FUW President expresses ‘major concerns’ about reduced farming support in Christmas message
The President of the Farmers’ Union of Wales has expressed concerns about controversial agricultural support schemes and the red tape faced by farmers in his first Christmas message as President.
Mr Rickman, who is himself a farmer, lives on a 220 acre upland farm near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire and was elected President in July of this year.
He is currently in a share farming agreement with his business partner, keeping sheep and rearing Wagyu calves.
Wales Agricultural Bill
Whilst offering some personal anecdotes from his own farm, and wishing members a happy Christmas and new year, much of his message echoed the focus of the Union this year, raising a number of issues around the Wales Agricultural Bill.
The importance of getting this crucial legislation right for the sake of farmers today and those of the future, he argues, “cannot be underestimated”.
Addressing the financial challenges faced by many farms in Wales today, he said: “We maintained since the introduction of the bill that the absence of economic viability of agricultural businesses and family farms from the Sustainable Land Management objectives is a significant concern and one that we will continue to address.”
The Agriculture Act is set to pave the way for changes to farm support in Wales and this month the FUW expect the latest, and possibly final, consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme.
Due to start in 2025, the Act forms the replacement for the Basic Payment Scheme in Wales.
Mr Rickman said: “We all know the importance of this funding to our rural economy and communities, so ensuring we get this right, a scheme accessible to all farmers in Wales, with a budget to match, will be crucial in the coming months.”
This December also sees the ending of all Glastir contracts and them being replaced by the new Habitat Wales Scheme for next year.
According to Rickman, if this is a glimpse of the future then “that’s a real concern” – one that has led many farmers to choose not to submit an Expression of Interest in the new scheme.
Adding to this, he said: “Unfortunately, for the majority, and particularly those farmers who have been in agri-environment schemes for decades, the changes to our farming systems are effectively irreversible and they have long factored these payments into their cash flows. This means that the reductions in payments raise major concerns around the financial viability of their businesses – points which we have raised repeatedly with politicians on behalf of our members.”
After “30 years of agri environment schemes in Wales”, Mr Rickman calls the Habitat Wales Scheme “a backward step” which should serve as a warning to the Welsh Government.
Using the example of the Annual Workbook which comes as part of the Agriculture Water Pollution Regulations, Mr Rickman decried the increasing burden of red tape on the farming industry, as well as the demands that it places on farmers.
Calling for clearer guidance from the Welsh Government, in particular with regards to the higher nitrogen limit that has been supported by the FUW, he said: “The need for a third delay of the whole farm nitrogen limit, as welcomed as it was, is symptomatic of the poorly thought out regulations which were introduced in the first place.
“I sincerely hope the Welsh Government begins the process of reviewing the regulations sooner rather than later, to include the consideration of a permanent higher nitrogen limit and alternatives to the closed periods, so that long term clarity can be provided to the Welsh agricultural sector.”
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