Welsh Brexit consultation: ‘Glaring lack of volatility tools’

Members of the  National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Cymru Milk Board met this week to give their initial reaction to the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit and Our Land Consultation’.

Gareth Richards, board chairman and dairy farmer from the Tywi Valley in Carmarthenshire, said: “Our biggest and overriding concern is the glaring lack of volatility tools in the proposal.

‘Worrying’

“Whilst the consultation rightly recognises that the Basic Payment Scheme has been a tool for managing volatility, the consultation proposals to phase out the BPS by 2025 without adequate alternative policy measures in place to help the industry manage extreme volatility are worrying.

“It is the firm view of the NFU Cymru Milk Board, that Government has a role to play in helping farmers manage their exposure to risks that are caused by external factors completely outside our control, such as trade bans, extreme global market fluctuations, weather and disease threats.

The Basic Payment Scheme is currently the most effective tool that farmers have to mitigate this volatility, and this cannot be phased out without an effective policy replacement.

“The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear that this is a consultation and our view as a Milk Board is clear in that measures to provide stability to our sector are a vital part of future policy in Wales.

“There is a range of Government-backed measures used across the world to help farmers manage volatility and provide stability – we must ensure that we have appropriate measures specific to the needs and issues faced by Welsh farmers.

‘Managing extreme volatility’

“The consultation makes reference to working with the UK Government, and the other devolved administrations, on the future of the Common Market Organisations (CMO).

“The CMO has been important for the dairy industry in helping to manage extreme volatility and payments to farmers in crisis situations; this safety net needs to be part of the future policy for Welsh farmers. We believe that this is one area where a UK Common framework may be needed to ensure that farm businesses in all four home countries operate on a level playing field.”

The board also discussed the economic resilience scheme, and the importance of investment measures as part of future policy to equip farmers to be able to face the challenges, and maximise the opportunities, of the marketplace.

Richards added: “Investment measures are vital to help improve productivity on-farm and help us to meet our environment and climate change obligations, but farmers can only invest if they have a business with a stable foundation.

“This is why we believe that future policy in Wales should be built on three cornerstones – productivity, environment and stability.

“NFU Cymru is embarking on a process of engagement with our members across Wales. There can be no doubt that this is the most significant consultation for Welsh farming in a generation. It is vital that farmers understand the proposals, and contribute their views, to ensure the industry’s voice is heard loud and clear.”