NFU Cymru has accused the Welsh government of devaluing the role farmers play in the rural economy and of underestimating the importance of food production as it prepares for life outside the European Union.
Responding to the government’s “Brexit and our land” consultation, which closes for comments today (Tuesday, 30 October), NFU Cymru president John Davies applauded farmers who had engaged with the process.
See also: Welsh farm unions slam ‘hard-line’ approach to farm policy
“Every farmer we spoke to was proud to be a farmer, proud to produce food for the consumer, proud to be an integral part of their community, proud to care for their environment and proud to be running a successful and diverse business,” he said.
“Not one member identified themselves solely as a ‘land manager’ – many took offence at this narrow definition being used by Welsh government in this consultation.”
Food production matters
Mr Davies also accused Cardiff of underestimating the importance of food production to the overall Welsh economy.
“This omission is extremely surprising when you consider that the Welsh food and drink sector is one of four foundation sectors in Prosperity for all – the economic action plan for Wales – a national strategy published by Welsh government only last year,” he said.
To remedy this, he said the Welsh government should:
- push for more Welsh food in the UK retail and food service sectors
- lead an expansion into export markets
- increase Welsh food purchases by the public sector.
The NFU Cymru submission also criticised the government’s plan to phase out direct payments to farmers by 2025 and replace them with a new system designed to encourage greater efficiency and reward farmers for environmental delivery.
In contrast, the Sustainable Food Trust has welcomed many of the ideas in the Welsh consultation, including the adoption of a “whole-farm approach”.
As well as supporting the use of public money to help farmers deliver eco-system services, the Trust is calling for higher animal welfare standards, soil carbon stewardship programmes and implementation of the “polluter pays” principle in future Welsh policy.
The Tenant Farmers Association in Wales has also raised the issue of tenancy reform in its submission to the consultation.
“Many agricultural tenancies in Wales contain clauses that require farm tenants to use their holdings for agricultural use only,” said TFA Cymru chairman Dennis Matheson.
“This would preclude many from engaging in schemes for wider public good delivery under a new environmental land management scheme.”
Mr Matheson added that many tenancy agreements will preclude tenants from investing in new fixed equipment, or adding to or improving existing fixed equipment without the consent of their landlords.
“This could make life difficult for tenants wishing to take part in the proposed new Economic Resilience Scheme,” he said.