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Mark Drakeford calls for calm on debate around Welsh agriculture reforms

27 Feb 2024 4 minute read
First Minister Mark Drakeford by Senedd Cymru Welsh Parliament

Emily Price

Mark Drakeford has called for the temperature to be lowered on the debate around the Welsh Government’s post-Brexit agriculture reforms.

The call was echoed by Andrew RT Davies and shadow rural affairs minister Sam Kurtz during First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday (February 27).

It comes as farmers prepare a mass protest against the Sustainable Farming Scheme in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday (February 28).

During FMQs, the leader of the Welsh Tory Senedd group pressed the First Minister on the controversial scheme which has been heavily criticised by farmers and farming unions.

It will require farmers to bring their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10% – and earmark another 10% of their land for habitat.

But frustrated farmers say this would never be practical whilst running a farm business.

Pause

Calls have been made for the scheme’s consultation to be paused – but the First Minister said it wouldn’t be sensible as its already in its final days.

Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Davies asked the First Minister if he regretted comments he had made the previous week about how farmers spend their subsidies.

Mr Drakeford responded saying he felt now was the time for “conciliation” across Wales.

He said: “It’s a day to lower the temperature of the debate that has gone on around the future of farming.

“And I’m not going to follow the leader of the opposition into an accusatory and blame-ascribing approach to the debate.

“I was very pleased indeed yesterday to meet, with my colleague Lesley Griffiths, with five members of the farming community.

“I thought they acquitted themselves extremely well in the meeting that we had—constructive in their proposals, engaged in the future of their industry. That is the sort of conversation that we want to see here in Wales.”

A row broke out in the Chamber later as Andrew RT Davies accused Alun Davies MS of describing angry farmers as “cranks”.

Alun Davies demanded the Welsh Tory leader withdraw his comments.

The Welsh Labour backbencher had used the word “cranks” in an X post alongside a news article from the Guardian.

He says he was not describing ordinary farming families as “cranks” but was referring instead to the group mentioned in the article which had attached itself to farm protests and supported conspiracy theories about climate change.

The Welsh Tory leader called for “positive engagement” to help reshape the SFS in way that recognises that food production is an important component of the proposals.

Review

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth also quizzed the First Minister on the SFS.

The party says only a pause and a review of the scheme will reassure the sector that the government is listening and responding meaningfully to the concerns raised.

Mr ap Iorwerth said: “The message that we will hear in Cardiff Bay tomorrow is that enough is enough and I agree with that.

“The Welsh family farm needs the Welsh Government to be a champion for them, and at the moment, that’s not how it feels to people.

“Now, does the First Minister agree with me that we are at a crossroads in terms of rural Wales and the agricultural community and now is the moment, now is the time for a change of direction?”

Mr Drakeford responded: “I recognise the fact that there are many things changing in the world of agriculture and that’s difficult for people, and people feel that it is difficult to find a way to deal with all of the issues that they’re currently facing.”

The SFS consultation will end on March 7 and the Welsh Government has encouraged farmers to take part.

Alterations are expected to be made to the proposals before the scheme is rolled out next year.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Surely the aftermath of Brexit should have brought the best brains and all interested parties to the ‘table’ to figure out where do we go from here half a dozen years ago…

A handful of Bay personalities think they know best when they plainly do not. Every wrong step is money wasted….

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