Farmers in Wales will be disappointed by the Review into the Resilience of Welsh Farming Report launched today and the Minister’s accompanying statement accepting the recommendations. NFU Cymru believes that both fail to address the cash flow issues currently facing the industry.
Ed Bailey, who stands down as NFU Cymru President tomorrow, speaking at a meeting of Welsh Council said, “Last week’s farm income figures showed the very real threats facing farmers in Wales now. This review and Alun Davies’ Ministerial statement are filled with recommended changes that may well benefit farmers and Welsh agriculture in the medium to long term, but the concern is how can farm incomes be maintained in the short term to allow farmers and their families to then capitalise on the opportunities that may come further down the line from the implementation of the recommendations within the review.
“We are disappointed that this review has not recognised the need to re-introduce a dedicated Less Favoured Area / Area of Natural Constraint (LFA / ANC) scheme as allowed under the EU Rural Development regulations and already exist in the vast majority of countries the length and breadth of Europe. Whilst the review proposes the use of a number of potential tools under the next Rural Development Plan (RDP) this review, and the Minister’s response so far, fails to consider the most important tool available to help support and build resilience in upland communities the length and breadth of Wales.
Mr Bailey continued, “The Minister, when he made the decision to take 15% of resource out of Pillar 1 and into Pillar 2, stated that under the next RDP there would be targeted support for upland farmers, this to us clearly means a dedicated LFA /ANC scheme delivered under Pillar 2 of the CAP. We have yet to see this from the Minister and feel that this, in our opinion, must be satisfactorily addressed when the Minister launches his consultation on the Wales RDP next month.
“Whilst NFU Cymru is disappointed at the failure so far to address the issue of dedicated upland support, the Union recognises that many of the recommendations have the potential to benefit Welsh agriculture. Recommendations with regards to the Glastir agri environment scheme, for example, mirror many of the changes the Union has long argued for.
Mr Bailey continued, “There are many things in this report which we feel we can welcome, for example the adoption of the proposed contingency management plan. We know full well that the extreme weather in March last year took many by surprise - including farmers, local authorities and the Welsh Government. It is only right that plans are formed to ensure everyone is better placed to deal with such an event in future.
“We can see merit in the development of a sustainable agriculture programme, the objective of which is to improve the financial viability of farm businesses, bringing together Young Entrants Support Scheme, Farming Connect and the Glastir efficiency grant into a single business model. NFU Cymru understands that the programme will look to prioritise the uplands and young/new entrants, but as always the devil will very much be in the detail.
“The report also identifies the upland beef and sheep sector as priority sectors for non-farm diversification and start-up support, whilst at the same time it acknowledges that opportunities for diversification are limited. There are numerous excellent examples of farm businesses having successfully diversified and in the process secured valuable additional income streams but the key priority must continue to be on ensuring upland beef and sheep enterprises can be profitable and viable in their own right.”