The Agricultural sector is facing the most uncertain future that it has had to face in modern times. Between Brexit on the one hand, and a Labour Government who have no understanding of the agricultural community on the other, a very grim future faces today’s Welsh farmers. Brexit and our Land, the Welsh Government’s proposals to overhaul agriculture here, could lead to the demise of many of our small family farms.
The public sector has a role to play in ensuring a vibrant future for our farming community. We must ensure that we have stronger public procurement policies, ensuring that they offer Welsh produce.
Whether we remain in the EU or are part of a new UK funding regime, the system must have more flexibility, and allow farmers to develop the most appropriate produce for their lands and get it to market.
As things stand the EU subsidises red meat production here. The terms for milk producers have improved slightly in recent years, but only a few years ago milk producers were locked in crippling contracts with the large buyers. There is no flexibility within the system, which results in farmers constantly facing an uncertain future. Farmers need to be given that flexibility.
The RDP (Rural Development Funds) should be more evenly distributed to allow every farmer to benefit from it. This fund could also be used to help develop new crops and produce.
A report published by Bangor University tells us that land in much of Wales is ideal for growing flax, but that flax production is unprofitable. Red meat production is unprofitable, but the funding regime means that this is the only game in town for many farmers. Providing more flexibility, by allowing farmers to experiment with ‘new’ crops or trial new techniques, could open new markets for our farmers ensuring that more diversity and a more secure future.
The Government should work with our Universities and Agricultural Colleges ensuring that they get the proper investment to allow them to work with the agricultural sector to develop new products and techniques.
We must ensure the continuation of our family farms because of the vital role that they play in the nation’s cultural ecology.