‘We have grave concerns about the nuts and bolts of the White Paper’ – FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has reacted to the release of the Welsh government’s Agriculture (Wales) White Paper saying the paper does little to reduce concerns regarding the impacts for families and communities of proposed sweeping changes to agricultural support.

Responding to the publication of the white paper on Wednesday (December 16), FUW President Glyn Roberts said:

“We all agree with the objectives of protecting and enhancing the economic, environmental and sustainability of our rural communities, which are alluded to in this white paper.

However, we have grave concerns about whether the nuts and bolts of the proposals will actually do this, and feel there is a great risk that the aspirations outlined in the paper will actually be undermined, particularly from the point of view of family farms and rural economics.

Roberts said that while he was encouraged by the change in language used by the Welsh government in recent years, and the acknowledgement of the need for more realistic and less dangerous timetables than had originally been proposed, the core principles underpinning the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals remained the same as those being brought forward in England.

The mechanism for delivering the proposed SFS – payments for public goods – is basically the same as for England’s Environmental Land Management [ELM] scheme, and we remain disappointed that Wales has not yet taken the opportunity to use the blank sheet of paper we have to create a scheme which is genuinely based on Welsh ideas and principles.

“It very much feels as if we are taking a longstanding English idea and putting a Welsh spin on it, rather than designing a homegrown Welsh one,” he added.

The ‘Welsh Way Forward’

In October 2018, the FUW and NFU Cymru outlined their joint “Welsh Way Forward” policy, aimed at placing Wales’ food, farming, livelihoods, communities and environment on a firm post-Brexit footing.

The policy outlined five key priorities for a future policy: stability; family farms; supporting rural communities and Welsh jobs; sustainable agriculture; and rewarding environmental outcomes.

Roberts said:

I’m afraid that by placing the one-dimensional, untried and untested mechanism of public goods payments at the core of a future scheme places an inherent weakness at the heart of future policies.

“We firmly believe that public goods are only a part of the picture and that a more imaginative Welsh way forward should be forged.”

Roberts said that the FUW would be responding in full to the proposals set out in the White Paper following consultation with its county branches.