Forget golden age of farming and look to the future says minister

Wales’ deputy farm minister Rebecca Evans has told farmers to plan for a future with less public funding and to forget the “golden age of the past” to create a more profitable, sustainable and resilient agricultural sector.

Mrs Evans was speaking at the Welsh Farming Conference in Llanelwedd today (4 June) where she unveiled a Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture.

See also: €1bn grant approved for Welsh rural development programme

The proposals, which have been developed jointly by the Welsh government and key stakeholders, place a big focus on profitability.

Goals for Welsh agriculture

  • Improve sustainability – economically, socially and environmentally
  • Be a producer of a diverse range of “products” with increased value that met current market demand and anticipated market trends and embraced opportunities
  • Be an efficient producer with high standards of animal health and welfare, efficient resource use, a lower carbon footprint and first class management of the environment (soil, water, natural organisms) that sustains and enhances both production and the natural environment for the long term
  • Sustain production not displace that production with the outcome of increased environmental and other problems in other countries where standards may be lower
  • Be an active user of research where putting into practice the latest knowledge and techniques is commonplace
  • Be an industry that generates wealth and a range of skilled employment opportunities across Wales.

Launching the document she said: “Talking to the industry and individual farmers, we very much share the same aspirations.

“Our vision is of a prosperous, sustainable industry. Successful, profitable farm businesses which have long-term futures are fundamental to success.”

She said the pending European referendum, price volatility and weather all had a big impacts on farm businesses currently and highlighted a growing need for greater resilience.

“We need to invest in the development of a sustainable industry that’s resilient to increasing turbulence in the Welsh market and can be less reliant on the public funding in the future.”

“In the future we know we can’t rely on SFP like many people do at the moment.”

She said it was critical for farmers to have their eyes “fixed on the future, not the past, adding that becoming fixated on the “golden age of the past” would not move the industry forward.

“Farms must become more profitable and financially secure. It is about being modern looking as well and we want to support the younger generation through the Rural Development Programme.

“Young people are the lifeblood of the industry. The previous support scheme was worth £6m and we got over 600 people into farming.”

Mrs Evans touched on how these aims would become a reality, revealing that she wanted to introduce a young entrants start up scheme to build on the success of the previous one.

She also outlined plans for a food business investment grant and support for supply chain development.

“The overall approach is for a balanced programme that delivers for Wales. We are big enough to make a difference but small enough to work together collectively,” she added.
The consultation is now open for response and will close on 27 August.

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