“NFU CYMRU has a vision for a productive, profitable and progressive agricultural industry in Wales. We have a favourable climate and a nation bursting at the seams with passionate, dedicated and skilled farmers,” Stephen James, NFU Cymru President, told the Wales Farming Conference.
Mr James said: “As farmers we are proud of our role, first and foremost as food producers, being the cornerstone of the £6 billion Welsh food and drink industry and custodians of a countryside that we have created, cared for and continue to manage which not only supports a diverse range of species, habitats and ecosystems but also underpins a tourism industry that is worth nearly £2 billion to the economy of Wales.”
At the Wales Farming Conference, held on the Royal Welsh Showground, the Deputy Minister, Rebecca Evans, launched the Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture consultation document. The framework proposals have been developed jointly between Welsh Government and the farming industry.
NFU responds to future of farming proposals
Mr James said: “NFU Cymru along with other key industry stakeholders has a clear vision as to how the newly approved Wales Rural Development Programme (RDP) can be used to enhance the viability and competitiveness of our industry. Our proposals are innovative and focussed on integrating expert advice with on-farm investment to bring about widespread uptake, giving farmers the tools to drive their business forward. Crucial to the success of this framework will be Government and industry bringing these core projects to reality.”
Mr James will tell the Deputy Minister and the audience present, during his speech: “This is a difficult period for all sectors: exchange rates, retailer behaviour and commodity markets all seem to be against us at present which is why as part of this framework specific action plans must focus on how we can get the best possible returns from the market place, and this framework must interlink with the Welsh Food and Drink Strategy. Challenging targets must be set that industry and government must put all their combined resources into achieving. We must do everything possible to add value to primary produce here in Wales ensuring that all parts of the supply chain benefit.”
Mr James concluded: “Profitability is the key to delivering a prosperous, resilient industry and to achieve this we need to ensure maximum returns from the market place at the same time as making sure that what we produce is produced as efficiently as possible.”
FUW: PARTNERSHIP WORKING ESSENTIAL
FUW president Emyr Jones told delegates that Welsh farmers are facing the most challenging and difficult period for a decade, as a severely depleted CAP budget, coupled with ongoing uncertainty over what form the Basic Payment Scheme will take, added to extreme pressures caused by a crash in farm gate returns and farm incomes.
“Put simply, farming once again finds itself in depression, and the anger out there amongst the industry is evident,” said Mr Jones.
Describing the Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture consultation document launched by the Deputy Minister at the conference, Mr Jones said it contained aspirations for agriculture which few could disagree with, especially given the difficulties currently facing the industry, with agricultural prosperity and profitability being at the core of the framework.
Comparing the document with previous strategies, Mr Jones told delegates that “I’m glad to say that the strategy framework proposals being launched today differ significantly, even radically, in that, if adopted, this is not some 200 page strategy document which will join the others on the shelf.”
“Thanks to the joint work of government and industry bodies, it proposes the formation of an umbrella partnership group to oversee a short and to the point list of key objectives, most notably achieving and sustaining profitability.”
However, Mr Jones warned that the ability to influence many key factors which would help achieve these objectives were limited.
“We cannot control oil prices or exchange rates, and only God can change the weather which can make or break a profitable year. But the Rural Development Programme is one key toolbox we do have at our disposal. For our industry, and in particular our most important food producers who, whatever the final decision on the Basic Payment model is will lose the most significant amounts of money, the RDP is a lifeline.”
Mr Jones reminded those present of former minister Alun Davies’ commitment to using RDP funds to invest in the future of agriculture and equip it to cope with reductions in financial support and market failure, and welcomed the Deputy Minister’s commitments to strategic initiatives aimed at the red meat and dairy industries in particular.
“I welcome the Deputy Minister’s commitments to strategic initiatives aimed at the red meat and dairy industries in particular, and would urge Welsh Government to ensure that the partnership approach which it has signed up to is adopted when it comes to putting more flesh on the bones of the RDP so we can achieve the key objectives identified in this document, most importantly the profitability and prosperity of agriculture, without which all other objectives for our rural communities and landscapes become unattainable and irrelevant.”
MINISTER LAUNCHES MAJOR CONSULTATION
Delivering a keynote speech, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans presented proposals for a new strategic framework for Welsh Agriculture.
These proposals have been developed jointly between the Welsh Government, FUW, NFU Cymru, CLA Wales and other key stakeholders.
The strategic framework sets out the challenges and threats facing the agriculture sector in Wales, but also highlights the opportunities, and importantly, the need for industry and Government to work together to secure a more prosperous and resilient future for the industry.
Taking the stage with Emyr Jones, President of the FUW, and Stephen James, President of the NFU-Cymru the Deputy Minister officially launched a 12-week consultation on the ‘Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture’.
She said: “Our vision is of a prosperous, sustainable industry. Successful, profitable farm businesses which have long-term futures are fundamental to success. We want an industry that is forward looking; uses best practice and works to safeguard and enhance soil, water and the natural environment – the bedrock of farm production.”
The Deputy Minister added that the Rural Development Programme, which was approved by the European Commission at the end of May, will provide financial support for many of the changes needed to farming and associated rural businesses, to help realise that vision.
She said: “With a value of over £900 million to rural Wales, much of which will be funded directly by the Welsh Government, this is the largest and most ambitious RDP we have ever proposed. The emphasis will be on ‘green growth’, supporting only those actions that are good for our rural economy, good for communities, good for the environment. For agriculture in particular, the new RDP will make significant, integrated investments in skills and knowledge, business development, fostering collaboration and improved land management. Our guiding principles are that we will achieve much more by working together and that farming must be a sustainable industry in the widest sense. The Welsh Government and its partners look forward to your response about how you want to take our industry forward.”
The deadline for responses is August 27 and the consultation is available on gov.wales
Farming Connect’s face-to-face training back on
DUE to the restrictions of Covid 19, although it’s not ‘training as usual’ as yet for Farming Connect, face-to-face training courses held exclusively outdoors can now resume immediately. This means that provided the Welsh Government’s current Covid 19 regulations are met and every individual involved stays two metres apart, face-to-face training is available.
Training can also be carried out in large, open sheds, barns or outbuildings, where the two metre distance rule and other Covid 19 regulations can be adhered to. Welsh Government has warned that its guidance is subject to change should there be a resurgence of the pandemic. It is hoped that a full resumption of Farming Connect’s indoor classroom-based training will be possible in the autumn.
Kevin Thomas, director of Lantra Wales, which together with Menter a Busnes delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, welcomed the announcement.
“With all Farming Connect face to face training either fully funded or subsidised by up to 80%, it is very good news for the industry that so many face-to-face courses are now available again.
“Personal, business and technical development is critical as farmers and foresters prepare for a future outside the EU and with over 80 subjects to choose from, this could be the ideal time to learn something new or expand your knowledge on a specific subject.
“New skills will also be especially beneficial for those who have had to adapt their business model due to the changed market conditions caused by the pandemic,” said Mr. Thomas, who added that all Farming Connect training completed will be added to each trainee’s online ‘Storfa Sgiliau’ professional development records.
Registered individuals who received an approval for face-to-face training but whose courses were postponed due to the pandemic lockdown, should contact their selected training provider as soon as possible to discuss their options. Those who have not already applied for funded training can do so within the next skills application window which will be open from 09:00 on Monday 7 September until 17:00 on Friday 30 October 2020.
Farming Connect’s range of subsidised digital or ‘remote’ training has steadily increased since the pandemic first surfaced, and is now available for a number of Farming Connect courses including food safety; business-related training, poultry related training and animal health and welfare topics.
Training options within Farming Connect’s fully funded ICT and animal health training programmes can all be provided remotely, either one-to-one or via for example, a ‘virtual’ group animal health workshop. In addition, Farming Connect’s range of fully funded e-learning interactive modules has recently been refreshed and expanded to deliver more topics.
For further information about Farming Connect’s skills and lifelong learning programme, either contact your local development officer or your selected training provider. Visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect for further information, a list of all training providers and the courses currently available.
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Wales can lead on net-zero farming
NFU CYMRU hosted a farm visit for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma MP, to demonstrate that Welsh farmers are well-placed to deliver on the industry’s net zero ambitions.
The event saw NFU Cymru launch its new document, which sets out that Welsh farmers are part of the solution to climate change.
NFU Cymru President John Davies presented the report to the Secretary of State, who also holds the role of nominated President for COP26, as part of the on farm meeting.
The visit was hosted by NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones, whose 1,600-acre sheep, beef and egg farm near Corwen also produces renewable energy to satisfy the farm’s energy needs, exporting the surplus power to the grid.
As part of his visit to Derwydd Farm, Mr Sharma was also able to learn about the scale of work carried out on the farm as part of Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme, including creating habitats for wildlife, tree planting, protecting some 30 acres of peatland, hedgerow management and soil and grassland management.
During his visit, the BEIS Secretary planted an apple tree as an example of the environmental work the agricultural sector carries out to sequester carbon, while also providing food and aiding biodiversity.
Speaking after the visit, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “By focussing on improving farming’s productive efficiency; improving land management and enhancing land use to capture more carbon; and boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy, Wales’ farmers will be able to play their part in addressing the issues brought about by climate change. By reducing carbon emissions in these ways farmers are in a strong position to achieve the industry’s goal of achieving net zero by 2040.
“I am thrilled that we were able to welcome the BEIS Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, on farm today to see Llŷr Jones’ exciting and impressive farming enterprise, which has carbon capture and renewable energy at its heart. Llŷr’s farm is just one of a wide network of farms across Wales who are harnessing innovation to reduce emissions and produce climate friendly food. These businesses are net zero leaders not just in the respect of farming, but in a wider business context.”
Alok Sharma, COP26 President and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “I was very pleased to visit Llŷr Jones’ farm and see first-hand the actions being taken to mitigate climate change and support nature on their land.
“I welcome the NFU’s ambitious commitment to reach net zero by 2040, and I look forward to working across governments, business and civil society in the run up to COP26 to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.”
NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones added: “I take great pride in the work we do to maintain and enhance the environment, encourage biodiversity and support the local community alongside my core role as a food producer.
“I was pleased to be able welcome the Secretary of State on farm today to show him how we’re always striving to positively influence the carbon impact of our business. I hope Mr Sharma enjoyed his visit to my north Wales hill farm and that what he has seen shows him that our industry has a vital role to play in the climate change challenge now and in the future.”
Broadband must reach rural communities
THE FUW has responded positively to news that there are plans to bring full fibre broadband to an additional three million homes and businesses in some of the UK’s most isolated rural communities, but stresses it must really reach them.
The connection to 3.2 million UK premises, which was given the go-ahead after an Ofcom consultation, is reported to be part of a £12bn investment by Openreach to build full fibre infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the end of this decade.
Places set to benefit include Aberystwyth in west Wales, Millom in Cumbria, Thurso in north-east Scotland, and Ballycastle in County Antrim. Openreach is due to publish the full list of the 251 locations, referred to as Area 3, where it will build the new network. Ofcom has estimated there are 9.6 million homes and businesses situated in this final third of the UK.
Responding to the announcement, FUW Ceredigion county chairman Morys Ioan said: “The last few months have served as a stark example of how vital connectivity is. Our own Union staff, many of whom live in rural areas, have been working from home and we have continued to assist members with digital paperwork for their farm businesses. Without an internet connection this would not have been possible.
“It is really good news that this extra funding is being directed at rural communities but we must make sure that it really does go to those premises who currently are not benefitting from full fibre broadband.
“Our rural towns and villages have been left behind in the race for better and faster connectivity and it is critical for the competitiveness and viability of rural businesses, and the economy, that tangible improvements are made now.
“The FUW has stressed on many occasions that those without a connection cannot diversify their businesses, that they cannot support their children’s education and that they cannot connect readily with Government programmes for advice and support payments as they are mandated to do.”
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