The year 2016 will go down in the history books as being truly unprecedented for Wales, the UK and the rest of the world, according to NFU Cymru president, Stephen James.
Mr James said: “Our exit from the EU is without doubt going to be one of the biggest challenges our industry has faced in decades, but of course with challenges come opportunities,” he says in his New Year industry message.
“We now have a unique opportunity to shape and develop policies that are fit for purpose, forward thinking and enable us to develop, grow and realise our vision of a productive, progressive and profitable industry that will deliver jobs, growth and investment.
“We also have the opportunity to create a new regulatory landscape, a framework based on maintaining and enhancing our world leading standards based on evidence, science and voluntary measures, rather than immediately turning to the statute book.
“In the short-term the single most important issue for Welsh agriculture is securing the best possible access to European markets, ensuring that our access is not fettered by tariffs and non-tariff barriers."
He said bovine TB continued to ’cast a dark shadow’ over the cattle industry, with nearly 10,000 cattle slaughtered in Wales over the past 12 months, a dramatic rise of 35 per cent over the previous 12 months.
"The concern and frustration among farmers is as palpable as I have ever seen it. The Welsh Government cannot continue to push costs back to farmers without taking responsibility for the reservoir of disease in wildlife," he added.
“There is, however, a glimmer of hope that this issue will begin to be addressed in 2017.
“The threat of Nitrate Vulnerable Zone designations now hangs over the whole of Wales. We have questioned much of the evidence behind these proposals and do not believe that Welsh Government has properly assessed the impact that designation will have on farming businesses and the wider rural economy.
“Welsh farming delivers for the economy, the environment and the landscape of Wales. We provide the raw materials for a £6 billion food and drink industry, maintain the landscape that is the backdrop to a £2.5 billion tourism industry and nearly 600,000 ha of our land is farmed under environmental schemes.
“Farmers, the supply chain and government alike should all be extremely proud of our story. NFU Cymru will be playing its part in delivering for the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.”