The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has rejected the key proposals for the future of agricultural support in Wales set out in the Welsh government’s agriculture White Paper, and called for a genuine Welsh policy to be developed to meet Welsh objectives.
The Agriculture (Wales) White Paper sets out Welsh government policy proposals for a legislative framework governing Welsh agriculture, as well as forestry and woodlands, over the coming decades.
Central to the proposals would be moves to increase rules and restrictions, and base farm support payments purely on the delivery of ‘public goods’ - a commodity that benefits all of society, such as clean air, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
"We of course agree that public goods should be an important part of a future rural support scheme, but delivering employment, economic, social and cultural prosperity should also be fundamental principles that underpin the design of future support mechanisms," said FUW president Glyn Roberts.
We have a proud history of designing agricultural policy for Wales and have previously deviated significantly from English policies - much to our benefit - and we should continue to do so.
"Scotland and Northern Ireland are making the most of their devolved powers and forging ahead with plans to use multiple tools to deliver what is needed for their own agriculture and rural communities," he said.
The 'cut and paste' mentality
"Wales should therefore abandon the ‘cut and paste from Defra’ mentality and design a scheme aimed specifically at delivering not only environmental outcomes, but also the prosperity, jobs, language, culture and other targets inherent to the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and other Welsh objectives," said Roberts.
In order to increase support for smaller family farms, Wales currently applies a cap on both farm payments and 'redistributive payment'.
It is shocking that no mention of capping payments or focussing support on family farms is made in the White Paper given the current progressive approach adopted in Wales, and the dangers inherent to the one-dimensional public goods approach.
According to the FUW, those dangers include the creation of a postcode lottery, where different farmers are subject to different rules, priorities and payment rates - creating significant market distortion and inequity - and the possible movement of money away from smaller family farms to large landowners and landowning charities.
"By comparison, the Welsh farming industry’s alternative proposals would encompass environmental, social, cultural and economic priorities in a balanced and fair way," he concluded.