First ever Welsh Agriculture Bill laid before Senedd

The Agriculture (Wales) Bill is the most important piece of agricultural legislation to go through the Senedd
The Agriculture (Wales) Bill is the most important piece of agricultural legislation to go through the Senedd

The first ever agricultural bill for the Welsh farming industry has been laid before the Senedd today, paving the way for transformational legislation to support farmers.

The Agriculture (Wales) Bill is the most important piece of agricultural legislation to go through the Welsh parliament in its 23 years of existence.

According to the Labour-led devolved government, the bill aims to support sustainable food production while conserving the Welsh countryside, culture and language.

The post-Brexit legislation seeks to "recognise the complementary objectives of supporting farmers in the sustainable production of food alongside taking action to respond to the climate and nature emergencies".

But farming groups have repeatedly called on the Welsh government to put more focus on food security following the invasion of Ukraine, as well as the aftermath of Brexit and the pandemic.

NFU Cymru had said the bill should underpin the financial resilience of Wales' family farms and in so doing, sustaining rural communities, language, culture and heritage.

The Welsh government confirmed on Monday (26 September) that the bill would "establish a policy and legislative framework aimed at ensuring farmers can carry on producing food".

The new Sustainable Land Management programme will also encourage farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to maintain and enhance the resilience of ecosystems.

And the bill will introduce protection for agricultural tenants, ensuring they are not unfairly restricted from accessing financial assistance.

Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: "For the first time, we have the chance to build a system of support and legislation which works for our farmers, our sector, our land and our people.

“These are difficult and challenging times for our farmers. Climate change, rising costs, new trade deals and the war in Ukraine, are just some of the issues they face.

"This Bill provides a framework on which all future agricultural support will be delivered and outlines how we can keep farmers on the land, produce food sustainably and deal with the climate emergency."

She added: "Through the provisions in the Bill, I want to ensure we can continue to support and encourage our farmers and producers to create and sustain a thriving agricultural sector.”

The Minister said she would announce a legislative statement in Plenary on Tuesday (27 September).

NFU Cymru's President Aled Jones said that the bill must "underpin the production of a stable supply of safe, high quality, affordable food in Wales.”

"It is clear that the disruption to food output, supply chains, availability and affordability of food could last for many years," he said.

"Over the coming weeks and months, we will take our time to study the bill in detail to see how it matches our policy priorities."

The Tenant Farmers Association in Wales expressed disappointment that the bill shows a lack of ambition for the agricultural tenanted sector.

“It is a major disappointment that the Welsh government has not taken the opportunity to do more," said TFA chief executive, George Dunn.

“Welsh government has chosen only to take forward one aspect of the 2019 consultation which will give the right to tenants on traditional, Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies the opportunity to object to their landlord’s unreasonable refusal to allow them access to the new Sustainable Farming Scheme in Wales.

"However, the bill does not even extend that protection to farm tenants occupying under Farm Business Tenancies which now make up around half of the let land in Wales,” he said.