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Farming

Mid and South Pembrokeshire MP hopefuls quizzed on farming

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AHEAD of the July 4 general election, Mid and South Pembrokeshire general election hopefuls have outlined what they will do the support farming and the countryside.

As part of constituency changes, bits of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids and– are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency.

Mid and South Pembrokeshire covers Letterston, Solva and St Davids down to Hundleton and Tenby, stretching eastwards to Amroth, Narberth and Lampeter Velfrey.

Other parts of the north of the county are now in the new Ceredigion Preseli constituency; which extends up past Aberystwyth and also includes Cilgerran, Crymych, St Dogmaels, Fishguard and Llanrhian.

There’s now a 15-candidate battle for the two seats, eight in Mid and South Pembrokeshire and seven in Ceredigion Preseli.

With a July 4 date set for the general election, the currently declared candidates for Mid and South Pembrokeshire are: Hanna Andersen (Women’s Equality Party); Alistair Cameron (Welsh Liberal Democrats); Stephen Crabb (Welsh Conservative); Stuart Marchant (Reform UK); James Purchase (Green Party); Vusi Siphika (Independent); Cris Tomos (Plaid Cymru); and Henry Tufnell (Welsh Labour).

Liberal Democrat candidate Alistair Cameron said: “Our farmers have a key role in ensuring that everyone can get affordable, healthy and nutritious food produced to high welfare and environmental standards. We must ensure that all imported food meets UK standards for health and welfare, and that goods are properly checked.

“Liberal Democrats would renegotiate the Australia and New Zealand trade agreements in line with our objectives for health, environmental and animal welfare standards, withdrawing from them if that cannot be achieved.

“I am pleased the Welsh Government is reviewing its proposed farm payment scheme as we need a fairer scheme.

“As a county councillor, I want to ensure that our planning policies safeguard and preserve our beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside whilst at the same time enabling people to make a decent living sustainably. “

Green Party candidate James Purchase said: “The Green Party will push for the financial support for farmers to be almost tripled. These payments will be linked to the reduction of pesticides and various agro-chemicals.

“It’s our food system that’s failing us – not farmers. Farmers must be fully supported in their transition to nature friendly farming – not shamed and blamed. Remember: land owners are not necessarily farmers. Poor diets are estimated to cost the NHS £6.5 billion a year and successive governments have failed to take on the unhealthy food lobby. I lived and worked on a large farm in Pembs for 20 yrs and, though not a farmer, witnessed the radical changes that had to be made to survive. The Green Party will work with farmers and other stakeholders to transform our food and farming systems.”

Hanna Andersen said: “The deep cuts to our public services mean that swathes of rural areas have lost local access care.

“I will champion local services which are accessible to all, are run for the needs of the communities they serve and are inclusive to everyone. This means working with rural communities in particular to ensure they have access to the care they need.

“I am also committed to working with farming communities to facilitate a fair and just transition to climate friendly farming, prioritising food security for local people.”

Labour candidate Henry Tufnell said: “I come from a farming family, and it was an integral part of my life growing up. A key priority for me therefore is to facilitate that positive working relationship between the rural community and the Welsh Government.

“Furthermore, the farming community in Pembrokeshire needs a government in Westminster that recognises food security is national security, extends the new veterinary agreement to cover all the UK thereby removing export barriers, harnesses our diplomatic and trade networks to champion Welsh farming whilst protecting the environment, and sets a target for half of all food purchased across the public sector to be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards.”

Conservative candidate Stephen Crabb said: “Farming is the backbone of the Pembrokeshire economy. When Pembrokeshire farming is doing well, our whole county does well.

“I am clear that food production must remain at the heart of agricultural policy, and I opposed Welsh Labour’s plans for removing 10 per cent of agricultural land for tree planting. I have a strong track record of standing up for Pembrokeshire’s farming community, fighting for fairer milk prices and a strong Supermarket Ombudsman to get a better deal for farmers.

“I will continue to challenge Welsh Labour’s failure to tackle Bovine TB which is causing high levels of stress and anxiety to farmers. I will also continue to campaign for lower fuel taxes, more affordable housing for Pembrokeshire people, and better rural transport connections.”

Reform’s Stuart Marchant said: “It seems to me that our farmers have been let down and are continually being let down. The Senedd is responsible for farming within Wales but in my view they are not held to account properly. I would expect to be the voice of my constituents and I would not be afraid to hold the Senedd to account vocally.

“Reform UK are also the only party that promises to increase the UK’s farming budget to £3 billion. Money that would then be issued by the Senedd within Wales but I would expect to closely monitor.

“I am also a believer in transport links. Our constituency is not well served by rail or road and I would expect to voice frequent and often calls for vast improvements to our rail links and roads.”

Independent Vusi Siphika said: “Farming and agriculture is an agenda with many intricacies. The government needs to stop dismantling farmland hectare by hectare, placing conditions on subsidies and trust farmers to do what they know – feed the nation!

“Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure our farmers get paid a fairer price. Supermarkets need to pay our farmers more.

“Farmer poverty is a reality which must end.  Farmers need government support to find modern solutions of farming that can still maintain levels of yield in production but protect the very land they work for generations to come.”

Plaid Cymru candidate Cris Tomos said: “Plaid Cymru is on the side of Welsh farming as the sector has faced serious challenges from both the Conservatives in Westminster, and Labour in Cardiff. Years of Tory economic chaos has contributed to huge rises in farm input costs and Westminster’s post-Brexit trade deals have allowed more cheap imports to undermine domestic markets.

“The Tories promised ‘not a penny less’ in farm funding to Wales, yet we have been left hundreds of millions of pounds worse off due to this broken promise. £243m is the estimate.

“I believe Wales should have a veto over future trade deals that undermine Welsh agricultural communities. I also opposed Labour’s Sustainable Farming Scheme in the Senedd, which called for 10% tree cover on all farms.”

Farming

Conservatives challenge Welsh Government over farming scheme

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have announced a debate in the Senedd, scheduled for July 17, 2024, focusing on the importance of Welsh farming and challenging the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to agricultural policy. The debate comes in the wake of ongoing concerns over the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) and its impact on the farming community.

The motion, brought forward by the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, James Evans MS, aims to highlight the critical role of farming in Wales. Evans criticised the Welsh Labour Government’s handling of agricultural issues, stating that the current SFS does not adequately support farmers and overlooks the essential contributions of the farming sector to the Welsh economy and rural communities.

“Labour continues to take our farmers for granted,” Evans said. “Unlike Labour, the Welsh Conservatives would make sure we have a Sustainable Farming Scheme that works for our farmers, not against them, safeguarding the future of our crucial industry.”

The motion to be debated reads:

  1. Celebration of Economic Contribution: The Senedd is urged to celebrate the valuable economic contribution of Welsh farming to the economy.
  2. Support for Rural Events: The motion acknowledges the benefits of events like the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod in supporting rural communities and promoting Welsh culture and language.
  3. Opposition to Current SFS: It supports the strong opposition within the agricultural community against the current SFS, reinforcing the message “no farmers, no food.”
  4. Call for Government Action:
  • Ensure the new SFS has the support of the farming community, with food security and environmental protection at its core.
  • Work with the UK Government to expand on its minimal mention of farming in the general election manifesto and develop a comprehensive plan for farming across the UK.

The Welsh Labour Government has faced significant backlash over the SFS, particularly the requirements for farms to have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of land managed as semi-natural habitats. Farmers argue that these measures could take substantial portions of their land out of production, jeopardising their livelihoods.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, has acknowledged these concerns and announced revisions to the SFS. The revised scheme, set to commence in 2026 with a preparatory phase in 2025, aims to balance environmental sustainability with economic viability. However, the Welsh Conservatives argue that more needs to be done to ensure the scheme truly supports farmers.

The upcoming debate is expected to be a crucial platform for discussing these issues and pushing for a more farmer-friendly approach to agricultural policy in Wales.

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Farming

Welsh Government revises Sustainable Farming Scheme after protests

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WELSH Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, has announced that the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) will commence in 2026, following a preparatory phase in 2025. This phase is intended to provide advice and support to farmers in advance of the scheme’s full implementation.

The SFS, which aims to create a sustainable agricultural sector in Wales, has been the subject of intense debate and protests from the farming community. Protests have been held across Wales, with significant demonstrations in March and April 2024. Farmers have raised concerns over the feasibility and financial implications of the scheme, particularly the requirements for farms to have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of land managed as semi-natural habitats. Many fear that these rules could take up to 20% of their land out of production, impacting their livelihoods.

In response to these concerns, Irranca-Davies published the Welsh Government’s revised plan on July 11, 2024. The consultation titled ‘Sustainable Farming Scheme: Keeping Farmers Farming’ received extensive feedback, leading to several key revisions:

  1. Revised Tree Cover Requirements: The 10% tree cover requirement has been clarified to apply only to suitable land, excluding areas unfit for planting or beyond a farmer’s control. This adjustment aims to reduce the burden on farmers while still promoting environmental benefits.
  2. Extended Timeline: The full implementation of the SFS is now scheduled for 2026, with a preparatory phase in 2025. This phase will offer advice and support to farmers to help them transition to the new scheme.
  3. Collaborative Development: The Welsh Government has established a Ministerial Roundtable to further engage with the farming community and other stakeholders. This forum will help shape the final design and implementation of the SFS, ensuring that it reflects the needs and concerns of all parties involved.
  4. Support and Stability Payments: During the transition period, farmers will receive Stability Payments to maintain their income levels. This measure is intended to mitigate financial instability as they adapt to the new requirements.
  5. Ongoing Consultation: The Carbon Sequestration Evidence Panel will continue to review and consider alternative proposals to enhance carbon sequestration within the scheme. The Government will provide periodic updates on the progress of these consultations throughout the year.

Irranca-Davies acknowledged the concerns raised by farmers, stating, “I know that this has been an unsettling time for many farmers and their families. We will continue to work at pace to finalise the scheme so that we can provide certainty about future support as soon as possible. By working together, we can ensure a sustainable agriculture industry in Wales for generations to come.”

Environmental groups such as RSPB Cymru and the Nature Friendly Farming Network support the scheme, emphasising the necessity of sustainable practices in the face of climate change. They argue that the revised scheme balances environmental stewardship with agricultural productivity.

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Farming

FUW sends message to Starmer for a fair annual funding for Welsh agriculture

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THE Farmers’ Union of Wales will waste no time in sending a clear message to the incoming UK Labour Government at Westminster that Wales seeks a fair, annual funding settlement of £450 million in EU CAP legacy funding to support food production, the rural economy and the work farmers do for the environment.

Winning a landslide general election at a time when Welsh farming faces an important crossroads, the UK Labour Party now has the opportunity to influence the future of rural Wales for decades to come.

Speaking in response to the results, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Firstly, I would like to congratulate the newly elected Prime Minister and his party for a historic general election victory, and thank those MPs we have worked closely with over the past five years.

“This election has brought about considerable change to the political landscape of Wales, with a significant reduction in the number of constituencies, changes in boundaries, and now a new UK Labour Government holding a majority in Westminster.

“The FUW is not affiliated to any political party and is therefore prepared to engage and work with politicians from all parties to ensure the voices of Welsh farmers are heard.”

The FUW General Election Manifesto sets out the Union’s key priorities of the incoming government, focussing on securing a fair, multi-annual funding settlement of at least £450 million per year in EU CAP legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales. The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

It is essential that the newly elected UK Government ensures that any future deals with other countries and trading blocs take a far more robust approach that protects UK farmers and food security. With that, food imports and exports must be subject to the same custom and standard controls which provides a level playing field between UK and EU producers.

The Union’s Manifesto also calls on the UK Government to introduce procurement policies that prioritise public body support for Welsh and British businesses and promote a more transparent supply chain.

“Whilst the direction of farming in Wales heavily depends on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the incoming UK administration will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development. It will also rule the extent of which Welsh producers are expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“This is why we will waste no time in contacting the newly elected MPs in Wales and those that take on influential roles in parliament to ensure that we outline our key priorities at an early stage.

“Despite the challenge of navigating an ever changing political landscape, our role as the FUW in lobbying governments for the best possible outcomes for Welsh agriculture remains constant and relentless,” said Ian Rickman.

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