Just over 24 hours after the closure of the Welsh Government’s consultation on post-Brexit support arrangements in Wales, NFU Cymru called for a radical rethink of the proposals, with food production being at the heart of future policies.
With Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths, beside him on the conference platform, union president, John Davies, urged her to listen to the views of the thousands of people who would be affected by the proposals on the table.
He said the consultation marked a ’pivotal time’ in Welsh history and was the most important document facing the farming industry since the establishment of the National Assembly.
“The union has engaged with more than 2,500 farmers at a variety of events, more than 2,800 have submitted their own unique response and some 16,000 emails have been sent to Assembly Members encouraging them to make the industry’s views heard when the new policies are debated in the Senedd over the coming months,” said Mr Davies.
“Not only has this been a fantastic achievement but one that shows the strength of feeling in rural Wales over the potential far reaching impact of these proposals.
“We also take issue with the rather narrow definition of land managers we have been pigeon holed under within the consultation.
“It is not who we are or what we do and I sincerely hope that from now on we will be called what we are – Welsh farmers,” he added.
“Farming and food production must be at the core of future policy in Wales.
“We want the Welsh Government and the industry to have a shared ambition and drive to achieve continued growth with future policy and funding targeted at the people and businesses that take the financial and business risks associated with producing food – the active food producing family farm.
“Future policy should underpin the continued production of world leading food at the same time as recognising and rewarding farmers for the full range of goods and services they provide.”
Mrs Griffiths made it clear changes to how the Welsh Government supports farmers would not be rushed.
She did however make three commitments:
“Our plans for future farming support are firmly based on helping ensure farms are resilient and sustainable, whatever the deal on Brexit,” she said, adding maintaining the status quo was not an option post-Brexit.
“The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is not the most effective way to support farmers after Brexit," she said.
"It is too blunt an instrument to deliver because there is no link between BPS and a farmer’s effort, the performance of the farm business or the outcomes achieved.
“BPS delivers neither long-term resilience nor prosperity and I have always stated we have to provide ongoing support to farmers but we need to do so in much smarter way."
But Ceredigion delegate Richard Tudor said a Welsh Government farm survey showed 90 per cent of farmers would not survive without direct payments.
“So please maintain a system of direct payments to farmers or you and the Welsh Government will be remembered for decimating Welsh farming, the language, culture and rural communities,” added Mr Tudor.