Just seven months ago we responded to the Welsh Government’s Agriculture (Wales) White Paper consultation, the latest paper to set out proposals on how agricultural policies will look in Wales from 2025 onwards, writes Iwan Pugh Jones, FUW Montgomeryshire chairman.

The FUW’s response of 42 pages raised members’ comments and concerns in response to proposals on the future of national minimum standards i.e. the future of cross compliance for all farmers and landowners, civil sanctions and agricultural support mechanisms along with a number of other policies which, if enacted, will eventually sit within the Welsh Agriculture Act.

While the future of direct farm payments is understandably at the forefront of members’ minds, the extent to which the decisions of the new Welsh Government will shape all devolved matters relating to agricultural policy for the next few decades mustn't be underestimated.

Nevertheless, what must also be considered is that a large proportion of the points made in response to the consultation in March were largely unchanged from our response to the 2018 Brexit and our Land Welsh Government consultation and are just as, if not more relevant today as they were then.

The fact that three years have passed since the first consultation and the Welsh Government has three years to finalise and implement a new Agriculture (Wales) Act is a concern, a point we made strongly with Members of the Sendd over recent months.

While it is evident that there remains a great deal of uncertainty, the Welsh Government published it’s summary of responses to the Agriculture (Wales) White Paper consultation and made an announcement on the timeline for future farm support at the end of September:

The Welsh Government has announced how they intend to introduce national minimum standards and that civil sanctions will be subject to further consultation. However, they also reiterated their view that the United Nations’ definition of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) should be used as the overarching principle for future agriculture policy and support:

‘The use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term potential of these resources and the maintenance and enhancement of their environmental benefits’

The FUW has long maintained that an Agriculture (Wales) Act based entirely on the principle of SLM would fail to ensure that the proposed policy encompasses the broader objectives of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and therefore risks breaching it.

As such, it is clear that positive outcomes which fall directly within the scope of the Well-being Act, such as jobs, prosperity, language and education, would be inadvertent or coincidental, as opposed to being the result of a policy designed with such objectives clearly in mind.

A far broader set of principles which take full account of the Well-being Goals and other Welsh objectives, including the current and future economic challenges and competition faced by farm businesses and rural communities, should form the basis of a future policy framework.