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Farming

Ceredigion Preseli MP hopefuls quizzed on farming

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AHEAD of the July 4 general election, Ceredigion Preseli 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.

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, candidates for the new Ceredigion Preseli seat are: Ben Lake for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones, Conservative Aled Thomas, Tomos Barlow for the Green Party, Karl Robert Pollard for Reform UK, and Taghrid Al-Mawed for the Workers Party of Britain.

In the run-up to the election, all candidates were asked: “The seat is quite rural in nature; what will you do to help farming and the countryside?”

Plaid Cymru candidate Ben Lake said: “Farming plays an extremely important role in both the economic and social fabric of our rural communities.

“At a time of growing global instability, it is more important than ever that the strategic importance of farming’s contribution to our food security is recognised, safeguarded, and promoted by Government.

“I would ensure that domestic producers are not undermined by any new international trade deals between the UK Government and countries such as Australia and New Zealand and I would fight for fairer regulation of the grocery supply chain, so that farmers and producers are treated fairly by the large food retailers who dominate the UK food system.

“I will continue to work with farmers, farming unions and my colleagues in the Senedd to ensure that our family farms are not put at any risk.”

Liberal Democrat candidate Mark Williams said: “Farming is critical to the economies of Ceredigion and Preseli. While much of the farming agenda is devolved, much isn’t.

“The hastily drawn up Australia and New Zealand  trade agreements must be renegotiated in line with our own health, environmental and animal welfare standards. We need to strengthen the Grocery Code Adjudicator to protect consumers from unfair price rises and to support farmers.

“At the time of Brexit, farmers were told there would be no loss of financial resources for the farming sector and yet estimates suggest that Wales has been short-changed by £250m. We urgently need that funding.

“Welsh Labour have paused their dangerous SFS. We must ensure that the worst aspects of it do not return, and the industry supported, not threatened.”

Gren Party candidate Tomos Barlow said: “I recognise the hard work that farmers do to put food on our plates, but we also recognise agricultures contribution to the environment as the greatest driver in nature loss and pollution in rivers.

“To tackle this, we want to triple financial support (through the increasing funding to the Senedd) to farmers not only to make farming more job secure but also to help the transition to nature-friendly farming.

“I’d also look for ways to encourage apprenticeship schemes to encourage more young people to enter the agricultural sector.”

Workers Party candidate Taghrid Al-Mawed said: “Workers Party sees farmers as vital to our country, they are the backbone of society, without them, we starve… No farmers, no food.

“We want to ensure our nation is more self-sufficient and less reliant on food imports. Food from local farms going into local shops reduces the food miles and stops the farce of seeing things like New Zealand lamb on the shelves of Welsh supermarkets.

“Farmers are not just there for a photo opportunity with the local MP at the local mart, they need proper support from a government that puts them and their survival first, not corporate profits.”

Jackie Jones, Labour candidate said: “Our rural communities are a cornerstone of this constituency. They must be protected and nurtured. Labour has a plan for our rural communities:  food security is a top priority and farmers are vital.

“I will help to build on our successful agricultural cooperatives – doubling their size to provide small family farmers opportunities to work together. This will create the environment for greater resilience to stand up  to large supermarket pricing, providing solutions to agricultural supply, dairy, crop and horticulture.

“Labour will provide business support for start-ups, financial support for FE colleges and innovation in practice as well as transport, good housing, broadband and relieving poverty.”

Conservative candidate Aled Thomas said: “On rural issues this election is personal to me. I run my family farm with my brother and my dad and know first-hand the challenges that farmers face, and how badly they have been let down by the Welsh Government.

“As a young farmer and agronomist, I will use my extensive experience of the countryside to be a strong rural voice in parliament and fight for a brighter future for the future of the agricultural industry.

“Farmers are the best custodians of nature and wildlife there are, and I hope I can use my voice to enhance this further.”

All candidates were contacted.

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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