains’ uses five years of Welsh Farm Business Survey figures to investigate what increases in profits or reductions in selected input costs would be needed to maintain average livestock farm profits if direct support was cut by 50% and 100%.

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Wales has already lost more than £200 million as a result of UK Treasury cuts to our agriculture budget, and the Welsh Government has recently cut this year’s rural affairs budget by a further £37 million.

Prominent Llanfair Caereinion farmer joins FUW Board

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has appointed prominent Llanfair Caereinion farmer, Wyn Williams, to its Board as a farmer director. Mr Williams farms at Penllwyn Farm, Llanfair Caereinion,Powys,  a 280 acre hill farm where he keeps 600 ewes and 150 ewe lambs. 

He is a former senior livestock buyer at Dunbia (Llanybydder) and also held roles such as Group Procurement Manager and Livestock Procurement Manager with them. He has been on the Board of Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales for 9 years and is also the FUW’s county vice chair in Montgomeryshire. 

Speaking about his appointment to the FUW Board, he said: “Farming faces a turbulent and uncertain future and now more than ever we need to ensure that the FUW is there to ensure that our members are well served in return for their membership fees.  At a time of significant change within the sector I’m looking forward to helping guide the efforts of the Union from a business perspective to help us support our members in navigating those challenges.”

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