Welsh farmWelsh farming faces huge challenges and must connect with the marketplace, deliver environmental goods and support rural communities to remain sustainable.

These are the main priorities of a report presented to Elin Jones, the Welsh Assembly’s rural affairs minister, by an independent group established in April 2006 to come up with options to keep the industry viable up to 2020.

The 16 member Sustainable Farming and Environment Action Group, chaired by farmer William Legge-Bourke, included representatives of the industry, academics, environmentalists and the retail sector.

Their 154 page report includes 67 recommendations to the Welsh Assembly, including radical ideas like increasing the modulation of single farm payments to facilitate restructuring, and reducing and simplifying the entire regulatory burden.

Sheep in grass field

It calls for agri-environment scheme payments to reflect the true costs of delivering the environmental benefits society requires, credible labelling and action to ensure that the public sector is a major customer for Welsh food products.

Dai Davies, NFU Cymru president, said the report’s vision of a profitable and competitive farming industry reflected the union’s own. He also welcomed its recognition food production should be the industry’s main income source.

Gareth Vaughan, Farmers Union of Wales president, agreed and urged the creation of an independent body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.