The important role farmers play in keeping the wheels of the rural economy turning, concerns about the future of family farms in light of Brexit and wider #FarmingMatters, were top of the agenda when Farmers’ Union of Wales members and officials met with Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones.
Hosting the meeting at his farm Tymawr, Carrog, near Corwen, was FUW Meirionnydd County Vice-Chairman Edwin Jones. Speaking to the MP, he said: “Farming matters in so many ways that are seldom realised.
“Not only do farms produce food but they are also the cornerstone of our rural economies. Family farms, in particular, are at the heart of our rural economy, caring for our landscape, and of course our culture.
“They make innumerable other contributions to the well-being of Wales and the UK. Central to such benefits is the production of food and the improvement in domestic food security.
“All those businesses who supply essential services, materials, and machinery to farmers, through to the farmers themselves and their produce, to the processors who turn them into food, and the consumers themselves, have a critical part to play in our rural economy. And that is at stake if we get Brexit wrong.”
Outlining the FUW’s concerns in regard to the latest Brexit deal, FUW Vice President Eifion Huws said: “The draft withdrawal deal and political declaration agreed between the EU and the UK contains ‘no significant changes or improvements for Wales’ and will place the UK outside the Single Market.
“In fact the deal seeks to take us well and truly out of the Single Market and Customs Union in order to pave the way for deals with non-EU countries. Coupled with the UK Government’s alarming appetite for a deal with the USA, it raises major alarm bells for Welsh farming and those concerned with UK food standards.”
The failure by the UK Government to increase the tariff rates which would apply for imports of agricultural products from the rest of the world in the event of a no-deal Brexit were also discussed, with Eifion Huws adding that the latest UK Government action was an ‘own goal’ in terms of the UK’s negotiating position and a further failure to protect Welsh and UK farmers against low-quality imports.
“The revised tariff rates published by the government at the start of the month introduce three specific changes affecting HGVs, bioethanol and clothing, but leave most tariffs which would apply on key food at zero or a fraction of those which would apply for our own exports to the continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“That’s utter madness and sadly the picture is similar for most key agricultural products produced in the UK. Setting low import tariffs and high Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) before entering negotiations with other countries also undermines our negotiating position,” said Mr Huws.
Looking across the land surrounding Tymawr farm, FUW Meirionnydd County Chairman Sion Ifans added: “As managers of around 80 percent of Wales’ landmass, farmers play an invaluable part in managing and preserving a landscape which provides clean drinking water for millions, is diverse in habitat and species and includes more than 1,000 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
“Other benefits include major contributions to negating the causes and symptoms of climate change, whether through the storage of carbon in farm woodland, hedgerows, and peat bogs, or the generation of green electricity through on-farm wind and water turbines.
“Meirionnydd is a county that has been long involved in agri-environment schemes and it is so important that farmers are fairly rewarded for environmental outcomes. This should go hand in hand with getting stability for our farming industry by maintaining direct support for food-producing family farms.”