Welsh farmers urged to make their voice heard on post-Brexit consultation

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) is urging all farmers in Wales to respond to a Welsh Government consultation on post-Brexit agricultural and land use policies.

‘Brexit and our land: Securing the future of Welsh farming’,  proposes replacing direct support for farmers with payments for delivering environmental goods, accompanied by an overarching scheme aimed at farm business improvement and development.

Commenting on the document, FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “What is proposed would constitute the most radical change to our farm policies since 2005, and is a world away from the kind of policies previously in place from 1947 onwards.

Given this, it is essential that farmers take the time to consider them over the coming weeks and months and respond to the consultation appropriately.

The Welsh Government intends to organise a number of events across Wales later in the year during which farmers and others will be able to learn more about the proposals and ask questions, before the deadline at the end of October.

‘Our policies can’t put our farmers at a disadvantage’

Roberts said that as the FUW is a member of the Cabinet Secretary’s Roundtable group and subgroups, the proposals did not come as a surprise.

He added: “We have numerous concerns about what is being proposed, and we have been vociferous in raising these.

“Amongst these are the fact that the EU has recently announced its commitment to providing the farmers against which we will compete with ongoing direct support at levels similar to those currently in place.

We also need to be aware of policy proposals in other parts of the UK and make sure Welsh policies do not place our farmers at a disadvantage.

The Scottish Government has recently reiterated its commitment to recognising topographical and other handicaps faced by Scottish farmers and providing support payments which recognise these.

“Given we have a similar proportion of disadvantaged land to Scotland, it would be unacceptable if our own government placed us at a disadvantage to our Scottish counterparts,” he said.

‘The future of family farms should be our priority’

Roberts welcomed the fact that the paper acknowledged the need for an appropriate transition period, and raised the question of what a transition might look like.

“The FUW has made it clear since the June 2016 EU Referendum that we need an appropriate and lengthy transition period to any new policy, and that the dangers of implementing a policy over just a few years would be significant.

We have also highlighted the need to take policy developments in terms of the next EU agricultural policy and the progress of Brexit negotiations into account, rather than rushing forward with detailed proposals which might turn out to be completely inappropriate under the final Brexit agreement.

Roberts said that the position agreed by the UK Government’s Cabinet on Friday on how agricultural commodities might be traded with the EU made it clear why the FUW was right to do this.

“Above all else, the interests and future of our family farms should be the priority in terms of any future policy for Wales.”

“The FUW will be consulting with each of its twelve county branches over the coming months, and their views will be fully reflected in our response to the Welsh Government.”