A 15 to 20-year vision to create a sustainable agricultural sector in Wales for future generations has today (Wednesday, December 16) been unveiled by Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

The White Paper on Agriculture in Wales sets out a series of proposals paving the way for an Agriculture (Wales) Bill, which will be introduced in the next Senedd term.

The plans aim to maintain high food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards in Wales and will be underpinned by a simpler regulatory framework and improved enforcement.

The White Paper outlines how farmers will be supported to produce food in a sustainable way.

The plans will also enable farmers to respond to the climate emergency and to help reverse the decline in biodiversity – addressing the Welsh government’s three key objectives for the sector.

What is proposed by the White Paper?

Proposals will see the replacement of the current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and agri-environment schemes with a new Sustainable Farming Scheme.

The scheme will place a proper value on the environmental outcomes farmers deliver (improved soils, clean air, clean water, improved biodiversity, actions to reduce global warming) alongside sustainable food production.

New "National Minimum Standards" for agriculture will be created and consulted upon.

To support this, we will create a new enforcement regime, using a range of civil sanctions proportionate to each individual case whilst maintaining criminal sanctions for the most severe and repeat offences.

Other proposals in the White Paper include supporting wider supply chains beyond the farm gate, rewarding farmers for creating and maintaining woodland, simplification of data collection and monitoring, supporting the sector to decarbonise and improving animal health and welfare management.

The White Paper is open for consultation until March 25, 2021.

Continuation of BPS

The minister also announced  her intention to continue with BPS in 2022, subject to confirmation of funding from the UK government.

This will provide further certainty to farm businesses in the period leading up to the introduction of our proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme.

Launching the White Paper, the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister said:

"Leaving the EU provides us with an opportunity to develop a system of agricultural support which is tailored for Wales.

We have consulted and engaged widely over the last two years and today’s White Paper sets out our long-term vision to take this forward and introduce the necessary legislation.

"We want to support Welsh farmers to thrive, produce sustainable food and contribute to the climate emergency.

"The scale of the challenges that confront us means we need to act decisively now so we can ensure rural communities will continue to benefit from our support for years to come."

Maintaining high standards

Griffiths continued:

"We are clear we want to maintain our high food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards in Wales, and this will be underpinned by a simpler regulatory framework with proportionate enforcement.

Our proposals will mark a radical shift away from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to sustain a productive agriculture sector in Wales that supports the rural economy whilst improving the condition of soil, air, water and habitats.

"I want farmers to see our proposals as an opportunity rather than an approach that restricts their ‘freedom to farm’.

"We are ready to continue working with farmers to achieve our common goals of a sustainable and resilient sector whilst addressing the pressing challenges we face.

"We can only do this by working together – have your say by March 25, 2021," she concluded.