NFU Cymru report reveals what farmers are concerned about for the future

A new NFU Cymru report has highlighted the unique contribution that the Welsh upland farming community makes to food security, environment, the economy, rural communities and the Welsh language.

The NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming report, which was underpinned by a survey of over 750 farmers, was launched at the Vision for Welsh Upland Farming virtual conference on Tuesday, November 24.

The document reveals that 96% of farmers surveyed believed their role as food producers was very important or fairly important, with 95% saying that food production and sales was very important or fairly important to the viability of their business.

88% said it was very important that future Welsh agricultural policy should underpin food production and ensure consumers have a stable supply of affordable food.

The biggest worry for Welsh upland farmers to surface from the research was farm business profitability, with 85% of those questioned stating this was a “significant threat” to the sector.

The vast majority of those questioned (92%) said it was very important that future Welsh farming policy included measures that ensured farmers can make a reasonable living.

However, just 18% of farmers answering the poll felt Welsh government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were very good or fairly good at specifically addressing the needs of upland farming, with 37% labelling the proposals fairly poor or very poor.

With the Brexit transition period coming to an end, 84% of farmers surveyed said that future trade deals were a significant threat to upland farming, while 80% stated that future policy was a significant threat.

Research findings

NFU Cymru said the findings of this research work provide “another compelling argument” as to why future Welsh agricultural policy should include a stability measure to help ensure the safe supply of food and as an economic foundation in rural communities, alongside the other multiple benefits provided by Welsh farming, amid changing trade and climate conditions.

The new NFU Cymru study also shined a light on Welsh upland farmers’ attitudes towards the environment. 80% of those surveyed had carried out one or more environmental actions on the farm in the last 10 years, while 83% said that future policy measures to tackle climate change were very important or fairly important.

54% of farmers surveyed were in Glastir agri-environment schemes and together had delivered more than 70 different environmental actions on Welsh farms.

The survey data further emphasises farmers’ role as drivers of the rural economy. 30% of farmers surveyed said their business supports or buys from 21 to 50 different businesses, with a further 10% stating that their business trades with or buys from more than 51 other businesses.

The important contribution of Welsh upland farming to rural communities and Welsh culture was also revealed. 83% of respondents were involved in one or more voluntary activities within their community, while over half of those answering the survey identified themselves as fluent Welsh speakers.

Diversification remains an important income stream for many Welsh farms; 43% of farmers responding to the survey stated that they had a non-farming element to their business.

The most popular diversification enterprises were renewable energy (43%) and accommodation (42%).

Discussing the importance of NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming project, NFU Cymru LFA Board Chair Kath Whitrow said:

In recent years, despite their extent and significance, we have seen upland farming policy de-emphasised. As our relationship with the EU changes, the economic rationale for upland livestock production is threatened.

“Global environmental challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity decline, are viewed by some as drivers for land use change without any consideration of the wider impacts,” she concluded.