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NFFN Cymru Consultation Response: Welsh Government’s Agriculture (Wales) White Paper

What is the consultation?

The Welsh Government’s consultation on the Agriculture (Wales) White Paper was published on 16 December 2020. It set out the ambition to reform the way in which agriculture is supported by the Welsh Government in the future and the intention to introduce an Agriculture Bill in the Senedd.  The White Paper contained proposals for future support for agriculture; regulatory reform; future support for industry and the supply chain; and forestry and woodland management. 

Why should nature-friendly farming be concerned?

Agricultural policy can play an important role in tackling the nature and climate crises, it can support rural economies and communities, produce healthy, sustainable foods and improve public health. We also know that inappropriate and poorly conceived policies can have a negative environmental, social and economic effects. With the future Wales Agricultural Bill aiming to set out the legislative and support framework for Welsh agriculture for the next fifteen to twenty years – it’s vital that we develop policies that work for farmers, the environment as well as wider society. 

What are the NFFN’s key recommendations?

NFFN Cymru support the high-level ambition outlined in the consultation, particularly the key strategic objectives for agriculture being sustainable food production, responding to the climate emergency and reversing the decline in biodiversity. We are pleased that the White Paper includes a clear nod towards the Maximum Sustainable Output approach, which encourages farmers to operate within the natural carrying capacity of their land.  

We also welcome plans to increase woodland cover on farms. Agro-forestry, silvopasture, hedgerow trees and woodland can form an important role for the environment as well as farm businesses.  However, we are concerned that too much emphasis is being placed on tree planting to tackle climate change.  NFFN Cymru advocates a policy of the right tree, right place and for the right land management reasons

The consultation also outlines to create National Minimum Standards (NMS) for agriculture.  Whilst we welcome these proposals, but stress that future schemes should pay farmers for undertaking actions that deliver outcomes at a level above those set by NMS, and that a regulatory framework should apply to all farmers, irrespective of whether they receive financial support from the Welsh Government. The strong emphasis on the importance of advice and guidance in conforming with regulation is welcome. Moving forward, we believe that the Welsh Government should undertake an audit exercise of current regulation and identify areas require strengthening. 

We agree that funding should be made available to support the wider industry and supply chain,  however this needs to be part of a wider food system vision for Wales that aligns production, supply and consumption, whilst addressing issues such as tackling the nature and climate crises;  eliminating household food insecurity; access to healthy food for all; fair income for farmers and  growers and supporting rural communities.  

What’s next?

Fundamental reform of agricultural policy is essential if we are to effectively address the nature and climate crises, as well as ensuring food security and profitable and resilient farm businesses.  Whilst we support the high-level ambition outlined in the White Paper, the devil will be in the detail. We look forward to receiving more information, particularly on the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme. We will continue to advocate policy reform that facilitates and rewards nature-friendly farming. 

Read our consultation response here.