Update from our Policy team

by Gareth Parry, FUW Policy Communications Officer

TODAY is day 90 of UK lockdown. Plans which will soon allow for non-essential shops to reopen, children to return to school and the abolishment of the ‘stay local’ rule show the first signs of a return to some semblance of normality. however, we must not forget that our farmers have continued to produce food during this pandemic and have done so despite concerns over issues such as the dry weather, veterinary provision and the increased use of footpaths.

For FUW staff in our virtual ‘kitchen table’ offices, the usual work streams relating to livestock and milk prices, advancements in animal health projects and even Brexit have continued despite the additional workstreams relating to Covid-19. Thankfully, the use of remote technology has allowed the kitchen table to be a great place to update our members on all of the work being done by the FUW during our virtual County meetings.

Pandemic or not, the recent spell of dry weather has – and will continue to – influence the remainder of this year’s farming calendar. Since preparing evidence on the impact of dry weather for the Welsh Government-led Agriculture Resilience Group, many areas have now been fortunate enough to experience some rain. Nonetheless, the weather continues to be an important issue for FUW policy as the days of ‘farming by calendar’ have given way to farming despite unpredictable weather patterns. For those that normally, or more recently, have needed to extract water, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have prepared a dry weather advice document which can be requested by contacting NRW by email: drought.nrw@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Dry weather typically means plenty of sun and this has led to an increase in those using public footpaths. The past 12 weeks of lockdown have frustratingly seen incidents of gates being left open, dog attacks on livestock and dog fouling. Alongside its ‘Your Dog, Your Responsibility’ educational campaign, the FUW continues its lobbying for legislative changes to grant police better investigative and enforcement powers and to make the penalties fit the seriousness of the crime.

With much of the Unions attention being diverted to Covid-19 matters, it is also important to remember the tremendous work undertaken by our FUW County Staff. The past couple of months have seen a total of around 3,000 Single Application Forms (SAF) completed before the June 15 deadline. During this time, many questions have been raised regarding the future structure of farm payments in Wales.

Welsh Government have confirmed that the current process of SAF and paying farmers through BPS will remain in place for 2021. however, questions remain regarding those Glastir contract agreements ending this year.

Many of you will remember the FUW roadshows and meetings where Union Policy staff outlined the successive ‘Brexit and our Land’ (2018) and ‘Sustainable Farming and our Land’ (2019) consultations which outlined how Welsh Government proposes to replace the current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

The proposals outline a Sustainable Farming Scheme developed on the idea of paying farmers ‘public money for public goods’. Despite the FUW raising concerns over the timing of these consultations in relation to Brexit, there remains a huge number of uncertainties when it comes to how the future scheme will be structured and implemented.

Nevertheless, a summary of responses to the latter consultation can now be viewed on the Welsh Government website and the FUW’s initial response can be viewed at www.fuw.org.uk/en/policy/policy-reports

As a reminder, the UK Agriculture Bill is currently progressing through the house of Lords. An attempt to introduce a clause requiring that any agricultural or food product imported into the UK under a trade agreement be produced to animal health and welfare, plant health and environmental protection standards equivalent to those in the UK was opposed by the UK Government and defeated during the Third Reading of the Bill on May 13 2020.

In order to support our lobbying activity on this issue, we are urging you to go to the FUW website (fuw.org.uk/en/policy/contact-your-mp) to send the prepared letter to your local MP and representatives to press for the proposed clause to be introduced into the Agriculture Bill before it receives Royal Assent.

In addition to some of the most significant issues ever facing the farming sector in Wales, other ‘business as usual’ consultations continue and the FUW continues to distribute these to members through the website and county office structure.

Over the past 12 months, we have been developing the new website to make it easier to access important information such as Policy updates, news, committee meetings and consultation responses. Click the login button at the top of the homepage to see what there is to offer in Welsh and english.

You will have received guidance on how to login by email but if you have any problems please contact your local FUW county office staff.

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