This week again sees us, as an Union, at the forefront of activity surrounding the controversial Welsh Government Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) consultation, writes FUW Brecon and Radnor Executive Officer.

We’ve travelled the length and breadth of Wales in recent weeks, speaking to farmers, offering advice, listening to their concerns and emphasising the importance of responding to the consultation so that we can persuade the Welsh Government of the need to change their proposals.

A detailed letter sent to all FUW members and their families, gave an insight into the issues faced and provided a guide for them to use when responding to the consultation. As always our team at Head Office and in the Counties are on hand to support you, should you require further guidance on how to respond to the consultation. Looking across the UK, the Scottish Government’s confirmation that direct farm support will continue in Scotland highlights the fundamental flaws we see in the Welsh Government’s proposals.

Scottish First Minister, Humza Yousaf, told NFU Scotland’s spring conference recently that 70% of future support will constitute direct farm payments to support food producers. The remaining 30% will be targeted at environmental measures, a ratio similar to current Scottish arrangements.

He stated that this approach reflected the fact that 85% of land farmed in Scotland is deemed to be less favoured - but that figure is 80% in Wales compared to only 17% in England. So why do the Welsh Government appear to be following the English way forward rather than looking towards Scotland’s path?

Wales costly restrictions and requirements

Here in Wales, however, the Welsh Government’s proposed SFS, due to be introduced next year, would bring direct farm payments to an end whilst introducing a mountain of costly restrictions and paperwork.

This would mean that we, as Welsh farmers, would be competing at a huge disadvantage compared to our Scottish counterparts, despite both countries having a similar proportion of disadvantaged land where only livestock farming is possible.

Who will lead Wales?

At a time when we are in the midst of the Welsh Labour Leadership election, we look in envy at the common sense approach shown towards our fellow farming Celts. This period of political uncertainty at the top of the Welsh Government is not helping the agricultural industry at this moment in time.

Some of the debates seen in recent days shows a remarkable lack of understanding of rural Wales and the crucial importance of agriculture from both candidates aspiring to be our next First Minister. You may recall that the FUW was a principled opponent of Brexit and after the vote to leave in 2016, argued for a robust replacement for the Common Agricultural Policy that minimised such unfair competition between UK nations. This was apparent in our comprehensive Filling the Void paper published in July 2018.

The future of Wales’ farms, society, culture and economy?

This very sensible and economically advantageous move by the Scottish Government needs to be reflected by the Welsh Government when it considers the vast number of improvements that must be made to its current SFS proposals. What is proposed at present is destructive and economically naive, and would be a massive own goal for Wales’ farms, society, culture and economy.

At a time when emotions are running high within the industry, we continue to press for unity within the sector, to push for change at Government level and to support each and every one of our members concerned at this crucial juncture. Mewn undod mae nerth!