by Glyn Roberts, FUW president
JANUARY has been a busy month for me, travelling to the Oxford Farming Conference and attending a wide range of meetings. Following on from the progress last year, I have shared many thoughts with politicians and key decision makers this month about how we can safeguard the future of agriculture and made the case for Welsh farming once again. I am quietly pleased that Welsh Government seem to be realising just how much farming matters here in Wales and also that the unique role Wales plays has been recognised by Prime Minister Theresa May. Only a few weeks ago we welcomed Lesley Griffiths’ support for our call for an overarching UK framework for agricultural policy with appropriate flexibility for devolved regions. When she spoke during a panel discussion at the Oxford Farming Conference, she highlighted the fact that key areas of agricultural policy had been devolved to Wales since 1999. And she did not want a British Agriculture policy but a Welsh Agriculture policy for Wales within a UK framework which respected devolution was needed. I have two concerns in all of this. There is still not enough support for maintaining current agricultural and rural development spending and for it to be at least maintained post 2020 until alternative means of sustaining farm incomes becomes apparent. And I am of course concerned about what trade deals we will have once we leave the EU. We cannot hide from the reality that 90 per cent of Welsh agricultural produce is exported to the EU and 80 per cent of farmers income is derived from the CAP. One thing is clear when we look at the current political turmoil ‐ we are where we are and we must make the best of what is to come. Yes there are opportunities to be taken advantage of and we now have the opportunity to shape a brand new future for our sector that suits us here in Wales. However, with an opportunity there has to be a political will to give us the right tools in our toolbox to exploit these opportunities. But we must not be blind to the potential perfect storm that is brewing right in front of us. The prospect of a free trade deal with New Zealand, which may be a great opportunity for New Zealand, but the benefits for the UK as a whole are zero, and for agriculture are extremely negative, and losing potential continental markets brings with it a whole lot of questions to which we need answers to. The good news is that we have had assurances from Welsh Government that they are taking the vulnerable position our food producers could find themselves in into account but what we need is a UK wide commitment to agriculture. I welcomed the stance taken by Welsh Government in their Brexit white paper launched on January 23, which acknowledges that “continued participation in the single market to support the future prosperity of Wales” is essential”. The Brexit white paper also called on the UK Government to make good on promises that Wales would not lose funding as a result of Brexit, as well as calling for recognition that there needs to be a “fundamentally different” relationship between the devolved governments and the UK government. The FUW will continue in its close working relationship with the UK and Welsh Government to find solutions to the problems agriculture is facing and work together to exploit the opportunities that present themselves to us.