by Glyn Roberts, FUW president
OVER the last month we have been busy holding our Brexit consultation meetings up and down Wales, and what a success they were. There was not a single occasion where the room wasn’t filled with members, non‐members and people who have a genuine interest in the survival of our rural economy post‐Brexit.
Our policy team provided a valuable insight and analysis of what could happen if current Welsh Government proposals go ahead ‐ unchallenged and untested.
It is of course good to think about what agricultural policies might be
needed after Brexit, but publishing sweeping proposals before we know what Brexit means while negotiations are still ongoing is premature.
We know that the EU is strengthening their Active Farmer rule to make sure money stays within rural communities and does not go to charities, big
business, forestry owners etc.
Unfortunately, Welsh Government is proposing almost the opposite ‐ an ‘open to all’ policy which could take money away from farming families,
where ‘all’ could include charities like the National Trust, rich bankers, pension funds, forestry plantation owners and people who are basically ‘inactive farmers’ and make no contribution to the local economy.
Sadly, experience with far less ambitious changes and less ambitious new schemes ‐ for example Glastir and the changes to the SPS/BPS in England and Scotland ‐ show that things need years of planning and can go very wrong, causing payment delays etc.
We know that what is proposed has never been tried before anywhere else in the world and will involve huge resources to plan and implement.
With that in mind it is probably not deliverable in the timescale that they hope for (first contracts being signed by around 2021).
Those attending our open meetings will have also been made aware that the consultation suggests that different farms with different features/habitats on or nearby and in different Area Statement areas would be asked to do very different things and may be eligible to receive very different levels of payments.
This means a postcode lottery and possible discrimination in terms of payments and actions and the impact on farm businesses activities and
“It beggars belief that we are faced with a scheme that no country in the world has ever tried before.”
economics ‐ including wider economics of businesses reliant on agriculture, could be catastrophic.
Strangely though, the consultation document recognises that what is proposed may breach World Trade Organisation rules. So why put forward a proposal before receiving confirmation from the WTO that it is or is not illegal?
It beggars belief that we are faced with a scheme that no country in the world has ever tried before. It is completely different compared with the principles in place since the Second World War. But no impact assessment or economic analysis has yet been made.
However, not all is lost just yet. We still have a little bit of time left to respond to the proposals. So if you want to do your bit ‐ please make sure you respond to the consultation by October 30.
Write to the Cabinet Secretary, your local Assembly Member, Member of Parliament and local Councillor and submit your views (the consultation document can be accessed from the Welsh Government’s website at beta.gov.wales/consultations/). That way, we might be in with a chance.