Agricultural Policy

Sustainable Farming and our Land FAQs

The Farmers’ Union of Wales county events on the Sustainable Farming and Our Land consultation have raised some key questions.  The FUW has provided a Q and A on some of the most common questions from members below: 

Q1) What if a farmer completes every action outlined in their Sustainable Farming Plan but the predicted outcomes don’t occur?
A1) According to the Welsh Government, a contract would ensure farmers are rewarded for the actions expected to deliver the anticipated outcomes, regardless of whether the predicted outcomes occur.
Based on experience with current and previous schemes, one concern the FUW has is that properly understanding, coping and complying with conditions relating to a range of complex actions can be problematic and lead to penalties if penalty regimes are disproportionate or common sense ignored.
Q2) Will those who have already carried out such Actions, for example under Glastir or other schemes, still be rewarded?
A2) Welsh Government state that farmers will get paid for existing features, however these were created - but they would not be paid retrospectively for establishing any features.
Q3) Regulatory frameworks take years to develop.  What will happen in the meantime?
A3) Following the FUW’s lobbying in 2018, the Welsh Government has moved significantly from its position of stating that it wishes to see a new scheme introduced by 2025. 
However, it is moving on in terms of the development of new legislation and regulations - for example in relation to extreme restrictions on farms across Wales aimed at tackling Water pollution, which are due to come in in 2020. 
The FUW continues to fight for proportionate regulations which reflect the need to target problems - for example by helping farmers in areas where are pollution problems, rather than implementing draconian rules across the whole of Wales.

Q4) How will they afford enough advisors for each and every farmer?
The ability of the Welsh Government to train and pay sufficient advisors to ensure tens of thousands of farmers are given the opportunity to negotiate appropriate and fair contracts, and that the process is not rushed, is a great concern - especially given ongoing pressure on the Welsh Government’s budget and the possibility that a future agricultural allocation might not be ringfenced for farmers, as is currently the case under EU rules.
Experience with thirty years or more of environmental contracts has shown that the more contracts Governments wish farmers to sign up to in a set period, the more likely the process is to be rushed and the higher the chances of farmers not understanding what they have agreed to, or signing something that turns out to be inappropriate for their businesses.
However, when it comes to monitoring agreements and outcomes, there is mention of self monitoring and the use of technology to help with efficient recording and reducing the need for farm inspections once the scheme is introduced.
Q5) Under collaboration, would farmers be paid for, say, double fencing for preventing BVD?
A5) Possibly, but the issue of ‘additionality’ becomes a problem for payments if Actions, such as double fencing, become a legal minimum requirement under regulation such as the proposed BVD regulation. 
Q6) What are Scotland, England and Ireland planning to do?
A6) England are aiming to base payments on Public Goods, similar to Wales.  Scottish farmers will receive direct payments in the short term, while the Scottish Government plans to make improvements such as simplifying the delivery of pillar 1 payments, streamlining application process, and encouraging and supporting new entrants. In the longer term there are plans in Scotland to promote innovation and improve the environmental performance of Scottish agriculture. While there is some talk of ‘Public Goods’ in Scotland, the Scottish Government has said that they regard food production as such a ‘Good’.
Farmers in the Republic of Ireland will continue to receive direct payments under the CAP as they will remain within the EU, whereas Northern Ireland has no clear plans in place as of yet.
Q7) Will farmers know how much they will be paid for implementing Actions on farm at the start of the scheme?
A7) Yes, it will be outlined within the agreed plan - but at this time there is no indication of how much a farmer might be paid for, for instance, carbon storage. There is further confusion regarding the values Defra might offer for carbon or other public goods, and whether they might differ to those in Wales
Q8) Is there an obligation by the UK Government to pay for this scheme?
A8) Where a contract is signed with Welsh Government they will be obliged to pay what has been agreed in the contract. While the current UK Government has committed to allocate the same level of funding to Wales as is currently the case, it is not possible for a Government to commit a future Government to making such payments.
The Welsh Government argues that because the scheme aims to work towards the UK target of net zero emissions by 2050, therefore the scheme presents a good case to both Welsh and UK Governments to fund Welsh agriculture for this purpose.

Q9) Would the baseline regulations of the scheme apply to those who own land and let it grow wild?
A9) Yes they would, regardless of whether they receive payment through the scheme

Q10) What do they mean by shortening supply chains and market alignment?
A10) There isn’t a great deal of detail within the consultation as it is still in the planning process. However, things such as Benchmarking for better market alignment and looking at Wales’ Food and Drink sector and Welsh ‘brand values’ (a current catchphrase in political and civil service circles which means the value a consumer attaches to a particular brand) to improve local supply chains are mentioned.

FUW advises all members to register for the BPS Loan Support Scheme and to attend the remaining FUW meetings to learn more about the consultation.
See here for a list of pending consultations.

Essential Information for UK Hauliers Driving to the EU in a No Deal Brexit Scenario

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal then UK hauliers and commercial drivers who operate in the EU will require new documents to enable them to transport
goods as at present.
The DVLA advise relevant hauliers and commercial drivers to prepare the following documents:

  • International Driving Permit(s) in some countries (France, Italy and Cyprus)
  • A passport which has at least 6 months left to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland). If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.  Check your passport
  • An ECMT permit for some journeys (99% of journeys between the UK and the EU will continue as they are now, and will not need a permit, until at least 31 December 2019.).  Check if you need an ECMT permit.
  • A Driver Certificate of Professional Competence
  • A tachograph driver card

Vehicle documents needed include:

  • Motor insurance green card(s) for the vehicle and/or trailer and for separate policies e.g. insurance renewal
  • A GB Sticker on the vehicle
  • A vehicle log book

The DVLA advise hauliers to check the EU exit haulier guidance and download the reference guide for the most up to date list of documents.

Documents from the shipping provider
In addition to driver and vehicle documents, drivers will also need to request separate cargo and customs documents from the shipping agent.
More documents will be required if the cargo transported is deemed to be high risk goods or animal/plant/other controlled products.
It is the responsibility of the Exporter to provide these documents, but they will be needed to take goods across the border.
Documentation for importing and exporting goods
EU countries may impose different requirements on their side of the border. Carrying goods that do not comply with EU requirements could result in delays or penalties.
Drivers should familiarise themselves with these new processes.

FREE Brexit Business Readiness Events Across The UK

As things stand, it is likely that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October 2019 with or without a deal.
To help businesses prepare for the possible implications of Brexit, the UK Government is hosting 30 Brexit Business Readiness Events across the UK from 16 September to 18 October.
Experts from departments such as HMRC and DEFRA will provide free interactive support and advice sessions to up to 100 businesses at each event with the aim of ensuring that as many businesses are preparing for Brexit as possible.

For more information regarding the events and to register, please follow click here.

Events have been confirmed in Cardiff (14th October), Wrexham (15th October) and Bristol (15th October) with many more confirmed across the UK and even more locations to be confirmed.

What YOU Need to Know About Sheep Dipping

With an increase in queries regarding sheep dip disposal permits for carrying out sheep dipping to control sheep scab, here is a summary of the relevant rules, best practice and processes that must be considered.

Sheep dip: groundwater protection code
The Code of Practice for sheep dip groundwater protection is available here.  By following the guidance, you are able to demonstrate that you have taken steps towards avoiding pollution and are complying with the legal requirements of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016.  You must also follow applicable guidance and laws such as the Health and Safety regulations when it comes to the use and storage of sheep dip.


FUW Opposes Pan-Wales 2020 Agricultural Pollution Regulations

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has reiterated its opposition to the establishment of pan-Wales agricultural pollution regulations which, if implemented, will cause significant financial and administrative burdens for farmers across Wales; the overwhelming majority of whom are fully compliant with current regulations.  

In 2016, the Welsh Government published a consultation on the future of agricultural pollution regulations in Wales which proposed the option of discrete NVZ areas, or a whole-Wales approach.  At present, just over 2 percent of Wales is designated as an NVZ, and the FUW Farmers’ Union of Wales strongly opposed any additional regulation being implemented onto farms which remain compliant with current regulations and are not responsible for pollution incidents.

Following the consultation, the FUW worked with the Wales Land Management Forum (WLMF) to produce a report for the Minister outlining 45 recommendations based upon 5 themes to tackle agricultural pollution in Wales.  Despite these recommendations, in November 2018, the Welsh Government announced a proposal to implement a pan-Wales regulatory approach.

The FUW believes that a pan-Wales approach is unjustifiable given that just 1% of all Basic Payment Scheme claimants are involved in a pollution incident.  

The fact that such a draconian blanket approach is being planned goes against the Welsh Government's commitment in December 2017 to strike the ‘right balance of comprehensive regulatory measures, voluntary measures and investment’ and ‘...explore further options to provide land managers with flexibility, where these would achieve the same or better outcomes than a regulatory approach’.  Should the plans go ahead there would be an increase in the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to costly and restrictive legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.

The rules will have far-reaching repercussions for dairy farmers across Wales, but could also result in a fall in Welsh beef production due to increased costs and reductions in profitability.

The FUW has reiterated its call for the plans to be abandoned, and for a proportionate and targeted approach based on balanced evidence to be adopted. The Union recognises the serious need to tackle agricultural pollution but will continue to fight to ensure this is done in a way which is both proportionate and targeted, and reflects the local and national evidence base.  The FUW continues to work with the WLMF Group to put forward an alternative industry endorsed evidence-based approach before any regulations are finalised.