THE CLIMATE Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has been looking at the potential impact leaving the EU will have on the sector.
The Committee sets out the following principles in its report:
Firstly, farmers in Wales should be no worse off as a result of the vote to leave. By this the Committee means the UK Government should commit to spending present levels of funding on agriculture in Wales.
Future agricultural funding should not be subject to Barnett formula calculation and, in turn, the Welsh Government must spend this level of funding in full on agriculture. Any move from direct payments to a new system of funding should be phased in over a period covering both the current and next (2021-27) CAP cycles.
Second, Wales must have an equal voice at the negotiating table. Given that 90% of Welsh food and drink exports go to the EU, it is vital that Wales has full tariff and quota free access to the Single Market. Failure to protect Wales’s interests during negotiations could severely impact producers; for instance, lamb farmers.
In future, it may be necessary and desirable to have UK-wide regulatory frameworks, such as for animal health and welfare standards, but these must be agreed by all UK governments – not imposed from the centre.
Finally, the Welsh Government must take this opportunity to design ‘made in Wales’ policies that support the sector. Wales needs ambitious and innovative land management policies to deliver wider environmental benefits for future generations.
The Committee supports a move towards a system that rewards farmers for delivering sustainable outcomes such as protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Without continued support, there would not be a managed landscape to attract tourists and a thriving rural economy to support the language and culture of Wales.
“For over four decades, the way in which agricultural produce is farmed, sold and financially supported has been decided primarily at a European level,” said Mark Reckless AM, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.
“Following the referendum outcome last June, Wales now has a chance to mould those policies closer to home.
“But we can only take advantage of this opportunity to reinvigorate our rural communities by ensuring that we, in Wales, do not lose out as a result of the vote to leave.
“In the shorter term we have heard clear evidence that access to the Single Market place, continuation of financial support and assurances over migrant labour are critical priorities.
“In the longer term there is an opportunity to develop innovative, ambitious policies, made in Wales to make the sector more outcome-focused with climate, biodiversity and the sustainability of rural life at the heart of any decisions.
“We also want to see a new model of inter-governmental working to agree an overarching framework for UK farming with parity of esteem between all devolved administrations and the UK Government fundamental to its success.”
The committee makes 26 recommendations in its report which will now be considered by the Welsh Government.