The Farmers’ Union of Wales has commented on the newly-laid Agriculture Bill, saying that the overarching piece of legislation is halfway there in providing a stable footing for the future of agriculture in Wales.

The first draft of the Bill along with its supporting documentation was laid in front of the Senedd yesterday (Monday) by Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths.

Speaking after its publication, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The first ever Agriculture Bill for Wales has been laid, giving us the opportunity to develop farming policies which could truly benefit those living and working in Wales. The Bill will set out the overarching legislation and drive the biggest change for Welsh agriculture since the UK joined the European Union.

“Since the Brexit referendum, we have stood our ground and argued for the principles of Sustainable Land Management to be broadened to include the economic sustainability of our family farms, the sustainable production of safe traceable food, Welsh culture and our language which take full account of the Well-being of Future Generations Act goals and other Welsh objectives.

“We are therefore pleased to see that the Bill sets out four Sustainable Land Management objectives which include the production of sustainable food and the sustainability of the Welsh language, each of which will be required to contribute to the well-being goals.”

Tied to these will be the requirement for Welsh ministers to prepare and publish reports every five years setting out the progress made since the objectives came into force, and consider such objectives when introducing new support mechanisms or regulations.

“However, we are only halfway there with this Bill as many of the concerns we raised in our response to the Welsh Government’s Agriculture White Paper in March last year still firmly stand,” said Mr Roberts.

“While the list of purposes for which support can be provided is not exhaustive and can be amended, removed and added to, it is concerning that neither the economic well-being of farming businesses nor the Welsh language are explicitly included.

“We must ensure proper remuneration and living conditions for farmers and workers in agriculture and an adequate return on capital investment in the industry are included as defined objectives of the Bill. Without such underlying principles, the other objectives of the Bill will be undermined or completely negated.”

There are also provisions to enhance public access to the countryside, a lack of regard for new and young entrants, and the omission of rules relating to National Minimum Standards and Civil Sanctions which are believed to be implemented at a later date.

The Bill will now progress through Stage one of the parliamentary process until early 2023 which will include scrutiny by the Senedd Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee, followed by the Amendment Stage in Spring before being voted on in the Plenary later next year

We must now evaluate the 500 pages of legislation, Explanatory Memorandum and Regulatory Impact Assessment so that we can find the devil in the detail and continue to work with Members of the Senedd and relevant committees to ensure the Bill delivers for a thriving sustainable farming sector here in Wales,” added Mr Roberts.