The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has criticised Defra Secretary Michael Gove’s flagship ‘green Brexit’ speech, accusing him of neglecting food production in his vision for the future.
Mr Gove made the speech, in which he said farmers would have to carry out environmental work to receive Government support, at the WWF’s Living Planet Centre this morning.
He also told the audience future policy would encourage higher standards of animal welfare, an issue Farming Minister George Eustice has been particularly vocal on.
But despite acknowledging people’s ‘lives would be poorer, and stomachs emptier’, without farmers, there was little focus on food production in Mr Gove’s speech.
FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “I am pleased to see Mr Gove is basing his vision on personal empathy with our industry whilst also demanding scientific rigour to be applied to decision making.
“However, the union has concerns about the strong focus on environmental schemes, which neglect the need for food production.
“His vision also does not recognise the role our farmers are already playing in maintaining the countryside.
“Our environment will need to be protected forever, not just in a one or three-year programme, and our farmers have a crucial role to play in the process.
“But they can only be a part of the process if their businesses are viable and have not gone under in dramatic and harsh changes to agricultural policies which favour environmentalist aims over food production.”
NFU Scotland, however, claimed the speech had shown there was a ‘justifiable case’ for Scottish agriculture to receive the same level of funding it currently receives.
Director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “The Secretary of State’s statement that support must be earned chimes with our thoughts.
“We want to see a properly-funded policy, supported by science-led decision making, which builds on our animal health and welfare record and is focused on productivity and profitability gains.
“This means, in future, there is a justifiable case for Scottish agriculture to receive ring-fenced funding, spent in new and more effective ways to improve productivity, efficiency and resilience.”
NFU president Meurig Raymond said any future agricultural policy must be comprehensive in its range, covering measures for environmental protection, improving productivity and managing volatility.