NFU Cymru urges 'refreshed thinking' on future farming policy

NFU Cymru says the Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of Welsh food production
NFU Cymru says the Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of Welsh food production

Welsh farmers have called for 'refreshed thinking' on the future direction of food and farming policy following the 'unprecedented' Covid-19 crisis.

NFU Cymru's new policy paper calls for food supplies to be better secured and increased protection for rural communities and Welsh culture.

It also proposes the creation of a Food and Farming Commission in Wales to oversee future food and farming policy ‘from farm to fork’.

The report suggests that the events brought about by Covid-19 should prompt Welsh government to 'rethink' the current policy proposals set out in the ‘Sustainable Farming and our Land’ consultation.

The Welsh government's response to the consultation concluded that sustainable farming will be at the heart of future agricultural support post-Brexit.

But NFU Cymru president John Davies said the overnight closure of the foodservice sector had 'exposed the fragility' in the food supply chains.

“Empty supermarket shelves and the need to ensure food is provided to the vulnerable has reminded us of the need for safe, high quality, affordable food.

“The experience we have gained provides us with the opportunity to look afresh at the direction of travel set out in the ‘Sustainable Farming and our Land’," he said, adding this was conceived in 'very different circumstances' to present.

"We believe it is vital that we consider the ambition of future agricultural policy and the extent to which food security and resilience are embedded as key objectives."

The policy paper urges the establishment of a Food and Farming Commission in Wales with an independent commissioner to oversee food and farming policy.

It also highlights the role of public procurement in recognising the sustainability credentials of Welsh farming and in underpinning the rural economy.

A focus on research and development and supporting investment in the latest technologies and innovation is also identified as key to strengthening the resilience of the farming sector.

Mr Davies said the union had identified a 'suite of measures' to support farming business continuity in the short to medium term.

This includes maintaining the current BPS regime in place to 'provide stability' until 'revised measures that deliver the same or better outcomes have been developed'.

“The events of the past few months have served to highlight that food security and ensuring a stable supply of home produced food for consumers is most certainly in the nation’s interest," Mr Davies said, adding that this should be a 'priority' for governments.