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First Minister says ability to change way farming is funded in Wales is Brexit bonus

28 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Mark Drakeford in Brussels

Luke James, Brussels

The ability to change the way farming is funded in Wales is one of the few bonuses of Brexit, First Minister Mark Drakeford said today ahead of a protest by farmers outside the Senedd.

Speaking during a visit to Brussels, Mr Drakeford said he firmly believed Brexit has “done Wales more harm than good.”

But he said the Welsh Government’s new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) will be fairer than the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by moving money away from “big landowning” businesses and towards family-run farms.

“One of the things that we are now able to do is to fashion our own system of supporting agriculture,” he said at an event on the future of Wales as a European nation.

“The Common Agricultural Policy rewarded people in Wales simply for sitting on their land and the more land you had the more subsidy you got.

“What our scheme will do is to put money in the hands of active farmers. It will move money out of the big landowning [businesses].

“That isn’t the predominant business in Wales. But it will move money out of those farms which already have a commercial future of their own and move that money into supporting smaller family farms which farm in parts of Wales where earning a living from what you do is always going to be more of a struggle.”

Advantage

He added: “If I’m looking for any Brexit bonuses, I think that the fact we will be able to fashion a scheme of that sort, which we would not have been able to do in the European Union – done the right way and the way I think it can be – will be much to the advantage of [family farms].”

Mr Drakeford told the Senedd last week that farmers in Wales would be in a “very different position” if they hadn’t taken the advice of Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies and voted for Brexit.

His latest comments at the event in Brussels came in response to a question from the Director British Agriculture Bureau, Robin Manning, who lobbies on behalf of Welsh farmers at EU level.

Afterwards, Manning told Nation.Cymru: “Against the backdrop of the expected protests by farmers in Wales today, I asked the First Minister how he saw Wales contributing to global food security, and how Welsh Government’s policy of the ‘wellbeing of future generations’ fitted with the government’s consultation on future agricultural support in Wales.

“I was pleased that Mr Drakeford emphasised the importance of the SFS in ensuring the future viability of active food producing family farms that are the backbone of Welsh agriculture. I hope this is reflected in the final shape of the scheme. “

The First Minister’s visit to Brussels comes two days after Belgian farmers clashed with police in a protest against changes being made to the CAP and the impact of free trade agreements.

Controversial reforms

As in Wales, one of the most controversial reforms on the continent is a requirement for farmers to set aside part of their land to plant trees and hedges.

Farmers responded on Monday by using tractors to break through police barriers in the European quarter, dumping manure near the EU headquarters and setting fire to tires.

In an effort to avoid a repeat of those scenes in Cardiff today, shadow rural affairs minister Samuel Kurtz urged Welsh farmers not to bring tractors and “be respectful” in their protest.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government needs to “work hard with our farming communities to reach a bargain with them” about how changes are made.

But he said most people in rural communities recognise that climate change has made it “unavoidable.”

“We will have a large demonstration of farmers outside the Senedd today,” said Mr Drakeford.
“We’re moving to this new bargain and that means change and change is a challenging process.

“Our job in government is to be a bridge to that future with people. To find a way to have conversations with people even where change is challenging to bring that change about.

“That is a conversation that isn’t straight forward in Wales as it hasn’t been in Europe. It is an avoidable one. The future will be different to the past in one way or another.

“For farming in Wales, as for farming in Europe, the greatest challenge is climate change. Farmers in Wales now deal with drought in the summer and flooding in the winter. They deal with severe weather events in a way that they didn’t have to only a decade or two ago. We have to act together in order to protect our future and make a successful future for sustainable farming in Wales.”


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John Davis
John Davis
1 month ago

I think that the other great Brexit Bonus may have been overlooked – cheap meat imports from places like Australia and New Zealand where the cost of production is so much lower, along with the standards. Personally I’m looking forward to it, although livestock farmers may think differently. Still, a genuine gain there and farmers really won’t mind, after all they voted for it.

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  John Davis

They have a lot to thank Andrew (Blanket) Davies and his party for, things are going to get worse, they could have sold up and moved to a council house, but the Tory’s got rid of them as well.

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