Gove’s vision for agriculture a concern – FUW says

Michael Gove’s vision for the future of the natural environment has today been met with caution by  The Farmers’ Union of Wales.

Speaking from his farm in North Wales, the Union President Glyn Roberts commented: “We recently met with the Secretary of State where he declared he was in listening mode, and are due to meet again next week. As a result of this announcement today we can now enter into a dialogue about the future.

“I’m pleased to see that Mr Gove is basing his vision on personal empathy with our industry whilst also demanding scientific rigour to be applied to decision making, however, whilst some aspects match our calls to ensure that all plans are based on evidence and the wider impacts are modelled wherever possible, the Union has concerns about the strong focus on environmental schemes, which neglect the need for food production. His vision also does not recognise the role our farmers are already playing in maintaining the countryside.

“For the last 2 years we have been calling for evidence to act as the basis for decision making and for recognition that decisions should not be seen in micro-terms. Changes to farm support for example could have wide ranging impact across rural communities. These impacts need to be understood by decision makers, especially if they want to see the continuation of countryside management and safe food production.”

The Union President further said that, whilst the Secretary of State’s commitment to support farming for the longer term will induce confidence in these uncertain times,  and the Union welcomes the vision of supporting farmers to undertake works that are seen to be of benefit to the public, it has to be argued that this should not be limited to transactional support, for a one off scheme for example, but should be for longer lasting foundational commitments.

“It has to be understood that under World Trade Organisation rules, farmers can only ever be compensated for income foregone, an acknowledgement that is clearly missing in Mr Gove’s speech. Further to that, our environment will need to be protected forever, not just in a one or 3 year programme and our farmers have a crucial role to play in that process. They can however only be a part of that process if their businesses are viable and have not gone under in dramatic and harsh changes to agricultural policies, which favour environmentalist over food production,” added Glyn Roberts.

Making one final point, Glyn Roberts made it clear that whilst this was Michael Gove’s vision, the responsibility for Agriculture and the Environment was a matter devolved to the Welsh Government.

“There remains great uncertainty about the way that powers will be repatriated that need to be resolved in order for any vision to be delivered. It took around six years of detailed modelling to assess the impact of what were, by comparison, relatively minor changes to the current CAP, and this needs to be borne in mind.

It is not only farming families which are at stake here; there are countless other businesses and jobs which rely on agriculture, so we need to be as sure as we can that well meaning policies will not result in devastation.

Whilst the FUW continues to look in detail at future policies, we are also focussing on the need for a realistic Brexit transition period and contingency plans,” said Glyn Roberts.

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