Welsh union to put forward UK agricultural framework ideas

Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts has raised concerns over the “stark contrast” between discussions on the future of agriculture within the UK and at EU level.

Speaking at today’s FUW annual general meeting today in Aberystwyth, he highlighted what he described as “worrying differences” in the recognition of common standards and support for farming.

Speaking shortly before Wales’ First Minister, Carwyn Jones, Mr. Roberts told delegates that the principles of providing a fair standard of living for farmers and securing a stable supply of affordable food had been key elements of both Labour’s 1947 Agriculture Act and the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

“The latest Euro Barometer survey reveals that providing a fair standard of living for farmers and securing a stable supply of safe, healthy high-quality food are still considered priorities by the public – not only across the EU, but also here in the UK,” he said.

Differing priorities

“EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has made it clear that the same principles will continue to be at the heart of the 2021-2027 EU Common Agricultural Policy, initial proposals for which were revealed in early June.

“By contrast, many fear that food production and the economic viability of farms and rural communities are taking second place or being left out of post-Brexit policies being devised in the UK.”

Roberts said the post-Brexit UK frameworks currently being discussed in the UK would be rejected “without a second thought” across the EU.

He added that they represented what Commissioner Phil Hogan has indicated would be an “unacceptable carte blanche” on the continent.

“For this reason, the FUW will shortly be publishing a discussion document,” he said.

For the first time, it offers up what proper UK frameworks might look like – including in terms of overarching principles, financial limits and key policy instruments that should be honoured in each of our four nations.

Roberts said the document will highlight the need for a “fair funding formula” for the devolved nations, as well as a multiannual financial framework which takes away the risks of annual budgetary fluctuations.

“Brexit brings with it many dangers; allowing imbalances to develop within our internal markets will not only add to those dangers, but it will also undermine what opportunities do exist as a result of Brexit,” he added.

“Without such frameworks, we risk seeing distortions which will distract us and undermine efforts to tackle all the other challenges facing us – be it bovine TB, farm productivity and profitability, or the successful succession of the next generation.”

Major announcement

Also announced at the AGM was that £2.15 million had been secured to help livestock farms prepare for Brexit. The money will come from the Welsh Government’s EU transition fund.

Roberts said he hoped this would be the first of a number of projects to be announced aimed at helping food and farming industries, which are particularly vulnerable to Brexit.