The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to all UK agricultural ministers urging them to move forward in terms of developing a UK framework for agriculture.
The call comes amidst fears that divisions between devolved governments may be growing and that discussions remain at a relatively early stage, despite Brexit being little more than two years away.
Following consultation with members, the FUW agreed last autumn that a UK agricultural framework should be put in place ‘which prevents unfair competition between devolved regions and secures and protects adequate long term funding for agriculture, while also respecting devolved powers over agriculture and the need for flexibility within that framework which allows devolved governments to make decisions which are appropriate for their regions.’
FUW Head of Policy, Nick Fenwick said: “Since the autumn, a growing number of politicians and others have acknowledged the merits of the FUW’s position.
“However, such a framework must be discussed with stakeholders and agreed between devolved administrations and agricultural ministers, and the wider economic, environmental and social importance of agriculture to our economies make it imperative that such discussions do not become an arena for separate political battles.”
Dr Fenwick said that he welcomed Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones’ support for mature discussions to take place in order to reach agreement on the nature of such a framework, but was concerned that statements by some suggesting this position was not universally accepted.
“If the devolved departments are not working closely together, that would be a real concern given that the UK government is expected to issue a white paper on agriculture in the coming weeks, and that a framework needs to be in place within just a couple of years,” he added.
Such concerns have been made clear in a letter from FUW President Glyn Roberts to ministers currently in post who are responsible for agriculture, namely DEFRA Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom, Welsh Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths, and Scottish Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing (there is currently no government in place in Northern Ireland).
In his letter, Mr Roberts states that: “…we are concerned that discussions at the highest level regarding the need for and nature of such a [UK agricultural] framework are not progressing at the necessary rate, particularly given the very short period during which important decisions need to be made.
“As such, we would urge you to do all you can to work closely with your counterparts in other parts of the UK in order progress matters at an appropriate pace, and in a manner which ensures the wellbeing of our rural communities is not compromised.”