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First Minister and new rural affairs cabinet secretary attend urgent meeting with farming union

28 Mar 2024 4 minute read
First Minister Vaughan Gething’s first meeting with FUW.

Emily Price

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has met with Wales’ new First Minister, Vaughan Gething, and the new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Climate Change, Huw Irranca-Davies, to discuss a way forward for the farming industry.

The final weeks of Mark Drakeford tenure were marked by protests from thousands of  Welsh famers frustrated with proposed agricultural reforms.

Farming unions said the requirements of the Welsh Government’s new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) were “unworkable”.

The scheme will replace grants once received when Wales was part of the European Union.

It will use public money to help farmers produce food sustainably, tackle the climate and nature emergencies and restore ecosystems.

But it will require farmers to bring their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10%, and earmark another 10% for habitat.

The Welsh Government says the scheme will be amended before it’s rolled out next year.

Protests

Earlier this month, 5,500 wellies were laid out on the steps of the Senedd to symbolise the potential job losses faced by the sector if the scheme moves ahead.

Both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have raised concerns about the scheme in its current form.

The Welsh Government is currently reviewing responses to the scheme’s consultation with an analysis and summary expected in the coming weeks.

It comes against a backdrop of continuous bovine TB breakdowns and the slaughtering of thousands of Welsh cattle every year.

This is in addition to an all-Wales approach to bureaucratic pollution regulations which will cost the industry in excess of £400m to comply with.

Next steps

FUW President Ian Rickman called for an urgent meeting with the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs to discuss next steps.

He said: “We welcome this early opportunity to outline the current challenges we face as a farming industry and to discuss possible next steps with the newly appointed First Minister and Cabinet Secretary following our request for an urgent meeting.

“We made it very clear that the feeling of frustration and anxiety within the industry still very much exists, and we presented our extensive Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation response and a list of our key asks to the Cabinet Secretary.”

FUW Deputy Head of Policy Gareth Parry added: “We also welcome the recognition and appreciation from both the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary of the current situation we find ourselves in.

“This is a crucial first step in understanding the severity of the problems we face and finding the best way forward to address them.

“What we want to see is the establishment of a small focussed stakeholder group tasked with discussing and proposing changes to the scheme through genuine co-design.”

Agriculture proposals were previously overseen by the Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths.

However, following the election of Vaughan Gething, Huw Irranca-Davies joined the cabinet as the Climate Change and Rural Affairs secretary.

President Ian Rickman said: “The recent Government reshuffle is certainly positive news for the industry as it presents a new opportunity for meaningful change to the current proposals.

“We look forward to regular meetings with the Cabinet Secretary, and First Minister, to ensure that the final version of the Sustainable Farming Scheme properly delivers for Welsh farmers.”

“The new Climate Change and Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary inherits a bulging in-tray to tackle, specifically the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Sam Kurtz says has urged the new First Minister to list to Welsh farmers.

He said: “It is right that the Cabinet Secretary and the First Minister meet with the farming unions to not only hear, but also to listen, to the concerns of the industry. I’ve never known the relationship between rural Wales and the Welsh Government to be so fractious.

“If the SFS is right for Welsh farmers it means it is also right for our rural communities, our language, our culture, our food security and our environment.”

London

There has been similar unrest amongst farming communities in England following UK Government post-Brexit reforms.

Farmers arrived in London in their droves on Monday (March 25) to protest against the increasing difficulties faced by the farming industry which they say are leaving the nation’s food security at risk.

English farmers say the post-Brexit rural payments system which replaced EU subsidies has too many environmental regulations making it hard to compete with cheap imports that don’t have to meet the same strict criteria.


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15 days ago

Maybe they will agree that all MS’s will give up 20% of all the property they (or their companies) own for trees and wildlife along with the farmers. Only drive or be driven in electric vehicles, stop taking trips abroad for any reason to lower their carbon footprint, and don’t use cash for any reason especially in brown envelopes………………………. I think not.

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