Last Friday I attended the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Llandudno, an opportunity to meet with MSs, MPS and party members to discuss the current crisis in the farming industry and to highlight the key policy proposals that we would like to see government implement to address the situation, writes NFU Cymru President Aled Jones.

NFU Cymru, in conjunction with the FUW, put on a fringe event at the conference to highlight our shared concerns over the current proposals for Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). We also used the event as an opportunity to highlight the importance of the next UK Government providing sufficient funding for Welsh agriculture.

It was pleasing to see the room packed out with MSs, MPs, prospective parliamentary candidates, councillors and conference delegates and we were fortunate to have the Conservative Rural Affairs Spokesperson in the Senedd, Sam Kurtz MS open proceedings and Wales Office Minister, Fay Jones MP close the event.

At the event we were able to reiterate the five key objectives for future agricultural policy that the two unions first presented to the Senedd back in 2018 in a document titled ‘ A Welsh Way forward’. These objectives were about providing stability to Welsh farming; supporting the family farm; supporting rural communities and employment; investing in sustainable agriculture and rewarding farmers for environmental outcomes.

It is clear to us that the current proposals for the SFS do not deliver against the objectives we set in 2018 and that is why we believe the current proposals need a major overhaul.

With a general election on the horizon, we were also keen to push forward our key ask of the next UK Government; that is an agricultural budget that allows us to be able to meet our ambitions to be world leading in the production of climate friendly food against a backdrop where nature is thriving on our farms. Farmers are being asked to deliver more than ever before in terms of food, climate, and nature and to deliver this, we are looking to the political parties to commit within their respective manifestos, a budget to Welsh farming of at least £0.5bn annually.

Having met the Prime Minister at the NFU Conference earlier in the week it was pleasing to hear him in his speech in Llandudno reiterate the importance that the UK Government places on food security. I welcome his commitment to a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index and his agreement to host an annual farm to fork summit, following on from the inaugural one last May that I was able to attend on behalf of Welsh farmers.

It was also pleasing that the Prime Minister was able to spend time with the farmers who had gathered outside the conference venue with their tractors to peacefully and respectfully highlight the concerns that we all share at present over the cumulative pressures facing the sector as a result of bovine TB, water quality regulations and the SFS proposals. I was proud to be able to spend time with the group and to show my solidarity with those who had given up their morning to highlight the worries that we all face at present.

Engaging with the political parties at their conference is an important part of our role especially with so much at stake in Wales with policy matters and in Westminster with a general election looming.

Over the course of the next few months, we will be attending the other Welsh party conferences and following this up with our attendance at the UK Party Conferences this autumn.