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Farming

WG unveils new farm support plans

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Brexit and Our Land: Welsh Government launches vital consultation

NEW proposals to support Welsh farmers after Brexit have been unveiled.

On Tuesday​ (Jul 10) the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths launched a consultation on a new Land Management Programme to support Welsh farmers post-Brexit, replacing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The latest Welsh Government Brexit paper, Brexit and our Land, proposes two new large and flexible schemes to replace Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Glastir and other parts of the Rural Development Programme.

The programme will consist of the following two schemes:

The Economic Resilience Scheme will provide targeted investment to land managers and their supply chains. It will provide investment to increase competitiveness and make improvements in resilience and productivity for high-quality food production.

The Public Goods Scheme will provide a new income stream to land managers delivering public goods from the land. It will enable them to help address challenges such as climate change mitigation, habitat loss, poor air and water quality.

All land managers will have the opportunity to benefit from the new schemes, not just those currently receiving CAP. However, people will need to do things differently in return for this support.

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths said: “Welsh land matters. Over 90% of Welsh land is in the hands of our farmers, foresters or other stewards of the landscape. How land is managed matters to us all and our land managers have the potential to produce outcomes of huge importance to Wales.

“Once we leave the EU, our access to markets and how we compete will change so maintaining the status quo is not an option. Exiting the EU means we have to do things differently and now is the time to prepare. We need to change how we support our farmers and agriculture sector to make them sustainable and able to thrive in a new trading environment. We have the chance to design a ‘Made in Wales’ system that works for Welsh farmers and our communities.

“The Programme marks a significant change. That is why we want to see a phased transition that balances time needed for change with the need to provide timely support.

“Our new programme aims to keep farmers farming on their land and will enable the sector to thrive in a post-Brexit world.”

No changes will be made to the existing BPS scheme in 2018 and 2019 and all current Glastir contracts will continue to be honoured. From 2020, work will begin to move to the new schemes, including a phased reduction in BPS as new schemes come on-stream. The ambition is to have the new schemes fully in place by 2025 using existing high-performing Rural Payments Wales systems.

The proposals will be subject to extensive consultation until October, working closely with key partners. A white paper setting out detailed proposals will be published next spring and we will publish a Bill before the end of this Assembly session to make provision for the reform. Funding from old schemes will not be withdrawn until new schemes are ready.

Currently, the Common Agricultural Policy provides around £300m a year of support for Welsh land managers. The Brexit and our Land paper reiterates the importance that Wales should not lose a penny from leaving the EU and calls on the UK Government to urgently confirm that Wales will maintain its current share of funding.

NFU Cymru is urging farmers across Wales to make their voices heard following the launch oft he consultation.

The Union said the consultation will be ‘the most significant and important Welsh Government consultation for a generation’.

NFU Cymru will be undertaking a comprehensive member engagement programme over the coming months, which includes a dedicated consultation seminar at the Royal Welsh Show and similar briefings at the summer county shows, as well as five regional roadshow events across Wales in September, all designed to ensure farmers are able to respond effectively to the proposals.

Speaking following the launch of the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “NFU Cymru’s vision for a future Welsh agricultural policy is built firmly on three cornerstones: productivity, volatility and the environment. Although this consultation considers in detail productivity measures (economic resilience) and environment measures (public goods), it appears to suggest that volatility (stability) measures are not required. While we accept that Welsh Government is proposing a multi-year phased removal of the BPS, it is the firm belief of the Union that given the unprecedented weather events of the last year and the impact that has had on the industry, coupled with continued global political instability and the ongoing uncertainty over future trading relationships, the case for maintaining stability measures as a strong element of any future agricultural policy has, in fact, never been more compelling if we are to ensure the continued supply of safe, quality, affordable food.

“The case for farm support is a strong one. Just last year the NFU commissioned research which showed that for every £1 invested by government in agriculture the industry delivers a return of around £7.40 – that’s a £1.5 billion return on the £200m a year currently spent on direct payments in Wales. Add to this the wider environmental, cultural and social contribution of farming and there can be little doubt that the industry represents extremely good value for money. Removing direct payments would have a massive impact on the Welsh agricultural industry and because farming is so intrinsically linked to the well-being of Wales, it would consequently have a similarly detrimental effect on the people and communities of Wales. The Welsh Government’s continued stance that Wales should not lose a penny as a result of Brexit is, of course, to be commended.

“NFU Cymru welcomes the opportunity for the Welsh agricultural industry to take a closer look at Welsh Government’s thinking around the future of agricultural policy here in Wales. As a democratic organisation we will now begin an unprecedented level of engagement with our members and feed their views into our formal consultation response.

“Of course, this is not the first consultation on Brexit that NFU Cymru has undertaken; following the referendum vote just over two years ago NFU Cymru launched the biggest consultation in its history. Since that point NFU Cymru has formulated a set of key principles that we believe should form the foundations of a new domestic agricultural policy for a productive, profitable and progressive agricultural industry in Wales. As we begin to analyse and fully digest the consultation we will judge it against these key principles, which include:

  • A policy that underpins and secures the continued supply of safe, quality, traceable, affordable food for our nation, in the context of future global challenges, must be at the heart of any future agricultural policy.
  • All farmers must be fairly rewarded for the environmental/public goods they already deliver and will continue to deliver in future for society.
  • Policies must be simple to administer, easy to understand and target support at those active farmers who take the financial risks associated with food production.
  • Investment measures are required to ensure that farming businesses are well equipped to face the challenges and maximise the opportunities of a post-Brexit marketplace.
  • The regulatory regime must be proportionate and evidence-based and policies must be adequately funded to ensure that Welsh farming remains competitive with farmers in the UK, EU and globally.

“This is the most significant and important Welsh Government consultation for a generation and it is of paramount importance that farmers across Wales contribute their own views as part of the process – we need to ensure the industry’s voice is heard loud and clear.”

Commenting on the document, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “What is proposed would constitute the most radical change to our farm policies since 2005, and is a world away from the kind of policies previously in place from 1947 onwards.

“Given this, it is essential that farmers take the time to consider them over the coming weeks and months and respond to the consultation appropriately.”

The Welsh Government intends to organise a number of events across Wales later in the year during which farmers and others will be able to learn more about the proposals and ask questions, before the deadline at the end of October.

Mr Roberts said that as the FUW is a member of the Cabinet Secretary’s Roundtable group and sub groups, the proposals did not come as a surprise.

“We have numerous concerns about what is being proposed, and we have been vociferous in raising these.

“Amongst these are the fact that the EU have recently announced their commitment to providing the farmers against which we will compete with ongoing direct support at levels similar to those currently in place,” said Mr Roberts.

“We also need to be aware of policy proposals in other parts of the UK and make sure Welsh policies do not place our farmers at a disadvantage.”

The Scottish Government has recently reiterated its commitment to recognising topographical and other handicaps faced by Scottish farmers and providing support payments which recognise these.

“Given we have a similar proportion of disadvantaged land to Scotland, it would be unacceptable if our own government placed us at a disadvantage to our Scottish counterparts,” he said.

Mr Roberts welcomed the fact that the paper acknowledged the need for an appropriate transition period, and raised the question of what a transition might look like.

“The FUW has made it clear since the June 2016 EU Referendum that we need an appropriate and lengthy transition period to any new policy, and that the dangers of implementing a policy over just a few years would be significant.

“We have also highlighted the need to take policy developments in terms of the next EU agricultural policy and the progress of Brexit negotiations into account, rather than rushing forward with detailed proposals which might turn out to be completely inappropriate under the final Brexit agreement.”

Mr Roberts said that the position agreed by the UK Government’s Cabinet on Friday on how agricultural commodities might be traded with the EU made it clear why the FUW was right to do this.

“Above all else, the interests and future of our family farms should be the priority in terms of any future policy for Wales.”

“The FUW will be consulting with each of its twelve county branches over the coming months, and their views will be fully reflected in our response to the Welsh Government.”

Farming

Staycation boom offers farms new revenue stream

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THE NUMBER of working farms looking to cash in on the boom in staycations has sky-rocketed, according to figures from Pitchup.com.

Of the 2,000 campsites listed on Pitchup.com – Europe’s largest outdoor accommodation provider – more than 700 are working farms and 300 of those operate temporary sites, set up to take advantage of the peak holiday season.
Many such sites have joined the business in the first quarter of 2021, eager to secure a post-COVID financial recovery.

The hike comes after a change in planning policy increased the length of time farms and other land-based businesses can legally operate a campsite without planning permission from 28 days to 56 days.

Other factors, Pitchup.com discovered, include concerns over falling support payments and Government plans to curtail farming through environmental policies which will disadvantage active farmers.

Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, said farmers were turning to temporary campsites in droves because they are the quickest and easiest form of diversification to get off the ground.

He said: “Establishing a campsite is very easy. At their most basic, all you need is a patch of land and running water, which most farms have already, and some toilets, which are easy to hire. Crucially, you don’t need planning permission to operate one for up to 56 days per year.

“With staycations booming and that trend set to stay, people are crying out for beautiful areas of the countryside where they can enjoy a relaxing break away from the pressures of work and lockdown.

“Farmers are perfectly placed to provide that. The farm-based campsites we work with can decide how many guests they want to host and with demand as it is, we are extremely confident we can fill those pitches.”

Mr Yates added that as well as being quick, convenient, and unobtrusive on day-to-day farming operations, pop-up and permanent campsites can be very lucrative.

“Although most campsites don’t generate quite this level of income, even small pop-up sites – which are the easiest by far to accommodate – return on average £13,000 in extra revenue per year, and many take tens of thousands of pounds more than this.

“It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that they’re becoming so popular among farms and land-owning businesses. We expect to see many more farmers try this kind of diversification as we come out of lockdown and the summer gets closer.”

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Farming

FUW calls for Welsh policies for Welsh agriculture

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THE FUW has urged the incoming Welsh Government to develop bespoke, tailor-made policies that reflect global realities as well as Welsh economic, social, and environmental needs.

Five years ago, ahead of the 2016 Welsh Senedd elections, the Farmers’ Union of Wales warned of the unprecedented challenges facing the incoming Senedd Members and Government. Since then, those challenges have not only materialised but been exacerbated and added to. 

Outlining the big issues facing agriculture in Wales at a press conference, which launched the FUW’s 2021 Welsh Senedd Election Manifesto, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The materialisation of a far harder form of Brexit than had been promised by those who lobbied for our departure from the EU has restricted access to our main export markets on the continent in ways that are only beginning to be felt. 

“At the same time, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition and has highlighted the fragility of global food supply chains and the importance of a strong farming sector on which our domestic markets should be able to rely upon for commodity products.

“While such issues have been largely beyond the control of our devolved administrations, the reaction of the Welsh Government to the uncertainty and challenges faced by our agriculture sector has at times been bewildering and counterintuitive, not least in terms of its appetite for drastically increasing costs and restrictions while advocating untried and untested reforms of rural support policies.”

Meanwhile, UK Government cuts to Welsh rural funding – in a direct contradiction to promises made repeatedly by those who advocated Brexit – have added to the pressures on Welsh agriculture, the rural economy, and Welsh Government, said the Union President.

Through its manifesto and ongoing lobbying work, the FUW continues to be clear that Wales’ family farms lie at the centre of our rural economy, culture, and landscape, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of businesses involved in the Welsh food supply industry, and making innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Welsh and UK residents – benefits central to which is the production of food, our most precious commodity alongside water.

“Moving forward we need policies which reflect the need to mitigate climate change and protect our environment, but such aspirations must be tempered by the knowledge that sweeping changes that undermine our family farms and food production will merely shift production to countries with lower animal welfare standards and higher global and environmental footprints” said Glyn Roberts.

Highlighting the disappointment of members over the years with the current Welsh Government, Mr Roberts added that rather than feeling that industry concerns have been taken on board and seeing proportionate measures put in place to safeguard the agricultural  industry, many consider the current direction of travel as a betrayal of devolution which directly threatens the agriculture industry and the culture, language and way of life which are intrinsically linked to Welsh food production.

Speaking from his farm in North Wales, he added: “With this in mind, I make no apology for highlighting our members’ frustration about the lack of bespoke Welsh policies regarding future farmingscheme proposals and tackling water quality issues put forward by the current Welsh Government, and the distinct feeling that those who govern us from Cardiff Bay are now more remote from and indifferent to our rural communities than ever.

“Welsh farmers are proud to produce world-leading food to environmental, animal health and welfare and food safety standards that are second to none, but these need to be regulated in a proportionate manner which does not stifle innovation, create unjustified restrictions and place Welsh farmers at a severe competitive disadvantage against other countries’ agricultural produce.” 

Such concerns are particularly pertinent in an era when the UK Government is proactively seeking to sign trade deals with countries with production standards which fall well short of those already required of Welsh food producers, and while the aspiration that further raising standards will provide our producers with a competitive advantage in high-end markets is understandable, it is also naive given what the data tells us about widespread consumer indifference to such standards both here and around the globe.

“Alongside other critical issues and priorities outlined in this manifesto, the FUW urges the incoming Welsh Government and Senedd to develop bespoke, tailor-made policies that reflect such global realities as well as Welsh economic, social and environmental needs and the seven Welsh Well-being Goals; policies that maintain our already high standards while ensuring Welsh producers are not undermined in ways that lead to greater imports of food from those with far lower standards than our own,” said the Union President.

For the period of the next Welsh Senedd and beyond, the FUW is committed to lobbying all those in Cardiff to ensure that agriculture and family farms receive the attention and respect that they warrant – for the sake of all our futures.

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Farming

Appeal for dog walkers to keep pets under control during lambing season

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THE LAMBING season is upon us and with many public paths crossing fields of sheep, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority is appealing to dog walkers to follow best practice when out in the countryside.

While walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail and other public footpaths and bridleways:

Always keep dogs on a short lead and under close control when sheep or any other livestock are present.
Clean up after your dog; bag it and bin it wherever you can or take it away –please do not leave poo bags in the countryside.

National Park Authority Public Rights of Way Officer, Meurig Nicholas said: “If your dog is out of your sight or left out of control, it may chase after, attack or worry sheep. Worried and stressed pregnant sheep can miscarry or abort their lambs.

“Young lambs are also very vulnerable at this time, and can get distressed and even die if they are separated from their mothers or abandoned after being chased by dogs.”

There have also been incidents where dogs have had to be rescued from cliffs because they were not kept under close control.

Mr Nicholas added: “These situations have resulted in emergency services such as the Coastguard and RNLI having to retrieve and rescue dogs. These incidents are avoidable and add unnecessary pressure to our busy emergency services.”

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