The overall takeaway of a new report published today (Thursday, April 7) is that greater consideration should be taken by governments with regards to the impact of policies on Welsh farms.

The House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee published The economic and cultural impacts of trade and environmental policy on family farms in Wales report today.

It examined the position of farming in Wales economically, socially and culturally.

Agriculture plays a significant role in the Welsh economy, employing a higher percentage of the workforce in Wales than in other parts of the UK, the report noted.

It concluded that Wales needs to be specifically accounted for with regards to UK government decisions, namely: Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), environmental measures, post-Brexit policies and the future of the sector.

FTAs

The committee welcomes the addition of a member of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) with Welsh-specific knowledge, along with moves to recruit new agri-food attaches and the establishment of a new Food and Drink Export Council.

However, in order for these to be successful, it said the UK government needs to fully engage with the Welsh government and farming communities.

It called for some of these attachees to also have Welsh-specific knowledge.

The report said it is acutely aware of the concern regarding Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Welsh farmers - namely the recently made Australia and New Zealand deals.

It thus recommended that the UK government publish Welsh-specific impact assessments for FTAs - a suggestion that has previously been rejected by the UK government.

Environmental measures

With regards to the impacts of environmental measures on farms, the report expressed concern that there are unintended consequences of increasing woodland to tackle to the climate emergency.

It recommended that the Welsh government reassess whether it currently has sufficienct and strong safeguards in place for its tree-planting schemes.

"Furthermore, we call on the Welsh and UK governments to improve the transparency and regulation of carbon offset schemes which in effect create a change of land use," the report added.

The report acknowledged that climate change is indeed having an impact on farming in Wales and the importance of reaching net-zero targets.

The future

It also called for greater communication between devolved governments regarding new agricultural policies post-Brexit, with a view to potentially creating nationwide overarching principles.

With regards the future of farming in Wales - which the report noted is economically, socially and culturally important - the report calls on the UK and Welsh governments to work together to support and encourage new entrants.

"For example, respecting the role of both freeholder and tenant and the different attitudes to risk, revenue, capital, returns on investment, profit and public goods. This might translate into loan and grants for (capital) purchase and improvements such as land management or environmental sustainability. It might also translate into payments (revenue) for other public goods such as cultural preservation and community strength," the report said.

It also noted that government should work to assist with succession routes on farms.

Reaction

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) Wales (Cymru) has welcomed the recommendations of the committee. Commenting on behalf on the union, NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said:

“It is only by conducting a Wales-specific impact assessment that we can have a proper understanding of the implications of future trade deals for Wales. Without such an examination there is a serious risk of doing great damage to Wales’ rural communities.

"By conducting a Wales-specific impact assessment, some of these adverse impacts can be forecast and potentially mitigated.

“I am pleased that the committee has recommended that the UK government should consider how its approach to relevant reserved policy areas can help protect the unique cultural contribution of Welsh farming communities," he added.

"I agree with the committee that the UK government should add cultural impacts to the impact assessment process for future trade negotiations, as well as to the terms of reference for the work of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.”

The Welsh Affairs Committee

The Welsh Affairs Committee, appointed by the House of Commons to examine expenditure, administration and policy of the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales (including relations with the Senedd Cymru - Welsh Parliament) comprises:

  • Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP (Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire) (chair);
  • Tonia Antoniazzi MP (Labour, Gower);
  • Simon Baynes MP (Conservative, Clywd South);
  • Virginia Crosbie MP (Conservative, Ynys Môn);
  • Geraint Davies MP (Labour (Co-op), Swansea West);
  • Ruth Jones MP (Labour, Newport West);
  • Ben Lake MP (Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion);
  • Robin Millar MP (Conservative, Aberconwy);
  • Rob Roberts MP (Independent, Delyn);
  • Dr. Jamie Wallis MP (Conservative, Bridgend);
  • Beth Winter MP (Labour, Cynon Valley).