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Welsh Government announces plan for Post-Brexit agriculture amongst criticism for delays and lack of detail

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A white paper on agriculture in Wales has been released that sets out a series of proposals paving the way for an Agriculture (Wales) Bill, which will be introduced in the next Senedd term.

The plans have not been universally welcomed however, the concerns about delays and lack of detail from Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and farmers leaders.

The Welsh Government’s plans aim to maintain high food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards in Wales and will be underpinned by a simpler regulatory framework and improved enforcement.

The White Paper outlines how farmers will be supported to produce food in a sustainable way. The plans will also enable farmers to respond to the climate emergency and to help reverse the decline in biodiversity – addressing the Welsh Government’s three key objectives for the sector.

Proposals will see the replacement of the current Basic Payment Scheme and agri-environment schemes with a new Sustainable Farming Scheme. The scheme will place a proper value on the environmental outcomes farmers deliver (improved soils, clean air, clean water, improved biodiversity, actions to reduce global warming) alongside sustainable food production.

New National Minimum Standards for agriculture will be created and consulted upon.To support this, we will create a new enforcement regime, using a range of civil sanctions proportionate to each individual case whilst maintaining criminal sanctions for the most severe and repeat offences.

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Other proposals in the White Paper include supporting wider supply chains beyond the farm gate, rewarding farmers for creating and maintaining woodland, simplification of data collection and monitoring, supporting the sector to decarbonise and improving animal health and welfare management.

Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs – Lesley Griffiths MS

The Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths MS said:” Leaving the EU provides us with an opportunity to develop a system of agricultural support which is tailored for Wales. We have consulted and engaged widely over the last two years and today’s White Paper sets out our long term vision to take this forward and introduce the necessary legislation.

“We want to support Welsh farmers to thrive, produce sustainable food and contribute to the climate emergency. The scale of the challenges that confront us means we need to act decisively now so we can ensure rural communities will continue to benefit from our support for years to come.

“We are clear we want to maintain our high food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards in Wales, and this will be underpinned by a simpler regulatory framework with proportionate enforcement. Our proposals will mark a radical shift away from the CAP to sustain a productive agriculture sector in Wales that supports the rural economy whilst improving the condition of soil, air, water and habitats.

“I want farmers to see our proposals as an opportunity rather than an approach that restricts their ‘freedom to farm’. We are ready to continue working with farmers to achieve our common goals of a sustainable and resilient sector whilst addressing the pressing challenges we face. We can only do this by working together – have your say by 25 March 2021.”

The plan has not been universally welcomed however.

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The Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs, Janet Finch-Saunders MS called for greater detail.

Janet Finch-Saunders MS

Mrs Finch-Saunders said:“Whilst I am pleased that the Welsh Labour-led Government has finally seen that Brexit is a real opportunity to bring tangible benefits to Welsh Farmers, allowing us to develop a system of agricultural support which is specially tailored for Wales, I do have to question why this work was left to the very last minute when the first Brexit and our land consultation was in 2018.

“The Welsh Government’s dithering means that it will now bring in an Agriculture (Wales) Bill in the next parliamentary term. To leave this crucial piece of public policy to the last minute of the Parliamentary Term, when we’re about to leave the EU, only adds insult to injury for farmers.

“Considering the time that has elapsed, I am astounded in the lack of substantive detail in this document. Urgent clarity must be provided on proposals for how the new payments will be calculated and delivered, how its new enforcement regime will work and what targets will be brought forward for the simplification of data collection and monitoring.

“I am sorry to say that this White Paper currently stands as a concerning echo of Welsh Labour’s most recent consultation, which also lacked sufficient detail and raised a number of serious questions regarding how the new scheme will work in practice.

“The Welsh Conservatives have consistently called for more detail about how the bespoke support for every farm will work and whether this will result in extra bureaucracy for farmers. This may mean that farmers are not able to deliver the projects that are expected of them, meaning the aims of the new scheme will remain unfulfilled.”

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Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) President, Glyn Roberts

Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) President Glyn Roberts said: “We all agree with the objectives of protecting and enhancing the economic, environmental and sustainability of our rural communities, which are alluded to in this white paper.

“However, we have grave concerns about whether the nuts and bolts of the proposals will actually do this, and feel there is a great risk that the aspirations outlined in the paper will actually be undermined, particularly from the point of view of family farms and rural economics.”

Mr Roberts said that while he was encouraged by the change in language used by the Welsh Government in recent years, and the acknowledgement of the need for more realistic and less dangerous timetables than had originally been proposed, the core principles underpinning the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals remained the same as those being brought forward in England.

“The mechanism for delivering the proposed SFS – payments for public goods – is basically the same as for England’s Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, and we remain disappointed that Wales has not yet taken the opportunity to use the blank sheet of paper we have to create a scheme which is genuinely based on Welsh ideas and principles.

“It very much feels as if we are taking a longstanding English idea and putting a Welsh spin on it, rather than designing a homegrown Welsh.” he added.

In October 2018 the FUW and NFU Cymru outlined their joint ‘Welsh way forward’ policy, aimed at placing Wales’ food, farming, livelihoods, communities and environment on a firm post-Brexit footing.

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The policy outlined five key priorities for a future policy: stability, family farms, supporting rural communities and Welsh jobs, sustainable agriculture and rewarding environmental outcomes.

“I’m afraid that by placing the one-dimensional, untried and untested mechanism of public goods payments at the core of a future scheme places an inherent weakness at the heart of future policies. We firmly believe that public goods are only a part of the picture and that a more imaginative Welsh way forward should be forged,

Llyr Gruffydd MS, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs said:”“Plaid Cymru has consistently warned that without some form of stability payment our family farms are being asked to jump off a cliff without a safety net.

Llyr Gruffydd MS

“Whilst we’re not necessarily wedded to the current basic payment model, retaining at least an element of basic income should be part of these proposals. It’s therefore disappointing that Labour are following the controversial Tory proposals in England by removing such support from Welsh farmers. In the meantime farmers in Scotland and throughout the EU will continue to receive direct support.

“It’s also difficult to understand how anyone can have confidence in the economic modelling that’s supposed to underpin these proposals. We still have no idea what our trading relationship will be with our biggest export market post-Brexit. We don’t know whether an influx of cheap imports will undermine the viability of our domestic producers. Wales doesn’t even know what level of budget we’ll have to support the sector through any proposed scheme – and the recent cut in farm funding from the UK Government has certainly set alarm bells ringing.

“Whilst covid has taught us to never again take for granted the nurses and carers that keep us safe, neither should we take for granted the farmers that feed our nation.

“Placing a greater emphasis on delivering public goods such as decarbonisation and enhanced biodiversity is something Plaid Cymru supports, but it needs to be done in a way that protects the viability of those family farms that are needed to deliver those goods and the outcomes we all want to see.”

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A consultation on the White Paper runs until 25th March 2021.


Farming

Farming union anger at ‘oat drink’ only option on council’s stand at Eisteddfod… held on dairy farm

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Farmers Union of Wales has met with Ceredigion Council’s leader following concerns about the lack of a cow’s milk option for making smoothies on their stall at the Eisteddfod.

The union said that members of the public raised concerns to it about the lack of cow’s milk as a choice for children who were making smoothies on a stand run by Ceredigion County Council.

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Discussions were held with the leader to understand the reasoning behind the decision to allegedly only offer oat drink, a dairy milk alternative, as a base for the smoothies

An FUW official said that the point was put to the leader that this year’s Eisteddfod was being held on a dairy farm, therefore could they offer an explanation for the dubious choice of using an oat drink from France rather than local fresh milk?

Speaking on behalf of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, the President Glyn Roberts said: “Ceredigion is one of the most famous counties in Wales for producing milk and the industry makes a huge contribution to the economy and culture of the county.

“The Eisteddfod Maes and competing is full of adults and children who come from dairy farms, as well as those who work in the milk industry and the feelings of disappointment and anger about the choice of using oat drink from France rather than local milk is plain to see.”

The Eisteddfod is being held this year on a dairy farm in Ceredigion (Image: FUW)

Although Ceredigion County Council claim that the decision to use oat drinks rather than cow’s milk was based on concerns around maintaining adequate and safe temperatures while storing milk, Mr Roberts said that there were serious concerns to answer about this excuse.

“The Farmers’ Union of Wales-like tens of other organisations-give out cow’s milk regularly on stalls at shows and events and have done so for decades-even at the Royal Welsh Show recently where temperatures soared higher than ever before.

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“There is nothing out of the ordinary about the temperatures we are experiencing this week and so the question still stands, so why has Ceredigion County Council decided to promote oat drinks imported from France rather than locally-sourced milk of the highest possible quality?”

A spokesperson for Ceredigion County Council said in response: “The council has daily cooking demonstrations at the National Eisteddfod focusing on produce from various areas across the county, and offering tea to the public using a local dairy company, Llaeth Llanfair.

“There is also a range of opportunities for children, young people and families to keep fit and participate safely in inclusive and varied activities on the Maes.

“The smoothie bikes are an outdoor activity that requires the ingredients to be a product that can be kept out of the fridge for a while.

“In addition, the council needs to ensure inclusive provisions for children with allergies/intolerances, and this is done by offering drinks options that include cow’s milk, oat drinks, orange juice and water.

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“The decision was taken following the advice of the council’s internal health and safety service due to the risk of children suffering an anaphylactic shock if they happen to have any food allergies.

“All drink options are now available to those who wish to participate on the smoothie bike activity.”

(Lead image: Ceredigion Council)

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society launch search for Ambassador-elect

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society are looking to appoint an Ambassador for 2023 to help support Officeholders in promoting and meeting the aims of the Society.

This voluntary role will shadow the 2022 Ambassador, Mrs Carys Phillips, at this year’s County Show and other Society events. They will also play an important role in the promotion of the work of the Society, the agricultural industry and rural life in Pembrokeshire. 

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Anyone aged between 18 and 30 and residing in Pembrokeshire can apply for the role. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview on Tuesday, 16 August 2022, at the County Show office. The successful applicant will receive an allowance of £200 and membership of the Society for three years.

Mansel Raymond, Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, said, “The Ambassador role is an important one. In order to fulfil the role successfully the applicant must have excellent communication skills and an enthusiasm to carry out required duties. Knowledge of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society and the County Show is desirable. Last year was the first year we opened up applications to all and made the role inclusive to all.”

Carys Phillips was announced as Ambassador at last year’s County Show. Carys grew up on a dairy farm in Llys y Fran and now lives on a beef and sheep farm with her husband in Freshwater East. Carys is a primary school teacher at Ysgol Glannau Gwaun in Fishguard where she teaches years five and six in the Welsh stream.

A keen YFC member of Llys y Fran YFC for over 17 years, Carys was Chairman of the club for two years during the pandemic. She is Pembrokeshire YFC’s County Vice Chairman and also the Rally Queen. 

Carys has fond memories of having always attended every day of the County Show for as far back as she remembers. 

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Carys said, “Being from a dairy farm we never went on holidays as a family but the County Show was our go to holiday. Having had many friends who have gained the Ambassador role in the past, it felt like the right time to go for it and give as much as I can give to the society.”

Carys added, “I hope to help as much as I can in supporting the Society. I’m hoping to bring a close connection between Pembrokeshire YFC members and the Society and think it would be a great achievement if we can work closely as two fantastic agricultural movements in Pembrokeshire. Hopefully, this will bring new and young faces to help the society and the County Show. Working together is key and hopefully we will make strong connections with the young farmers around our county.”

Those interested in applying for the position will need to complete the application form.

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Carmarthen producer wins best sausage in Wales award

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Red Valley Farm in Carmarthen is celebrating coming first in Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’s ‘Put Your Best Sausage Forward 2022’ competition, with their wild garlic sausages crowned as the very best bangers in Wales.

Business partners Andy Washbourne and Graeme Carter were delighted with the victory, with the high-flying producers taking the coveted award for the second year running. As winners, they will now automatically qualify for the ‘Champion of Champions’ sausage competition at the UK-wide Butcher Shop of the Year 2023 awards.

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Speaking after winning the title during a special event at the Royal Welsh Show, Graeme Carter said: “It really is an incredible honour to have our sausages named as the very best in Wales. Winning an award like this really makes all the hard work worthwhile and shows that our ethos of producing quality, small-scale and locally produced pork pays off in the end.

“We were really proud of our wild garlic sausages, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to win the title. We had a really good time at the final judging event and the fact that the standard was so high amongst all the shortlisted finalists just goes to show what a fantastic pork industry we have in Wales.

“Since taking over the farm from my parents a few years ago, specialising in rearing pigs has really turned into a passion for me and Andy. We were gifted one boar to help clear the ground following some tree planting and everything has literally grown from there. We just plan to go from strength to strength and concentrate on what we do best, which is quality, sustainably produced pork.

“We’re now really looking forward to be representing Wales at the ‘Champion of Champions’ sausage competition and hope to be crowned the best across the whole of the UK.”

Red Valley Farm pipped Haverfordwest’s Prendergast Butchers and Puff Pigs of Ynysybwl to the title, wowing the panel of judges including leading Welsh food personality Chris ‘Flamebaster’ Roberts.

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Chris said: “Nobody likes a banger more than me and the quality of those that made the final meant it was certainly a pleasure to be on the judging panel.

“It’s always really tough to choose a winner when the standard is so high, but right from the off we were impressed with the wild garlic sausages. They looked the part, the consistency was spot on and they just tasted amazing. Having now had a sample of them I’m pretty keen to get my hands on the recipe myself to try and work out the secret of making sausages taste so good!”

Speaking about his delight at the standard of entries to this year’s competition, Rhys Llywelyn, Market Development Manager at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, said: “It was fantastic to be back at the Royal Welsh Show to hold the awards and the standard of the three finalists certainly didn’t disappoint. However, in the end Red Valley Farm just about came out on top, so a huge congratulations to them and we wish them the best of luck at the UK ‘Champion of Champions’ finals.

“Our small-scale pork producers in Wales have a fantastic story to tell. They specialise in creating a unique, hand-reared product that is often only available to buy directly from themselves and local independent shops, like butchers. This makes it a more sustainable food product, generating fewer food miles, and I’d urge consumers to seek out their local producer and find out for themselves the fantastic quality that’s on offer.”

For more information on pork produced in Wales, and where you can buy it, visit porcblasus.cymru.

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(Lead image: Patrick Olner)

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