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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

NFU Mutual Tudy Farms Award

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NFU Mutual Tidy Farm Award: 2019's winner Gareth Davies with Grandson Aron Davies

THE NFU MUTUAL Tidy Farm Awards will return to Wales for a second year, after a successful launch in 2019. Entries for this year’s awards opened this month and close in March, promoting farm safety and offering cash prizes to farmers who have addressed common hazards on their farm.
The winner of Wales’ tidiest farm will be awarded £1,000, with £500 and £250 awarded to the second and third place entries. Farmers can nominate themselves, or local people can nominate a farm in their area. Family members and friends can also make nominations.
Entries will be judged on eight submitted photographs which show how common farm hazards have been addressed to reduce the risk of an accident.
The photos should show how the farmer:
• Separates their farm and home
• Stores their vehicles, machinery and equipment
• Uses signs and mark routes for delivery
• Fences off dangerous areas
• Minimises the risks of slips, trips and falls
Details of the award and how to apply are on a dedicated page on NFU Mutual’s website: www.nfumutual.co.uk/tidyfarmawards
Entries close on the March 23 and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony taking place at the Royal Welsh Show in July.
The award judges are Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation; Gwyn Barlow, NFU Mutual Manager for Wales; Dan Killingbeck, Sales Consultant at NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Wales; Hedd Pugh, Rural Affairs Board Chairman for NFU Cymru.
The initiative is being supported by NFU Cymru, NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Limited, the Wales Farm Safety Partnership and the Farm Safety Foundation, the charity set up by NFU Mutual to help farmers work safely.
“The Tidy Farm Awards were set up to recognise farmers who have really gone the extra mile to ensure a safe, tidy and healthy working environment,” said Gwyn Barlow, NFU Mutual Manager for Wales.
“After the competition saw a positive response in 2019, we were keen to re-run the event in 2020 and refresh these vital messages. This year, we’ve extended the number of pictures we will consider per entry from four to eight, giving farmers the best opportunity to showcase what can be done to make farms safer.
“As a mutual insurer which is closely connected with many farms in Wales, we are all too aware of the heartbreak farm accidents cause. Because most farms are homes as well as a workplace, we’re running this award scheme as a reminder that safety should be front of mind for the whole farming family.”
Stephanie Berkeley, who manages the Farm Safety Foundation, said: “Farming and food production play a crucial role in the life and economy of Wales, but every year we have to reluctantly report that agriculture still has the poorest safety record of any occupation here.
Six farm workers lost their lives on Welsh farms in 2018/2019, showing no improvement from the six fatalities in 2017/18. But even one death will always be one too many. All too often, these life-changing and life-ending accidents are avoidable. We know there are farms out there operating safely and efficiently and it’s time to celebrate them and reward those who have created a safe and tidy farm. The Foundation is proud to work with the Wales Farm Safety Partnership and help in their efforts to raise awareness of farm safety and help improve the health and safety of the local farming community.”

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Farming

Mind Your Head

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Farm Safety Foundation: Calling for greater awareness of mental health challenges

THIS week (Feb 10-14) the Farm Safety Foundation, held their third annual Mind Your Head campaign, to raise awareness of the issues facing farmers today and the link between farm safety and mental health.
A study by the Farm Safety Foundation found that mental health issues among farmers and agricultural workers are of growing concern, and have a direct impact on safety on the farm. 84% of farmers under the age of 40 believe that mental health is the biggest danger facing the industry today, up from 81% in 2018. Meanwhile, 85% of young farmers believe there is a definite link between mental health and the overall safety of farms.
The farming industry faces many stress factors, which are placing increasing pressure on workers and putting them at greater risk of mental ill-health. These include extended amounts of time working in isolation, a blurring between work and home life, and financial uncertainty. Brexit, changing consumer habits, and the climate crisis presenting further threats to the industry.
The total income in the UK from farming decreased by a massive £971 million between 2017 and 2018, and 42% of UK farmers would have made a loss between 2014 and 2017 without direct payments from the EU.
Are all of these issues contributing to poor mental health?
In 2018 there were 83 suicides amongst people working in agricultural and related trades in England and Wales.
This year’s Mind Your Head campaign focussed on the physical and mental wellbeing of an industry under pressure and aims to educate those living and working in the UK’s agricultural communities about the various mental health threats facing them. This year’s campaign aims to bring public attention to issues such as ‘smiling depression’, PTSD, loneliness, rural isolation and mental health in young farmers.
Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said: “It is encouraging to see more discussions about mental health, more awareness of the various mental health conditions and more emphasis on the support available to the farming community; however, more still needs to be done.
“Whilst farmers are often culturally ill-equipped to discuss mental health issues, one of the most effective methods in combating stigma is talking about it. This is what we have been doing and will continue to push.
“It is vital to build a culture within agriculture that explicitly recognises how the job can impact on the wellbeing of farmers and their families and conversely how poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job. Let’s be clear, this isn’t someone else’s responsibility, this is on our watch and, in these challenging times, it’s down to each and every one of us to look out for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and ourselves.”

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Farming

NRW looks to develop partnerships

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Making Connections: NRW focuses on cross-sector working

AN EVENT to celebrate collaboration and developing partnerships to meet the growing challenges facing the Welsh environment has taken place at The Senedd.
Hosted by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and sponsored by the Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths AM, the Making the Connections event focussed on how NRW works with other organisations for a greener, safer and prosperous Wales.
NRW’s Chief Executive Clare Pillman explained: “Each week, indeed every day, we are witnessing new global and national commitments for nature and the environment – and that is both challenging and exciting.
“And I’m glad to see that Wales – and NRW – is at the forefront of making these commitments.
“But of course, we can’t do this alone, to succeed we need to build positive working relationships focussing on customer service and working in collaboration with partners old and new and this is what this event is all about.”
Following keynote speeches by NRW’s Chair Sir David Henshaw, Clare Pillman and the Minister, an informal networking session took place where guests were able to learn more about specific areas of partnership working.
Topics including waste crime, tourism, timber sector, land management, education, health and wellbeing, metal mines, flooding and LIFE projects were represented by organisations as diverse as the Welsh Revenue Authority, Confor, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia National Parks, Met Office, Public Health Wales, Coal Authority, Cardiff County Council and the farming unions.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs said: “I am pleased NRW is taking this opportunity to showcase the work they carry out with their partners and for us all to have this opportunity to build networks and new partnerships.
“It is vital we all work together to reverse the effects of climate change and respond to the challenges of the climate emergency.”
The Minister also took the opportunity to thank NRW staff for their ‘expertise and professionalism’ in protecting communities from the effects of climate change, their work to tackle pollution which harms habitats and species and the complex policy and evidence work behind Wales’ drive to achieve net-zero emissions.
The Environment Act makes collaborative working a legal requirement in Wales and the interest in the Making the Connections event demonstrates its importance in developing innovative and sustainable solutions.
In his closing remarks, Sir David Henshaw said: “The challenges we face are considerable but so are the opportunities and we have, amongst us all, is a remarkable wealth of knowledge and ingenuity on what needs to be done.”
“So, our message is straightforward, not only do we want to develop partnerships, we want to make it easy for others to partner with us for the benefit of both the natural environment and for everyone who lives in or visits Wales.”

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