Re­sponse sets out key ar­eas to be ad­dressed

Carmarthen Journal - - Farmer - SION BARRY sion.barry@me­di­

WALES must not be placed at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage in any fu­ture ap­proaches to agri­cul­tural sup­port, ru­ral coun­cil lead­ers in Wales have warned.

At a meet­ing in of the WLGA Ru­ral Fo­rum (com­prised of nine of the 22 lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Wales) to con­sider its re­sponse to Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s Brexit and Our Land con­sul­ta­tion, lead­ers agreed that any changes in­tro­duced must not place land man­agers in Wales at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage in re­la­tion to the other na­tions of the UK and the rest of the EU.

They also agreed that a min­i­mum tran­si­tion pe­riod of seven years, from 2021, would be needed to suc­cess­fully im­ple­ment any changes.

The Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s con­sul­ta­tion pro­poses a tran­si­tion away from ba­sic pay­ments to two new schemes fol­low­ing Brexit – an eco­nomic re­silience scheme and a pub­lic goods scheme.

The re­sponse sets out 10 key ar­eas that need to be ad­dressed be­fore the two new schemes can be dis­cussed in de­tail. In ad­di­tion to the need to avoid Wales be­ing put at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage, other key ar­eas in the con­sul­ta­tion re­sponse in­clude:

■ The im­por­tance of food pro­duc­tion needs greater recog­ni­tion. There should be more fo­cus on sup­port for food pro­duc­tion and greater at­ten­tion to the is­sue of food se­cu­rity.

■ There must be pro­tec­tion for small and ten­ant farm­ers. Smaller-scale agri­cul­tural op­er­a­tions and those with en­vi­ron­men­tal/pro­duc­tiv­ity con­straints are at par­tic­u­lar risk from the pro­pos­als. There should be pro­tec­tion for those ac­tively farm­ing such land, such as up­land farms, and at­ten­tion given to how spe­cific sup­port can en­sure the con­tin­ued vi­a­bil­ity of ten­ant farms. ■ Ru­ral de­vel­op­ment sup­port is vi­tal. At present, it is un­clear what sup­port is go­ing to be avail­able in fu­ture.

■ A Welsh-lan­guage im­pact as­sess­ment is needed. Farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties are a heart­land of the Welsh lan­guage and the im­pact of the pro­posed changes needs to be bet­ter un­der­stood.

Coun­cil­lor Dyfrig Sien­cyn (Gwynedd), joint spokesper­son for ru­ral af­fairs, said: “The Fo­rum un­der­stands the need for – and po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of – a new sys­tem tai­lored to the needs of Wales.

“How­ever, we are con­cerned that the changes could be dam­ag­ing for ru­ral economies and com­mu­ni­ties if risks are not clearly iden­ti­fied in ad­vance and ap­pro­pri­ate safe­guards put in place. The changes are not some­thing to be rushed in the cur­rent cli­mate of un­cer­tainty around Brexit.”

Coun­cil­lor Rose­marie Har­ris (Powys), joint spokesper­son for ru­ral af­fairs, added: “Farm­ing fam­i­lies are the back­bone of many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, pro­vid­ing sta­bil­ity and sup­port for so­cial net­works. It is re­ally im­por­tant that we de­velop new ar­range­ments work­ing with them and their rep­re­sen­ta­tive bod­ies. There has been on­go­ing dia­logue, but that dia­logue needs to con­tinue and their voices need to be heard – as do ours as the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.”

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