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Farmers’ roles as producers of food and custodians of our environment are not mutually exclusive and Brexit should not separate them

A future outside the European Union means a future outside of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), says NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones. 

Governments on both sides of Offa’s Dyke have this year launched consultation documents seeking views on the make-up of new domestic agricultural policies once the UK leaves the European Union.

 

The launch of those documents has, in turn, ignited discussions about food production and ‘public goods’, but for me it is not a case of either/or – the two are not mutually exclusive.

 

As a lifelong dairy farmer I am proud to produce food; I consider it my core role and like most farmers, I am someone who takes their animal welfare responsibilities extremely seriously.

 

At Hendy we have invested heavily in our cow housing and milking equipment and believe that happy cows are productive cows and productive cows are profitable cows, so animal welfare is absolutely paramount to our business.

 

Investment

 

Whilst producing food we do so with care for the environment and significant investment has been made in slurry storage and dirty water management which has enabled us to reduce the amount of fertilisers used on the farm.

 

We have also invested in energy saving initiatives such as biomass and solar photovoltaics (PV).

We are proud of the miles and miles of hedgerows managed on our farm and the areas committed to conservation, through Glastir schemes and woodland creation.

 

Visitors to my farm near Caernarfon, Gwynedd, either from our small caravan park or from the footpath that intersects our land, take great interest in our farming activities and I take enormous pleasure in being able to explain the work that we do and am extremely heartened by the sincere interest that people have taken in the way we produce food.

 

It is clear that consumers are taking more interest in our industry than ever before and they like to know that what they eat is produced in an environmentally friendly way.

 

Consumers

 

At NFU Cymru we recently commissioned a survey, conducted by YouGov, examining Welsh consumers’ views around food, farming and Brexit.

 

The poll showed incredible support for farmers’ role in producing food for the nation – 83 per cent of those questioned associated farmers with producing high safe, high quality, safe and fully traceable food.

 

The same percentage thought a new agricultural policy in Wales should reward farmers for this function.

 

It is clear the food is high on the public wish list, even if food has played second fiddle to ‘public goods’ in recent Government consultation documents.

 

Public right

 

While food production may not be deemed as a ‘public good’ in literal terms, it is a public right and a public need.

 

Over recent months we have heard numerous politicians promise us our industry will not fall victim to post-Brexit food imports that are not produced to the same high standards we pride ourselves on here in the UK.

 

You can be sure that I, and my fellow NFU officeholders, will hold ministers’ feet to the fire in this regard.


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