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Farming

Agriculture Bill passes Commons

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THE CONSERVATIVE Party used its Commons majority to ram through its Agriculture Bill on Monday, October 12.
Along the way, it voted down amendments which would have forced Boris Johnson’s government to uphold its manifesto promises on food production standards and animal welfare.
The Government’s actions, combined with its procedural manoeuvre to block an attempt to give a proposed trade watchdog teeth, have drawn universal condemnation from farming unions and organisations.
Fourteen Conservative MPs opposed the Government, including former DEFRA Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. Every Welsh Conservative MP voted against safeguarding farmingstandards.
The Wildlife Trusts of Wales and England described the vote as: “[T]he clearest signal yet that the Government do not intend to uphold their election manifesto commitment to maintain the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in trade negotiations.”
Phil Stocker of the NSA commented: “There is now the very real risk, despite Government’s assurances, that the UK’s standards that our nation’s farmers are proud to work to, could be undermined by lower standard imports.”

‘DISAPPOINTMENT AN UNDERSTATEMENT’

Speaking to The Herald after the vote, TFA Chief Executive George Dunn said: “To say that the events which took place in the House of Commons last night were a disappointment, would be a major understatement. For the Government to whip its MPs to vote against an amendment entirely in line with its own policy has created a breach of trust in believing its rhetoric around protecting our high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards in future international trade agreements.”
“It was also shocking that the Government used a procedural manoeuvre to deny MPs the opportunity of voting on a crucial House of Lords amendment that would have improved the operation of the newly appointed Trade and Agriculture Commission,” Mr Dunn told us.
He continued: “This was a shocking piece of political chicanery which prevented MPs from even debating this important piece of legislation. Over a million people signed a petition earlier in the year calling on the Government to ensure the strongest standards in trade and it is an issue for which there has been cross-party support. Expanding the role and remit of the Trade and Agriculture Commission would not, as the Government claimed, tie its hands but merely ensure that its future trade policy had proper scrutiny and support from an expert panel.”
Mr Dunn concluded by drawing attention to the erosion of trust between the Conservative Government and the agriculture industry: “Day after day we hear Government Ministers declare that they will not jeopardise our high environmental, animal welfare and consumer safety standards in trade. Sadly, their words say one thing, but their actions say another. Unless we have strong legislation in this area, the fine words are just empty promises.”

‘WARM WORDS WON’T WASH’

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards told this newspaper: “The Agriculture Bill was a missed opportunity to safeguard in law food product standards and in particular food production standards.
“Warm words from the British Government that they won’t allow Welsh farmers to be undercut by lower standard food in trade deals won’t wash.
“The fact that the British Government have gone out of their way to stop democratic accountability over trade deals does not fill me with confidence.
“Wales should have a veto over trade deals negotiated by the British Government in the same way that every single member of the European Union could veto trade deals negotiated by the EU.
“The reality is that the future of Welsh farming is in the hands of a British Government who I fear will be conceding access to food markets in order to gain concessions for London banks.”

NFU DISMAY

NFU Cymru expressed dismay but vowed to continue lobbying for binding commitments to safeguard farming’s high standards in future trade deals
NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones said: “It is a blow that the Grantchester amendment (on animal welfare) was not adopted by a majority of MPs, nor did MPs have the chance to vote on the Curry amendment (strengthening the Trade & Agriculture Commission). However, NFU Cymru remains steadfast in its belief that Welsh farmers must not be undermined by imported products produced to lower standards than those observed here in the UK.”
Adopting an upbeat approach which suggested NFU Cymru was prepared to take government promises and MPs’ words at face value, Mr Jones continued: “We were encouraged to hear so many MPs in last night’s debate expressing their support for those high standards – standards that consumers in this country have come to expect – and we thank those MPs who spoke up in favour of this important cause.
“This ongoing debate around food standards is matter of a huge importance for Britain’s farmers and Britain’s consumers, also. We simply cannot risk any trade scenario which could result in food imports coming into this country that would be illegal if produced here.”
Looking forward to the next stage of the Bill’s passage to the statute books, Aled Jones added: “With the Agriculture Bill set to return to the House of Lords, this gives peers another opportunity to put forward amendments that we hope will bring about the changes we want to see – UK farming’s high standards protected and enshrined in law, while also giving more power to the elbow of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.”

LACK OF COMMITMENT ‘SPEAKS VOLUMES’

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd MS, told us: “Last night, Plaid Cymru supported amendments that would have protected food standards in future trade deals and strengthened parliamentary scrutiny of trade negotiations.
“Yet again, the Conservatives let down Welsh farmers when given the chance to protect their livelihoods. Despite all their promises and manifesto commitments, the Government defeated the amendments, exposing our farmers to cheap produce in future trade deals.
“Plaid Cymru will continue to put forward a positive vision for our food producers based on a greater say for our devolved governments and the protection of food standards. This is not because we not only believe them necessary now, but because they are fundamental to our farmers and food producers in the future.”
Lesley Griffiths, Wales’ Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “Although UK Ministers continue to insist they will maintain existing high standards of food safety and animal welfare in any new trade deals, their rejection of the opportunity to put this commitment into statute speaks volumes – especially given the fact that the amendments put forward by the Lords gave them a prime opportunity to do so.
“Food safety and welfare are devolved matters, and we have been clear that we would resist any clauses in the Internal Market Bill which would allow Westminster to start a race to the bottom in terms of standards – a move which would not just impact consumers, but also risk farm businesses across Wales as they face international competition from companies willing to forego the standards to which they adhere.”

WIDER REACTION

Prominent farmer and TV presenter Gareth Wyn Jones tweeted: ‘Very disappointed this morning after last night’s government defeated amendments to the #AgricultureBill which would have protected our #food & #farming standards. Don’t forget they’ve not only sold the farming community out but the health of our nation. @BorisJohnson’
Conservation groups and environmental campaigners also expressed their concern at the government’s unwillingness to commit to anything more than warm sentiment over environmental standards and welfare measures.
The RSPB said: “The UK Government must now say how it will meet its manifesto commitment to maintain standards in future trade deals, as confidence in them to do so is now at a chronically low ebb.”
RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood also underlined the Government’s failure to put meat on its manifesto promise.
Chris Sherwood said: “The Government once again failed to make good their manifesto promise that they will not sell out the UK’s animal welfare for a quick trade deal. The vote shows a disregard for the British public, 83% of whom said they did not want lower standard imports coming in from the US when we leave the EU.”
Nature Friendly Farming Network UK Chair, Martin Lines, observed: “Despite manifesto commitments and repeated assurances from successive governments not to lessen standards in trade, the government has instead passed on one of the final opportunities to enshrine our high-quality environmental and animal welfare standards in law and to protect the UK farmingindustry.”
James Russell, BVA President, said: “This result is a severe blow for animal welfare and a betrayal of the Government’s own manifesto commitment to maintain and improve on health and welfare standards.
“We have long argued that the UK cannot commit to raising the bar domestically while allowing in goods that don’t meet the high standards that British consumers rightly want and expect.
“If the government won’t legislate to protect our standards it is vital that the Trade and Agriculture Commission is given more powers and stature to safeguard them in future trade deals.”
CLA President Mark Bridgeman sounded a warning note: “Government Ministers have successfully convinced MPs they can be trusted to protect food production standards without the need for legislation.
“Time and again Ministers have promised to protect British farmers from a flood of cheap imports produced to animal welfare and environmental standards far below our own.
Farmers across the country will be watching Government’s every move very closely from hereon in.”

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Farming

Farming remains ‘backbone of rural life’ says MP Crabb ahead of Pembrokeshire County Show

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S biggest agricultural event is due to take place over two days, on 17th and 18th August showcasing equine and livestock, craft and horticulture, show jumping, poultry and more. The show is organised by Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, along with a large number of volunteers, and sponsorship from local businesses.

This year’s event, returning to its usual large scale format for the first time since 2019, serves as a real celebration of rural life in the County. Mr Crabb, alongside other local representatives, will host a stand at Pembrokeshire Agricultural Show at the County Showground, just outside Haverfordwest.

Speaking in a debate in Parliament this afternoon about County agricultural shows, Mr Crabb highlighted their role as a shop window for outstanding produce. He also paid tribute to Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society and praised the work of volunteers in facilitating the show’s success.

Following the debate, the Preseli MP added: “Farming remains a very important sector in Wales. It remains the backbone of rural life, with county shows providing the perfect environment for the whole community to get together and celebrate the unique and rich agricultural history.”

“Covid has meant that over the last few years county shows have not been permitted to take place. With Pembrokeshire County Show normally attracting around 100,000 visitors, I am delighted that this year it has been given the green light to commence again at full capacity.”

“With so many shows and stands, Pembrokeshire County Show highlights the very best of community cohesion and togetherness. It brings together not only the farming community, but many other sectors.”

“Pembrokeshire County Show remains a highlight in my calendar, and I very much look forward to attending and celebrating Pembrokeshire’s farming community”

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Farming

Welsh Government announces Sustainable Farming Scheme

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WALES’s farming unions have cautiously welcomed the Welsh Government’s proposals for the future of Welsh agriculture.
As part of its planned legislation for the next two years, Labour ministers unveiled their ideas for farming support and environmental objectives for Welsh farms on Tuesday this week.
The Welsh Government will not decide how the final Scheme will look until further consultation on the detailed proposals. An economic analysis will be presented in 2023.
While critical of some of the proposals, local MS Sam Kurtz also welcomed a change in tone from the Welsh Government towards Wales’s farming industry.
Agriculture is one of Pembrokeshire’s most important industries. It supports a vast web of local businesses. Therefore, the Welsh Government’s agricultural policy will directly impact our County and its economy.

KURTZ IS “PROUD TO
STAND UP FOR FARMING”

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz MS said: “The Welsh Government’s announcement has come a long way from what was touted back in 2018, and the farming unions have rightly welcomed this movement.
“Although a universal set of actions for all Welsh farmers is a positive, flexibility must also be present, given the varying types of upland, lowland and coastal farms in Wales.
“I would also like to have seen more done to protect food security, the Welsh language, and the vitality of rural communities.
“Asking all farmers to have 10% tree covering on their farms will come with concerns, given that this will be impossible for some.
“The industry wants to play its part in supporting nature and improving our climate, but hard and fast rules can sometimes lead to unintended consequences.
“I’m also disappointed – but not surprised – that this plan has been published without numbers on the finances, denying farmers the figures they need to run their business. The finer detail of the Scheme will show whether it will be a success or not.
“I’m pleased to have played a small part in pushing the Welsh Government to do better in its support for farmers, and I’m happy that some of my concerns have been taken on board.
“I’ve always said farming needs a friend, and I’m proud to stand up for our important industry.”

SUSTAINABLE FARMING IS THE GOAL

The Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals signify a major change and will be key in supporting Welsh farmers to lead the delivery of a more resilient environment and a more resilient rural economy.
The Welsh Government will provide financial support for the work farmers do to meet the challenges of the climate and nature emergencies alongside sustainable food production.
Wales’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS, said: “The climate and nature emergencies threaten the sustainability of agriculture and present the most serious risk to food security both globally and locally.
“We must respond to this if we are to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector for generations to come.
One of my intentions for publishing the outline of the Scheme now is to help the industry plan for the future.
“Sustainable food production and actions to deliver environmental outcomes are complementary, not competing, agendas.
“Farming is vital for Wales and plays a key role in supporting our economy and rural communities. I firmly believe the Sustainable Farming Scheme offers a real opportunity for positive change.
“With the support it will provide, we can help the sector prosper.”
Ms Griffiths continued: “The Sustainable Farming Scheme has been designed to support what our farmers do best: sustainable farming and producing food in harmony with the environment.
“I want to see this Scheme drastically improve our biodiversity and strengthen the Welsh farming sector.
“We will rely on the commitment and expertise of the Welsh farming sector to deliver Net Zero and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity. The Scheme is designed to support farmers with this important role while simultaneously helping them continue producing high-quality food to high production standards.”

FUW SAYS PROPOSALS
“ON THE RIGHT TRACK”

Responding to the document, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We welcome those areas of the proposals that have changed to reflect the concerns we highlighted in response to previous proposals.
“Notwithstanding some areas which raise major alarms, and the devil that lies in further details, the Welsh Government has moved on leaps and bounds and now has an overarching framework that is not dissimilar to what we have proposed.”
However, Mr Roberts sounded a cautionary note: “There are some concerning suggestions regarding universal actions that, while being possible or practical for some farmers, would not be for large numbers of others,” the union leader said.
“The proposal that ten per cent of all farms should comprise tree cover will be a major concern for many farmers for whom this would mean losing a large proportion of their productive land; there are also concerns about how this would impact tenants.
“There are also some farms, such as in exposed coastal areas or those in designated areas, where meeting this obligation would simply not be possible.”

NFU LOOKS FOR
MORE DETAIL

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “I am encouraged by Welsh Government’s proposals that, in return for undertaking a set of universal actions, farmers will be able to enter into the Scheme and receive a baseline payment.
“We now need to carefully consider the practicality of these actions and how they could work to support productive, progressive and profitable farming systems.
“The outline proposed by Welsh Government appears to be a step towards the NFU Cymru vision of a sustainability and stability payment that should be available to all active farmers.
“NFU Cymru has consistently highlighted the need to ensure that the Welsh Government must target support at active farmers: the people and businesses who take the commercial risks associated with food production.
“I am pleased that the Minister has reiterated the importance of payments linked to actions that an active farmer carries out.
“While the outline proposals give farmers a first opportunity to see some of the actions and activities they may need to undertake to enter the SFS, without any information on the levels of funding attached to these actions and activities, it remains impossible for farming families to consider how the Scheme will support their farming business.
“We are clear that the Scheme must deliver at least the same level of stability for farm businesses, the supply chain and our rural communities as the current arrangements do.
“There is a need to ensure that the Scheme works for all farming sectors and all land types in Wales.”

MORE WORK TO BE DONE
SAYS PLAID CYMRU

Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “For several years, Plaid Cymru and the agricultural sector have been making the case that food production should be an integral part of any future farming support scheme.
“It is encouraging to see a fundamental shift in emphasis in the initial proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme published by the Welsh Government – the crucial role of active farmers as food producers is rightly recognised.
“However, there’s more work to be done, and we are waiting to see the detail underneath some of these proposals.
“We share the concerns expressed about the potential loss of productive, good-quality agricultural land for tree cover and the practical feasibility of this proposal.
“We will try to ensure that the substance matches the change in emphasis by actively rewarding food security as an outcome of the Scheme, as well as the wider social, linguistic and economic contribution of agriculture to the sustainability of our rural communities.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society make land available for community garden group

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GRWP Resilience are enjoying the fruits of their labour this summer thanks to Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society making land available to the group of local Haverfordwest residents for the production of fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a Community Garden.

The Society believes it is the first in the UK to take on such a project.

Just over an acre has been allocated initially on the County Showground in Haverfordwest for the project which has already seen over 40 local residents interested in being part of the group and using the land to grow fruit and vegetables.

Some of those interested have been waiting for over ten years for such an opportunity to arise.

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society Board Chairman, Mike Davies, said, “We really look forward to working with these hugely enthusiastic local residents on this project. It is great to see young families already learning from very experienced and knowledgeable growers. Here on the showground we have the valuable resource to kick start the process – fertile soil – and we are delighted to assist. Our charitable objectives cover the valuable opportunities which this great project offer.”

The community garden project came about on the showground following a request to local landowners in the Haverfordwest area from a local resident, retired GP Dr Roger Burns, who was interested in starting a scheme in the area. Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society responded positively to the request and GWRP, a Wales-wide organisation which helps stimulate community engagement and collaboration, then got involved to help officiate the agreement.

The growers have formed their own community interest company called Parc Helyg which is now managing the site. Sian Wells, Co-ordinator, said, “Thank you to the Society for providing the land and the farmers who ploughed the ground. We have waited ten years to grow food. We are delighted to now be on the land and already seeing the fruits of our labour.”

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society are fully supportive of the community garden project and recognise the value of the health and well-being aspect of the work. During the Covid-19 lockdowns there was a big rise in gardening and outdoor activities including in schools. The health and educational benefits of spending time outside, as well as growing your own food, are obvious.

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