As we start 2018, despite all the uncertainty around Brexit, I feel there is cause for optimism - certainly more than there was twelve months ago.
Key messages put forward by the FUW in 2016 and 2017, which originally appeared to have been shunned or contradicted by the UK Government, are now being adopted; words like ‘transition’ have replaced the ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ type rhetoric, and most have now joined the FUW in recognising that a post-Brexit UK framework for agriculture, agreed in partnership between Governments, should protect, not undermine devolution and our devolved Nations. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, our call for a more proportionate and targeted approach to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones has been accepted.
However, in 2018 we need to ensure such moves towards sensible and proportionate policies stay on track, and are not put off course by those who have little understanding of or care for the practical needs of businesses and family farms.
With 2018 likely to involve further regular meetings with Welsh and UK Ministers, as well as with Welsh Assembly and Westminster committees, the FUW will continue to raise such points, while also pushing for practical solutions through the numerous committees we sit on.
We must also be realistic about the challenges facing us over the coming year: The forthcoming negotiations on the future trading relationship between the UK and EU will have an impact on each and every Welsh farm business and businesses which interact with them; each of the 27 remaining Member States will have priorities in terms of future trade agreement, and we must therefore ensure that Welsh agriculture is not left out in the cold or disadvantaged in the final trade agreement.
Meanwhile, issues such as bovine TB, animal movements and the new approach to tackling nitrate and other pollution levels will take up considerable time as we work to achieve common sense solutions for farm businesses, and lobby for changes which reflect the many problems and obstacles faced by our members.
Whether it is dealing with individual problems on behalf of members, working to achieve sensible changes to legislation which help farm businesses or lobbying for a sensible outcome to Brexit, the FUW will continue to do its utmost in 2018 to ensure the Welsh family farm is recognised and protected.
Given the uncertainties we face over the coming years, it is more difficult than ever for those family farms to make plans for the future. In terms of securing farm business resilience in the coming years I believe that it is essential to thoroughly analyse financial situations, and work for efficiencies. This will assist with planning as best as possible for the future, ensuring the best possible future for our businesses.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.